Ranked 1 among Places to Visit in Ajanta-and-ellora-caves
Ideal Time: 2-3 hours
Open Time: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM (Tuesday-Sunday), Closed on Mondays
Cost: Indians: INR 10, Foreigners: INR 250, Camera: INR 25
Located around 99 km from the town of Aurangabad, lie the Ajanta Caves now included in the list of UNESCO World heritage Sites. Ajanta caves depict the Buddhist culture and their stories through various sculptures and paintings. It also takes you to the world of Jatakas.
Ajanta caves are essentially Buddhist monasteries of the bygone era. It is a place where Buddhist monks lived, studied and prayed. The Ajanta caves were first found by a few British soldiers in the 19th century when they were out hunting and one of them happened to lay his eyes on a cave covered with bushes, leaves and stones. The soldiers made their way into the cave and found many caves with such history in them. They informed the Government and ever since Ajanta caves are being excavated and studied to this day. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983. The caves have been built in two phases: Satvahana followed by Vakataka period named so after the ruling dynasty. The first phase lasted from 100B CE to 100 CE, when the sanctuaries were built in the canyons of the Waghora river and called Chaitya-griha. Caves 9, 10, 12, 15A are from this period. During the second phase, around 20 cave temples were built which resemble modern day monasteries with a sanctum in the rear end of the cave.
The walls and ceilings of the famous Ajanta caves are chiselled, carved and painted with the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. There is a total of 30 caves that bring to your notice the talent of the people and their dedication to preserving the past in the form of a never fading art. The Ajanta caves consist of caves dedicated to both Hinayana and Mahayana sect. The Ajanta caves consist of 24 Buddhist Viharas and 5 Hindu temples. Cave 1, 2, 4, 16, 17 are considered the most beautiful and the famous statue of the reclining Buddha is located in cave 26. The Viharas (hall of the prayer of the monks) are of different sizes that consist of a pillared verandah in front, from which doors and windows lead into the main hall. The side walls of the hall have doors for the monks to enter their cells. In the center of the main wall is a door that leads us to a room with a huge rock cut sculpture of Lord Buddha. The paintings on the walls of the Ajanta caves mainly adopt the theme of Jataka tales, the stories with morals that we read as kids. Every single painting has a story attached to it and the paints used are both rare and made from very expensive and imported materials. The artists and craftsmen of those times did not leave any detail to imagination making them all look very life like.
The months of June and March are considered the best to visit the Ajanta caves. The Monsoon season from June to September and winter season from November to February is advisable as the weather is pleasant enough during this time giving you more time and energy to complete your expedition.
The nearest airport is at Aurangabad (99 km) and is linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Mumbai. It is directly linked to Mumbai and Pune by the Tapovan Express and Devgiri Express. Ajanta is also well-connected by road to Mumbai, Pune and other cities of Maharashtra. The caves are situated at a distance of 107 km north of Aurangabad and can be reached by hiring a taxi or taking a bus.
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