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Travel India Guides - City Fact Sheet - Ajanta and Ellora

The Destination

It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, were discovered. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning the period from 200 BC to 650 AD. The 29 caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and wrer the nerve - centres of the Buddhist cultural movement. 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 speak volumes of the India of yore. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. The Ellora caves 34 in number, are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill, 30 kms from Aurangabad.. The finest specimen of cave - temple architecture, they house elaborate facades and exquisitely adorned interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD period.

Getting There

Road: Ellora is quite close to Aurangabad (30 kms). It is a 45-minute journey by bus but hiring a taxi will give you greater flexibility to stop at other sites on the way. Shared jeeps and autorickshaws are also available from the bus stand to Ellora.

Ajanta is accessible by bus or taxi from Aurangabad (100 kms, 2 hours) and some interesting tours are available from Aurangabad. The caves are accessible from Jalgaon (59 kms) as well as by bus from Aurangabad and Jalgaon. Taxis and autorickshaws can be hired for the day.

Sight Seeing: Tourist Attractions

Ajanta: The thirty rock-hewn caves at Ajanta are cut into the scrap of a cliff are Chaityas (chapels) and Viharas (monasteries). Most of these are carved so that a flood of natural light pours into them at any given time of the day. Cave 1 houses some of the most well - preserved wall paintings which include two great Boddhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. The flying ‘apsara’ or nymph of Cave 17 and the image of Buddha preaching in Cave 17, are exquisite works of art.

On the walls are paintings, many still glowing with their original colours. The caves are not numbered in chronological order. Caves 9, 10, 12, 13 are the earliest, belonging to Hinayana sect of Buddhism. Caves 1 to 8 and 14 to 30 are of Mahayana sect. It is here that ancient Indian art attained the zenith of its development and revealed a dynamic rhythm of life.

Ellora: Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen.

The Kailasa Temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain - abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability is the world's largest monolith. Gigantic, though it is, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa Temple, amongst which Cave 32, houses a beautiful shrine adorned 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 contain grand statues of Parasnath.

Fairs and Festivals

Every December, the grand Ellora Dance and Music Festival is held in the Kailash temple.

City Fact sheet

  • State: Maharashtra
  • Climate
    • Summer: 22C - 40C
    • Winter: 14C - 32C
  • Best Time to Visit: October-March
  • Languages Spoken: Marathi, Hindi

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