Ajanta Caves are a series of 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves executed during the time span of 2nd century B.C. to 5th century A.D. These caves, spread over a gorge define the artistic brilliance unique to these finest ancient masterpieces. The historical manmade caves feature beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings depicting the life of the Buddha. A tour through Ajanta caves is like revisiting the past artistic roots of Indian glory. These caves witnessed an important instance in the history of Buddhism by giving shelters to the two Buddhist sects, Hinayana and Mahayana and providing them a widespread canvas of creativity. Many caves in the complex illustrate the presence of Hinayana and Mahayana sects.
The 30 caves, including the unfinished ones, were inhabited by Buddhist monks and religious devotees for more than 800 years, which became the epitome of earliest known artistic Buddhist specimens. Apart from this, the caves are an outstanding testimony to the evolution of Indian art, representing the real side of flourishing Buddhist architecture and religious influence of the prominent religion under the rule of Guptas.
Location of Ajanta Caves
Located alongside River Waghora in the center of Sahyadri Forests in Maharashtra, Ajanta Caves are the ancient specimen of Buddhist art flourished during the ancient times of civilization.
To explore Ajanta Caves, a tourist / pilgrim should visit Aurangabad (104 km), the base city equipped with the facilities serving them with ease and comforts. Laid out by Aurangzeb, this city of 52 gates opens up the gateway for a modern tourist to experience the awesome artistry of the ancient times.
Tourist Attractions near Ajanta Caves
There is a thin line difference upon how the traditional Hinayana Buddhism graduated to Mahayana Buddhism. Hinayana followers didn’t worship any god or goddess but used stupas and other rock formations to represent Buddha, whereas Mahayana Buddhists used idols to represent the lord. During Ajanta cave tour, tourists and pilgrims will find an illustrated mix of caves or Chaitya, monasteries featuring both types of architecture and art besides paintings and scriptures of Hinayana and Mahayana Sect.
Caves number 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 are dedicated to the older sect Hinayana. Caves no 19 and 26 are chaityas and Mahayana cave number are 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26. Cave no 1 and 2 are known for another reason, projecting the excellent Jataka tales on rock. Cave no 10 is also quite renowned for its Buddha images and the depiction of Jataka tales.
Though every cave on the gorge is noteworthy to watch, but if tourists are having little time, they can pay their visit to the most famous caves in the complex. Must see caves in Ajanta are 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26.
Excursions from Ajanta Caves
- the counterpart of Ajanta Caves, Ellora complex comprises of 34 caves blessed with fantastic rock cut sculptures dedicated to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist beliefs. These caves illustrate and represent the high tolerance Indians inherited from the history. Woven by a common thread of belief, these 34 caves showcase Lord Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati, Durga and Jain saints’ statues etched in a single complex.
This famous pilgrimage site is known as one of the four sites in India hosting the grand Mahakumbh festival, held once in every 12 years. Hindus also perform their last rites alongside the Godavari River. Also, the site is renowned for one of the Shiva Jyotirlingas, a manifestation of Lord Shiva in the form of light at Triyambakeshwara.
Agriculturally, the city is known for producing grapes, strawberries and onions and is a fast growing metro in the state.
The city of gates, Aurangabad is known for its unique Mughal character and is dotted with a number of monuments that can be explored during this city’s tour. Prominent among them is Aurangabad Caves, a set of 12 Buddhist caves nestling within the hills of the city. The main attraction of these caves is the tantric influences in its iconography and architectural designs. The excavations conducted here reveal that some of the caves were carved during 2nd-3rd century AD. From here, one can overlook at the grandeur of Bibi ka Maqbara, the tomb of Rabia ul Daurani alias Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of the then Emperor Aurangzeb.
This marble structure is modeled on the impeccable beauty and architecture of Taj Mahal, but denotes simplicity of the tomb. The complex also features the important elements of a burial place including Mughal garden with axial ponds, fountains, water channels, broad passageway and pavilions.
Daulatabad is another attractive attraction in Aurangabad, revealing the 14 century fort city and the capital of Tughlaqs. Located 11 km north-west of the city, this medieval fort is marvelled for its dream like setting within a moat, the scarp in the front of this fortification and the solid rock hewn passage. The Chand Minar, the Chini Mahal and the Baradari are the important structures within the fort.
Panchakki or the water mill is another medieval marvel of this city. This mill used the mastery of channelizing the 6 km away water source through siphons, which was then utilized for grinding wheat for pilgrims.
How to reach in Ajanta Caves
By Air :
Aurangabad, 104 km away is the city with the nearest airport. Direct flights are available from Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur, etc.By Rail :
Three railway stations, namely Jalgaon, Manmad and Busawal in Aurangabad provide easy train accessibility to reach Ajanta Caves. By Road :
Well-maintained roads connected Ajanta to many prominent cities in Maharashtra including Mumbai - 390 km, Ellora - 32 km, Nanded - 275 km, Nasik- 224 km and Pune- 232 km.