Aurangabad Caves

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Weather:

Time Required: 3-4 hrs

Timings:

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Entry Fee:

Indian Tourists: INR 10,
Foreign Tourists: INR 100
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Aurangabad caves, Aurangabad Overview

Aurangabad Caves are twelve rock-cut Buddhist shrines, located around 20km north-west of Aurangabad. These caves date back to the 6th and 8th century and should not be confused with the Ajanta and Ellora Caves which also located close to Aurangabad. Carved out of Soft Basalt Rock, these are considered as one of the most spectacular caves in India. Bibi Ka Maqabra and Soneri Mahal are located quite close to the Aurangabad Caves, and they can be covered on the same day. From the top, a panoramic and breathtaking view of the city is seen. If you are fond of heritage, then you will love this place of attraction. The Aurangabad Caves are also considered ideal for trekking. 

The stunning caves were mostly Buddhist Viharas and are now under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India. The Aurangabad Caves are divided into three separate groups depending on their location as the First group: Cave 1 to Cave 5, Second group: Cave 6 to Cave 9 and Third group: Cave10 to Cave 12. The first two caves have a distance of 500 metres between them, and the third one is slightly further to the east. The definite attraction of the Aurangabad Caves is its sculptures. They are artificially rock cut. Caves I and III of Aurangabad and last caves of Ajanta co-existed as is apparent from striking parallels.

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Cave I: This is a vihara or a Buddhist temple with an unfinished interior. The hall of this cave intended to have 28 pillars. However, only four partially destroyed pillars remain. There is also a verandah supported by eight pillars. The wall of the verandah has two windows and three doors surrounded by carvings of Nagaraja at the base of the door frame and Yakshis as consorts of Nagaraja. Three huge sculptures of Buddha are carved in the veranda. The pillars of Cave I are very interesting as they have salabhanjikas or tree goddesses and figures of ganas carved on them on all the four sides of the square base. 

Cave II: This cave has a shrine at the centre of the verandah supported by four pillars. The Buddha is seated on a lion throne in pralambapadasana and his hands are in the dharmachakra mudra. Figures of two attendants, Maitreya and Padmapani, are carved outside the shrine on either side. The walls around the shrine are completely covered with figures of Buddha depicting Miracle of Saraswati and there is a circumambulation path around the shrine. 

Cave III: A vihara with a verandah supported by four pillars, this cave has a shrine at the centre of the main hall. The doors are stunning with floral designs and Naga guardians on the arches. The pillars are also carved with flowers, trees and animals, ornamental and geometrical designs and the enchanting tree goddesses. The idol is seated on a double lotus in a teaching posture with figures of devotees worshipping the Buddha with the utmost respect on both sides. 

Cave IV: Similar to Cave IX, it is a square chaitya with simple and octagonal pillars. Unfortunately, the pillars have been destroyed except for one, giving the idea of the original design. A stupa or a dome-shaped building too has been partially destroyed. The decorative elements of the cave include stepped merlons which can be found in Ajanta Caves also. 

Cave V: Comparatively a bigger cave, it has immature and unrefined carvings. The image of the Buddha is seated on a rectangular pedestal in padmasana with his hands in dhyana mudra. While the shrine door is plain without any decorations, many figures of Sarasvati Miracle are carved on the walls.

Aurangabad Caves
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Cave VI: Resembling the characteristics of Ajanta Caves, Cave VI has a porch and a verandah supported by four pillars with a square base. The shrine is carved on a raised platform and is isolated from the back hall. It is protected by two huge dwarapalas. Seated on a lion throne in a western style, the idol is surrounded by the usual figures of elephants, vyalas, makaras, etc. Besides these, there are images of male and female devotees inside the shrine. There are two other subsidiary shrines, each housing a Buddha image. 

Cave VII: The most developed cave among the three groups, it has a verandah with four pillars and two pilasters. There are two chapels on both sides of the verandah; on the left chapel is the panel of Buddhist saktis identified as Tara figures while on the right chapel, the figures of Hariti and Pancika are carved. The back wall has windows and a door leading to another hall. There are several other figures of Ganesha, Nandikesvara and Varaha. The shrine is carved at the centre of the main hall and the doorway is flanked by Tara figures and Naga guardians. On the back wall, two huge sculptures of Avalokitesvara and Manjusri are carved. 

Cave VIII: Situated adjacent to Cave VII, it can be accessed through a staircase on the verandah of Cave VII. It consists of two cells carved into the left of the hall and three cells carved into the back wall. Two Buddha figures seated in padmasana position are carved on either side.

Caves IX and X: These caves initially had a huge hall with separate compartments and three shrines. However, the entire structure had collapsed. Presently, there is an unfinished hall which opens to three separate halls at the back, each leading to a shrine. The main hall is supported by four pillars while the others are supported by two. There are sculptures of Padmapani in the form of Avalokitesvara, Tara figures, Manjusri etc and many figures of Buddha. 

Aurangabad Caves Pillars
Pillars at Aurangabad Caves

Located at the back side, these caves have simple halls and pillars without any carvings. 

Tantric influences are also noticeable in Aurangabad caves. Cave number 6 showcases women with some exotic hairstyles and ornamentation and one can notice that these sculptures are still undamaged after so many years. A huge Buddha figure and an idol of Ganesh are preserved in this cave. Cave number 7 is regarded to be the most interesting as it has the figures of women scantily clad and ornately bejewelled are indicative of the rise of tantric Buddhism during this period.

1. Be prepared for a steep climb up hundreds of steps to reach the caves.
2. Make sure to visit all the caves.
3. It's a good idea to hire a guide for the explanation of the iconography and details about the caves, including how they were built, etc.

Aurangabad caves are 10 km away from the Aurangabad city. Tourists can get down at Aurangabad city and take a taxi or auto-rickshaw to reach these caves. Local bus services are available. MSRTC operates good bus services for Aurangabad from other cities in the Maharashtra. You can also opt for private buses and taxis.

The caves are located nearly 2 km north from Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad and can be reached by taxi or bus. A return auto rickshaw from the mausoleum shouldn't cost more than INR 250 including waiting time. The nearest railway station from Aurangabad caves is Aurangabad Railway Station of the south central railway zone. The caves are around 8-9 km far from the railway station and local buses are available outside the railway station.

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