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Ajanta Ellora
Ajanta Ellora

Located close to the city of Aurnagabad in the central part of Maharashtra are the world renowned sites - The Caves of Ajanta and Ellora. Cut out of rock, by hand, these cave shrines are ranked amongst some of the most distinguished specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, remained hidden in obscurity for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in the early 19 century. The place from where John Smith first saw the caves, provides an enchanting sight of the horse-shoe shaped gorge and its amazing surroundings.

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves It was in the early part of 19th century, when the Ajanta group of caves were discovered. The caves were hidden deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, before being discovered. They display the story of Buddhism, expanding a period from 200 BC to 650 AD.

The 29 caves of Ajanta were a reserved and quiet retreat for Buddhist monastic orders and yet offered easy access to the trade routes that swung past here to the coast. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Exquisite wall - paintings and sculptures are elaborate enough to speak volumes of the glorious past of India. Many of the caves house panels present stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also portrayed in detail.

The Boddhisatvas who figure prominently in the Ajanta paintings are celestial beings, often personifications of the virtues of Buddha, who visit the world of men. In their range of time and treatment the paintings at Ajanta are a panorama of life in ancient India and could well be studied for a description of the culture of those times.

Ajanta has been selected as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will come to enrich and inspire the lives of the future generations.

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Ellora Caves

Situated about 30 km from Aurangabad, the Ellora caves, 34 in number, are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill. The finest specimens of cave - temple architecture, they display elaborate facades and distinctly beautified interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD period. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north represents Jainism.

The sculpture in the Buddhist caves appropriately describe the nobility, grace and calmness inherent in Lord Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 exhibits images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two - storied structure wears a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.

Ellora Caves The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural marvel, the complete formation having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain - abode of Lord Shiva, is in all possibilities, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock, just amazing. What is most impressive, is the fact that as compared to other temple structures which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides. Though its colossal, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art.

The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which Cave 32, displays a wonderful shrine with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof, and a yakshi on a lion under a mango - tree, while Caves 32 and 34 exhibits grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves presents the images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of Mahavira.

The cave shrines at both Ajanta & Ellora are memorable for their priceless contribution to the mountainous wealth of the past Indian heritage.

Getting There

By Air : Aurangabad (99 km from Ajanta and 30 km from Ellora) is the ideal base to visit Ajanta and Ellora, is directly linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Mumbai.

By Rail : Aurangabad is directly linked to Mumbai and Pune. Jalgaon, a railhead on the Central Railways line, is 59 km from Ajanta.

By Road : The excellent road network in Maharashtra links the caves of Ajanta and Ellora with Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagra, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Bijapur, and Aurangabad.

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