Ajanta Caves - A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ajanta Caves is one of the most amazing archaeological sites and tourist locations in India. Nestling in the inner fold of the Sahyardi hills and burried by thick forest all around in the shape of a mammoth horseshoe 3.5 m away from the village are the 30 rock-hewn caves of Ajanta carved into hillside rock which has been mesmerising visitors from all around the World. Ajanta caves are rich in paintings and sculpture is crafted by hand with only a hammer and chisel. These were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning. This place is about 100 kilometres from Aurangabad district in the state of Maharashtra is influenced by the Buddhist art and architecture.
The Ajanta Caves is a UNESCO world heritage site and were carved out from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD. The river Wagura, a mountain stream flows along the bottom of the ravine falling from a height of 200 ft making a series of waterfalls. The sound of the waterfalls can be heard in the caves. Ajanta Caves features scenes from the life of the Buddha and stories regarding his reincarnations. This place was discovered in the 19th century by a group of British army officers. Many of the Caves are quite dark and lighting is poor which makes one wonder how the craftsmen would have carved the beautiful sculptures. The carvings and the murals here shows all kinds of people from kings to slaves, women, men, children,flowers, plants, fruits, birds and beasts. Ajanta also has carvings of 'Yakshas', 'Kinneras' (half human and half bird), 'Gandharvas' and 'Apsaras'.
How to reach Ajanta Caves?
Ajanta caves are in northern Maharastra around 400 kilometers from Mumbai. It is a one and a half hours journey from the nearest railway station Jalgaon. One can also travel by air up to Aurangabad which is the nearest airport. Ajanta is also connected to a network of excellent roadways with Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Aurangabad.
Ajanta Caves Timings & Entrance fees
The Ajanta caves are opened on all days (even National Holidays) except Mondays. The timings for visitors are 9 AM to 5.30 PM. The entry fees for foreigners is $US10. However, admission is free for Children younger than 15 years. The best time to visit Ajanta is from November to March when it's cooler and dry.
Places of interest near Ajanta Caves
Way to Ajanta Caves
Aurangabad Caves of Maharashtra
Aurangabad Caves are artificial caves carved out of the hillside during the 6th and 7th century. These Caves situated in Maharashtra State is of great historical interest. The Aurangabad Caves is situated approximately 9 Km from Aurangabad, just outside the city near the famous monument Bibi-Ka-Maqbara. Tourists can get down at Aurangabad and take a taxi or auto-rickshaw to reach these caves. These Cave temples reflect hindu tantric influences in their iconography and architectural designs. A visit to Aurangabad Caves would give an insight into the rock-cut architecture of India. These caves are open to visitors from 10 AM to 5 PM.
The other places one can visit in Aurangabad are the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara and the Daulatabad Fort.
Aurangabad Caves are to be found at two different locations, at a distance of a kilometer consisting of Western Group Caves (Cave 1-5) and Eastern Group Caves (cave 6-10). The western group consists mainly of viharas (monasteries) and depictions from the Jataka tales. The architecture is absolutely fascinating. Cave number 2 has a shrine with the image of Buddha. Cave 3 is the the prominent and largest among the Eastern Group and is a masterpiece amongst all, with its beautifully carved pillars and sculptures depicting scenes from the Jatakas.
The Eastern Group group is located nearly 500 m east of the first group and it contains many unfinished caves. At the eastern group, there are sculptures of scantily clad buxom women in freaky hairdos, child-eating goddesses, musicians and dancers alongside images of the Buddha. Among Eastern Group Caves Cave 6 is a masterpiece because of for its amazing picturization of women with their hairstyles and ornamentation. Cave 7 is the most remarkable of all the caves in Aurangabad, principally for its sculptures that portray figures of women meagerly dressed and richly ornamented images of women like Hariti and the six goddesses, including Padmini. In the rear of the hall is a large Buddha in a preaching position. Cave 7 houses an imposing sculpture of a Boddhisattva, praying for deliverance from the 8 dangers, fire, the sword of the enemy, chains, shipwreck, lions, snakes, mad elephant and demon (representing death). Outside this cave is the amazing figures of both Lord Ganesha and Buddha.
© 2008 Anamika S Jain