The main tourist attractions in Ajanta are of course the Ajanta and Ellora caves which are located approximately 190 miles from Mumbai and are very close to the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. For over a thousand years, the twenty nine caves at Ajanta and the thirty four caves at Ellora have remained hidden, until in eighteen nineteen a British Army officer by the name of John Smith accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition. In India, the, Ajanta and Ellora caves are protected monuments and are included on the World Heritage list of monuments.
The Ajanta and Ellora caves
One thing that makes these caves so special is the fact that they feature shrines which are manually cut out of solid rock. Archaeologists believe that the caves served as the primary shelter of Buddhist monks who would use them during monsoons and in order to pass the rainy season, they would decorate them with religious motifs. Later on, the monks began to perform various religious rituals in the caves, which eventually became their living quarters (Viharas) and temples (Chaityas), including their center of Buddhist cultural movement and ancient seats of learning. With the help of very simple tools, the monks managed to carve breathtaking figures which are quite a sight to behold.
Frescoes and murals
The frescoes and the murals that can be observed upon entering the caves almost completely adorn the walls and tell the story of Buddhism over a period starting from two hundred BC and all the way to six hundred and fifty AD. There are also panels in many of the caves here which depict stories from the Jatakas, panels that are now considered a real cultural treasure that tell many stories of Buddha’s various incarnations. Because of their spiritual significance, these caves are a fascinating visit for anyone who loves Buddhism, including researchers and scholars.
If you are into ancient wall paintings, then you absolutely need to visit Cave number one which houses some of the best preserved such paintings you can admire and they include two amazing Bodhisattvas, namely Avalokiteshvara and Padmapani.
Caves two, sixteen and seventeen are also great destinations if you’d love to see breathtaking paintings, while caves one, four, seventeen, nineteen, twenty four and twenty six boast some of the most impressive sculptures you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. For instance, the flying Apsara painting in Cave seventeen, but also the image of the Buddha preaching are 2 unforgettable works of art you can only see her in Ajanta.
In the overall development of Buddhism in India, the Ajanta caves, including the artifacts they house, are considered a real treasure both nationally and overseas.
How to get to the caves:
By Road: There’s an amazing road network in Maharashtra that’s going to make driving to the Ajanta and Ellora caves a breeze. This network links the caves with Aurangabad, Bijapur, Ahmedabad, Dhule, Pune and also Mumbai.
By Rail: Aurangabad is directly connected to Pune and Mumbai. On top of that, you’ll be happy to know that if you’re in Jalgaon, you’re just 36,6 miles from Ajanta.
By Air: If you’re in Aurangabad, then you’re 61.5 miles from Ajanta and 18.6 miles from Ellora and the good news is that this place is connected to Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur and Delhi.