Ajanta and Ellora Caves - Maharashtra

by - December 24, 2020

 

            The caves of Ajanta and Ellora, known to be one of the greatest examples of ancient archaeological (rock-cut) caves, are situated near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, India. The cave complex of Ajanta and Ellora is decorated with exquisite sculptures, paintings, and frescoes, and includes Buddhist monasteries, Hindu and Jain temples. The caves of Ajanta are 29 in number and were established between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD, while the caves of Ellora are more extensive and 34 in number and dates between the 6th and 11th centuries AD.

            The caves of Ajanta and Ellora are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are very common with international travelers. Ajanta Caves, situated approximately 100 km north of Aurangabad, are predominantly Buddhist sites and have been used as a refuge by Buddhist monks. Ellora just 20 km west of Aurangabad and has a better mix of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sites. These hand-carved caves were designed and supported by the Indian rulers of those times and almost buried in dense forests. 

            One of the most popular locations in the whole of Ajanta and Ellora Caves is the Kailash Temple, which is also the world's largest single monolithic building. These stone-cut caves with carvings are some of the greatest examples of old Indian architecture and sculpture.

Ajanta Caves

            The caves of Ajanta are basically Buddhist monasteries of the past period. It is a spot where Buddhist monks have stayed, studied, and prayed. The caves of Ajanta were rediscovered by a few British soldiers in the year 1819/20 while they were out hunting, and one of them had set his eyes on a cave filled with bushes, trees, and rocks.  

             Located approximately 100 km from Aurangabad, the Ajanta Caves are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The caves of Ajanta represent the Buddhist culture and their tales through numerous sculptures and paintings. It brings you to the realm of Jatakas (stories of reincarnations), too.

            The caves of Ajanta are considered one of the most important monuments of India, as they contain many beautiful paintings and sculptures portraying the rich cultural heritage of India. Naturally used as a retreat by Buddhist monks, the cave represents the tranquility of Buddhism through its simple but beautiful sculpture. The basic designs of the caves are named 'Chaityagrihas' and 'viharas.' The mainstays of this place are the figures of Lord Buddha and the scenes of typical Jataka stories. The area is heavily forested and the caves fell out of social conscience until being reinvented by a British hunting officer in 1819/20.

            The walls and ceilings of the popular caves of Ajanta are chiseled, carved, and drawn with the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. There are a total of 29 caves that bring to your attention the talents of the people and their commitment to preserving the past in the form of a never-ending art. The caves of Ajanta compose of caves belonging to the Hinayana and Mahayana sects. The caves of Ajanta consist of 24 Buddhist Viharas and 5 Hindu temples. Cave 1, 2, 4, 16, 17 is deemed the most beautiful, and the popular statue of the seated Buddha is located in cave 26.

Ellora Caves

        The other World Heritage Site that the city boasts of are the caves of Ellora, which must not be missed in Aurangabad. The sculptures here reflect the characteristics of the three religions (Hindu, Buddhist & Jain), and they do so grandly and beautifully.

        Cave 34 is an unfinished four-pillar hall with a sanctuary. Another place called Samvatsarana is situated in the caves of Ellora, which were used by the Tirthankaras who had been preached since omniscience had been attained.

Aurangabad Caves

            Aurangabad Caves are twelve (12) Stone-cut Buddhist shrines, situated about 25km northwest of Aurangabad. These caves date back to the 6th and 8th centuries and should not be confused with the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, which are both located near Aurangabad. Carved out of Soft Basaltic stone, these are known to be one of the most beautiful caves in India. Bibi Ka Maqabra and Soneri Mahal are situated near the Aurangabad Caves and can be visited on the same day. Scenic and spectacular views of the city can be seen from the peak. If you're fond of heritage, you'll love this place of curiosity. The Aurangabad Caves are also considered to be suitable for trekking. The beautiful caves were mostly Buddhist Viharas and are now under the protection of the Indian Archeological Survey.

            Tantric effects are also evident in the caves of Aurangabad. Cave number 6 depicts women with some beautiful hairstyles and ornamentation, and one can see that these sculptures are still undamaged after so many years. There is a massive Buddha statue and an idol of Ganesh in this cave. Cave number 7 is considered to be the most interesting because the figures of women who are barely dressed and ornately bejeweled are reflective of the rise of Tantric Buddhism during this time.

Bibi ka Maqbara

            The Bibi ka Maqbara is a magnificent mausoleum, with a striking resembles the Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperor's wife, Rabia-Ul-Daurani Alias Dilras Banu Begum. In 1661, in remembrance of his wife, Bibi ka Maqbara was built by Aurangzeb. In the name of his son Azam Shah, born in 1653, Aurangzeb dedicated this magnificent building to Rabia–Ul–Daurani, who left for her heavenly dwelling in 1657. This was commemorative.

        The monument is similar to the renowned Taj Mahal since from here the main inspiration for the creation of the design is also called the Taj Deccan. Bibi ka Maqbara was built to compete with Taj Mahal, but it totally resulted in a copied form of the same because of its decline in architecture and its scale. This is, of course, one of the major structures constructed during the reign of Aurangzeb.

Grishneshwar Temple

            Grishneshwar Temple is one of 12 Jyotirlingas in India, a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated in Ellora. This Jyotirlinga in Aurangabad is also known as the Ghrineshwar or Dhushmeshwar Temple. It is devoted to Lord Shiva. Grishneshwar is the smallest Jyotirlinga and is known to be India's last or twelfth Jyotirlinga. This is one of India's only Jyotirlinga where devotees can bare hands touch the Shiva Linga.

        A South Indian style is a temple architecture considered to be one of Aurangabad's most holy places to visit. Gloriously carved and designed in the classic style of the temple, the five-stage shiqhara of Grishneshwar temple. In the 18th century, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore reconstructed the present shape of the temple.

Daulatabad Fort

                Daulatabad Fort is a fortified fortification 17 km from Aurangabad and rises greatly from greenery.  This architectural wondrous is also said to have been one of the "seven Maharashtra wonders" in the 12th Century. Also known as the Devgiri fort, its location, from which you can take a fantastic view of the region, is perhaps the most captivating qualities. People have to climb up to the top around 760 weird steps but the sight below is a nice thing to see.

            The Daulatabad Fort is influenced by its architecture, making it one of the most strong fortifications in medieval times. It stands on a 210-meter tapered hill, offering a strategic location to this great fortress, its architectural beauty, and its defense against enemies. The powerful Devgiri Fort is his engineering ability, which provides a good defense not only against enemy forces but also for water resources.

Best time to Visit

            It's a little difficult to visit around and explore the caves in the summers of Apr-May. Winter weather and Monsoon are perfect as the weather is good from Oct to Mar and from Jun to Sep, which is the best time to visit the caves. Try to avoid summer.

How to Reach

            The caves of Ajanta and Ellora have situated about 90 km from each other. Jalgaon is the nearest airport to the caves of Ajanta, located 45 km away from Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Aurangabad is the nearest town to the Caves of Ellora. Aurangabad is about 95 km from Ajanta and 33 km from Ellora. Aurangabad Airport is the better-linked airport with a range of flights from main cities across Aurangabad Airport is the better-linked airport with a range of flights from main cities across the Country. 

            Jalgaon and Aurangabad Railway Station are two railway junctions that are well connected to all cities in India. There are many private and government busses operating from the major cities in and around Maharashtra.

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