Among the various treasures the state of Maharashtra has to offer are the enchanting group of Ajanta and Ellora caves. These outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architecture with 29 caves in Ajanta and 34 caves in Ellora were cut out of rocks by hand. It was a long and tedious process from the 5th upto 10th AD.
The Ellora caves are numbered from north to south and can be divided into Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sections. They are the finest specimen of cave-temple architecture where the craftsmen have shown remarkable skills in the elaborately carved facades and exquisite interiors.
The Buddhist section is the largest among them having 16 caves and are among the oldest in this group of caves. Carved very much in line of the Buddhist nature i.e., serenity and nobility done in an expression of wood. On entering these caves one enters a chamber with high ceiling and a huge 15 feet statue of Buddha, sitting in a preaching position. Out of the 16 Buddhist caves mostly are viharas except the cave number 10 which is distinctly a chaitya. This chaitya has a sitting Buddha in a stupa and he is illuminated through a small beautifully carved window on the ceiling, which has wooden beams. This cave is dedicated to Vishvakarma, the patron saint of the Indian craftsmen. This cave is considered to be the finest carved cave in India. It depicts that the life and religion go hand in hand as you can see the figurines of various amorous couples along the balustrade. This cave is a double storeyed structure and as one steps out one can view the beautifully carved Naga Queen and a colourful pageant of dwarfs or court jesters dancing and making music. The 12th cave shows the seven incarnations of Buddha, as the Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha returns after every five thousand years.
The Hindu caves are different from the Buddhist and the Jain caves in their style of execution. The 16th cave is an architectural wonder having been carved out from a single monolith. It is gigantic yet at the same time a very delicate and intricate ancient work of Indian art. The gateways, pavillion, sanctum, assembly hall and tower are all from a single rock. If that was not enough these caves have been carved from the top to bottom. It is an amazing feet of accomplishment by the ancient craftsmen. It took more than 100 years to be completed. They tried to make a replica of Mount Kailash hence this cave was named Kailashnath Temple and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The entrance of the Rameshwar cave is adorned by the figurines of river goddesses.
The last five caves have exceptionally detailed work and belong to the Jain section. These invaluable caves sport images of the Jain Tirthankaras and Lord Mahavira.The 32nd Cave has a beautiful shrine adorned with a finely carved lotus on the ceiling and an imposing yakshi sitting on her lion under a mango tree.
The fascinating Ajanta group of caves were lying hidden from the human eyes deep within the Sahyadri hills when British armymen chanced to discover them in the 19th century. Unlike the Ellora caves these caves are dedicated solely to Buddhism and were built to provide the secluded retreat to the monks. With the help of very simple tools the monks had carved these exquisite figures adorning the walls of these caves. A rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of Buddha. The cave 17 with a flying Apsara and cave 16 with a preaching Buddha are a couple of unforgettable work of art. Images of nymphs and princesses are also elaborately potrayed.
These caves and the treasures they house are a landmark in the development of Buddhism.
How to reach?
Ellora is just 29 kms and Ajnata is 99 kms from Aurangabad, which is the nearest airport and railhead for reaching the caves. The Ajanta and Ellora caves are well connected by road. Plenty of State run and private buses are available for these caves.
MTDC Holiday Resort, Near Aurangabad Railway Station
Ajanta Travellers Lodge,Ajanta
MTDC Holiday Resort, Fardapur (4 kms from Aurangabad)
For further information contact:
* Govt. of India Tourist Office,
Krishna Vilas, Station Road,Aurangabad
* Aurangabad MTDC
Station Road, Aurangabad - 431001
Ph : 23298, 24259, 24713
Published in Naradonline