Ajanta Ellora Caves
The Ajanta caves are 108 kms north-east of Aurangabad .The caves are carved in the rock face which is in the face which is in the form of a horse-shoe through which flows the stream Waghora.Situated in this beautiful surroundings are 30 Buddhist caves some unfinished comprising of either viharas (monastic halls) or chaityas(chapels)containing important examples of Buddhist architecture.Despite its age ,most of the frescoes and sculptures are remarkably well preserved .Natural light illuminates the caves at certain times of the daywhich leave you awestruck by the sheer brilliance of its architectural splendour.The Ajanta caves is placed in the World Heritage List of Monuments & a true "Wonder of the World".The Ellora caves are 29 kms Noth-West of Aurangabad.This rock-cut caves were constructed between sixth to the tenth century A.D & are included in the World Heritage.There are about 34 caves-12 Buddhist,17 Hindu,5 of Jain faith.
A wonderful example of cave temple architecture, the world heritage Ellora caves own elaborate facades and intricately carved interiors. These carved structures on the inner walls of the caves reflect the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. These exotic caves were carved during 350 AD to 700 AD period.
The Chalukya - Rashtrakuta rulers (7th - 10th cnetury) were the main patrons of the cave temples of Ellora. Many kings and Merchants donated huge sums of money for the construction of these cave temples. Some religious beliefs and ethical codes forced the rulers to encourage the buliding of these temples. Building of these temples was supposed to give salvation and religious excellance to the kings.
The enchanting cave shrines of Ellora are an added value to the great Indian Heritage.
The incredible caves of Ajanta are dedicated exclusively to Buddhism. There are around 30 caves here and are divided into 'Chaitya-Grihas' (stupa halls) and 'Viharas' (dwelling halls). Around five of these caves (9, 10, 19, 26 and 29) are 'Chaitya-Grihas'. The rest of the caves are 'Sangharamas' or Viharas (monasteries). The caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 are important from the art point of view. They are great pieces of art compared to the contemporary art world.
These caves have exotic paintings illustrating the life and incarnations of Buddha. The carvings and the paintings of the Ajanta caves tell us about the imagination and creativity of the artist. The murals on the walls of these caves are still in a good condition, maintaining the freshness of the color and spreading vibrancy in the atmosphere. Visitors will definitely enjoy watching these great historical pieces of art.
The Ajanta caves were divided into several viharas (dwelling halls) and chaitya-grihas (stupa halls), scooped out of the sloping rocks in the fifth century CE. The viharas consisted of a broad verandah. The roof of this verandah was supported by pillars and giving towards the interior on to a hall averaging in size about 35 ft. by 20 ft. Also there are dormitories to the left, right and back , opening on to this hall. The number of dormitories varied according to the size of the hall, and in the larger ones pillars supported the roof on all three sides, forming a sort of religious residence running round the hall.
There is also a shrine of lord Buddha in a niche facing the entrance and sometimes facing the subsidiary shrines to the right or left of the entrance. With the help of carvings, the facades of the viharas were decorated and the paintings adorned the walls and ceilings.
The chaitya-grihas are greater than the viharas. The largest chaitya-grihas being 94 1/2 ft. from the verandah to the back and 41 1/4 ft. across, including the cloister. Earlier, the chaitya-grihas at Ajanta had stupas, but later they had a standing or seated image of the Buddha in front of them.
One of the signs of changing patterns of worship is the bodhisattva cult that was practiced at Ajanta. The Bodhisattvas are heavenly beings on the brink to Buddhahood. It is said that they chose to remain in the world to help others towards salvation. The figures off these bodhisattvas are carved at the entrance of a vihara or chaitya-griha or are painted on walls.
The famous wall paintings in Ellora are found in 5 caves, but these paintings are preserved only in Kailasa temple. These paintings were painted in two series, first, at the time of carving the caves and second, after many centuries later. The paintings of the first series show Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. In the later series the main composition is that of a procession of Shaiva holy men. The paintings also show gracefully flying 'Apsaras'. Sadly, very few such murals in the Jain temples are well preserved.
The MTDC organizes the famous Ellora Festival of classical dance and music at these caves every year in the third week of March.
The Ajanta caves and the treasures they house are a landmark in the overall development of Buddhism as such. It provides a unique opportunity to study the early phases of Buddhist sculpture, painting and architecture, which later influenced artistic traditions in central Asia and Far East.
Air : The nearest airport from these caves is situated in Aurangabad (15 kms). It is a domestic airport.
Rail : Aurangabad is the nearest railway station on South Central Railway Line. Mumbai - Aurangabad via Manmad is 388-km and via Pune it is 400-km.
Road : Aurangabad is a major city of Maharashtra, therefore it is well connected by road. To reach Ellora Caves tourists should take a taxi from Aurangabad. State buses run from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Bijapur to Aurangabad