Ajanta Ellora Caves
The Ajanta Ellora Caves in the state ofMaharashtra are an ancient cave art and an assortment of rock cut art temples. Influenced and expanded by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sculptures and painting, the caves are a witness to the magnificent talent of its artist and their beliefs. Visited by tourists throughout the year, the Ajanta Ellora Caves are a master piece of cave art, probably unmatched anywhere else in the world.
WHAT TO SEE
How to reach
Air: The city of Aurangabad is the nearest airport about 99km from the Ajanta and 30km from the Ellora caves.
Rail: Aurangabad as well as Jalgaon (59km) are the closest railway stations.
Road: The caves are well connected by road, from Aurangabad and many other cities of Maharashtra. Both public and private transport plies on the roads connecting the caves.
Things to do
Ajanta Caves - Built in two phases, the Ajanta Caves are a splendid ancient Buddhist art form that has left many historians and travellers dazzled. First built around the 2 century BC the second phase of cave paintings and sculptures began during the 5th and 6th century AD. The 29 rock cut caves that stand above the Waghora River gorge are known for their impressive paintings, especially of emotions and postures and rock cut sculptures of the different forms of Buddha. The insides of the caves have prayer halls, monasteries and mural wall paintings that depict the Buddhist traditions, life and rebirth of Buddha and tales from the Jatakamala.
According to UNESCO the Ajanta caves act as the earliest art form that went on later to influence Indian art in the coming years. The 250ft high wall is carved into wonderful sculptures of Buddhist beliefs and the caves comprises of monasteries and worship halls.
Records suggest that the caves acted as retreat points for monks during monsoon and were a resting site for pilgrims and merchants. Besides the detailed and meticulous carvings and sculptures, the caves also exhibit colorful paintings. The paintings in caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 form together the largest portion of wall paintings of ancient India.
Ellora caves – The Ellora Caves are about 100km from Ajanta and the two cave systems together form the crux of cave art in India. Also, a UNESCO World Heritage Site the Ellora Caves are a stunning set of rock cut temples and monasteries of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu origin. These caves excavated from the Charanandri Hills, include 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu caves and 5 Jain caves each representing deities and traditions of their individual faiths respectively. Built between 550-1000 AD all the caves are special, however the Kailasa Temple in Cave 16 needs to be mentioned because it is said to have been carved out entirely out of a single piece of rock. This by itself bears testimony to the skill and craftsmanship of those who toiled to create the Ajanta and Ellora Caves.
There are about 100 caves at this site, though only 34 are open for visits. The caves of different religions are built in close proximity to each other, depicting a greater secular sense prevalent in ancient India. The Hindu and Buddhist caves were constructed by the Rashtrakuta dynasty and the Jain temples were built by the Yadava dynasty. A stop on the ancient South Asian trade routes these caves also acted as resting place for travelers.
The Buddhist caves are located on the southern side and almost all the caves house the monastery and prayer hall, along with living quarters, kitchens and other rooms, all carved into the massive mountain wall. Cave 10 known as the Visvakarma Cave is one of the important Buddhist prayer hall. All the caves have carvings and sculptures of Gods and Goddesses as well as of Buddha in various gestures and poses.
The construction of the Hindu caves started before the others and is dedicated to Shiva, as well as carvings and paintings of other gods and goddesses are also seen. Cave 29 also called Dhumar Lena is one of the largest and earliest caves to be excavated.
At the northern end are the Jain caves and are smaller than the Hindu and Buddhist caves. The emphasis of art is on the Jinas (spiritual legends who have gained liberation from rebirth), with carvings of Gods, goddesses, yaksa and yaksi and human devotees prevalent during that time.
Both the Ajanta and Ellora caves together form one of largest rock cut art centers and are of great archeological and historical importance. However, the rock art will leave you awed and speechless for fantastic manifestation of this art form.