The Ajanta Ellora Caves in India are extraordinary, showing us the incredible history and artwork from long ago. They are located near Aurangabad, and 64 caves were made by cutting rocks. In UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage Site status, Ajanta and Ellora Caves occupy a prime spot on every avid traveler’s bucket list. So this article will explore the fascinating caves, delving into their rich history and must-see attractions.
The Historical Significance of Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The Ajanta Caves are ancient and were made from 200 BCE to 650 CE. A history scholar named Walter M. Spink said that the caves were built at two different times, called the Satavahana Period and the Vākāṭaka Period. The Ellora Caves are younger and constructed between the 5th and 10th centuries CE. So these are divided into three parts – Jain Caves, Hindu Caves, and Buddhist Caves.
A thick forest covered the Ajanta Caves, and in 1819 a British officer rediscovered them. But the Ellora Caves have always been known and appreciated. Today, these caves are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were given this title in 1983, meaning they are critical and famous worldwide.
Distinctive Contrasts Between Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Though often mentioned together, Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves possess unique differences that set them apart. Firstly, they are located at different distances from the city of Aurangabad. Ajanta Caves are about 104 kilometers away, while Ellora Caves are closed at around 29 kilometers. These have a unique horse-shoe shape, like a beautiful curved line. On the other hand, Ellora Caves are scattered randomly without any specific pattern.
Moreover, the purpose of creating these caves is different too. Ajanta Caves were made as homes for Buddhist monks, called viharas, and there were also Buddhist monasteries. But Ellora Caves were made as religious centers for Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities, showing the diversity of religions.
Lastly, the caves were supported by different rulers. Ajanta Caves were helped by rulers from the Vakataka Dynasty and the Satavahana Dynasty. At the same time, Ellora Caves were mainly built with the support of rulers from the Kalachuri, Chalukya, and Rashtrakuta dynasties. These differences make Ajanta and Ellora Caves unforgettable in their ways, and they represent the rich heritage and different styles of ancient India’s architecture.
Things to do in Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Let’s find the details of various things to do in Ajanta and Ellora Caves:
1- Unveiling the Beauty of Ajanta and Ellora Caves
At Ajanta Caves, you can find 30 caves made of rocks. They have beautiful paintings and sculptures from a long time ago. In Cave 1, you will see real paintings. The entrance has pictures of important people, and the walls show different moments from Buddha’s life. Cave 2 has an exceptional ceiling with drawings of fruits, devils, birds, and flowers. It looks so pretty! Even though Cave 4 is not finished, it is still one of the biggest places in Ajanta Caves. It’s magical to see!
At Ellora Caves, you can see 34 caves. Cave 1 is a simple place with eight small rooms for people to live in. Cave 2 is special because it has twelve beautiful pillars. There is a statue of Buddha sitting on a lion. The entrance also has a big carving of a Buddha and a person holding a flower. Cave 16, also called Kailash Temple, is vital for people who believe in Lord Shiva. It looks like a big mountain, just like where Lord Shiva lives. It is a very holy place!
2- Exploring the Sacred Grishneshwar Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is also called Ghrneshwar or Ghushmeshwar Temple. It is part of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. It is the smallest Jyotirlinga and is considered the last one in India. When you visit the Grishneshwar Temple, you can see the central part called the Garbhagriha.
It is the only Jyotirlinga where people can touch the Shiva Linga with their hands. The temple looks very beautiful with its unique design. It is built in a style that comes from South India. The top part of the temple has five levels, and it has many wonderful carvings. The temple was built long ago, but it was rebuilt later by a queen named Ahilyabai Holkar from Indore.
3- Discovering Buddhist Treasures
The caves resemble peaceful monasteries once home to Buddhist monks who lived and devotedly prayed within their walls. These caves hold remarkable artwork adorned with splendid paintings and sculptures depicting the serene figures of Bodhisattva, Buddha, and Saints. One stands out prominently among the many Buddhist caves – Chaitya Hall Cave 10, fondly known as the “Carpenter’s Cave.”
This cave possesses an extraordinary charm, boasting a grand hall called a chaitya. Inside, you will see a very tall statue of Buddha that is 15 feet high. Just beyond the hall, a gallery adorned with pillars awaits, showcasing two shrines and a cozy little room to explore and appreciate. Visiting these Buddhist caves is a wonderful experience. You can learn about Buddhism and the fantastic artwork created many years ago.
4- Uncovering the Marvels of Khuldabad
Khuldabad is a magical town, not too far from Aurangabad and just a short distance from the stunning Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Khuldabad was once known as the “Garden of Paradise” and is famous as the “Valley of Saints.” Many wise Sufi saints lived here long ago, making it a special place. In this holy town, you can find essential places from the past, like Aurangzeb’s Tomb and the beautiful Dargahs of Zar Zari Zar Baksh, Shaikh Burhan ud-din Gharib Chisti, and Shaikh Zain-ud-din Shirazi.
Khuldabad is also home to the famous Bhadra Maruti Temple, where people go to worship Lord Hanuman. Close to Khuldabad is a mysterious spot called the “Valley of Saints.” It is said that around 1500 Sufi saints rest here. A long time ago, Aurangzeb, a powerful king, protected Khuldabad by building a strong wall with seven entrances.
5- Discovering the Majestic Daulatabad Fort
Daulatabad Fort is located a few km away from Ajanta Ellora caves. This ancient fortification is like a magnificent castle surrounded by lush greenery. People even call it one of the ‘seven wonders of Maharashtra.’ The fort is also known as Devgiri Fort, and it has a unique quality – it is perched on top of a tall hill, offering a breathtaking view of the whole city.
What makes the Daulatabad Fort even more fascinating is its incredible design. It was built on a hill that stands 200 meters high, making it a strong fortress from medieval times. The hill’s shape and strategic location provided excellent protection and enhanced its architectural beauty. The fort also had clever engineering techniques that helped defend against enemies and manage water resources.
6- Beholding the Beauty of Bibi ka Maqbara
Bibi ka Maqbara looks similar to the famous Taj Mahal. It was built by a king named Aurangzeb in 1661 to remember his wife. The design of Bibi ka Maqbara was inspired by the Taj Mahal, so it has a similar look. People sometimes call it the Taj of the Deccan. This Maqbara was meant to rival the Taj Mahal, but some changes in the design made it look like a copy. Nonetheless, it is a significant and grand structure that attracts many visitors who appreciate its beauty, especially when surrounded by magnificent mountains.
The Bottom Line
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves are a magnificent testament to India’s rich history and artistic brilliance. They have different shapes and were made for different reasons. People from different religions used them for their prayers and to live. The caves are old and have many wonderful things to see, like paintings and statues. When you visit these caves, you can explore other interesting places nearby, like temples and forts. It’s like going on a magical adventure through time!
FAQs about Ajanta Ellora Caves
The ideal time to visit Ajanta and Ellora Caves is during the winter season, from November to February. The weather is pleasant and comfortable for exploring the caves and enjoying the outdoor surroundings. The temperatures are cooler during this time, making it easier to explore the sites without feeling too hot or exhausted.
Absolutely! Guided tours are readily available for Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Numerous tour operators and travel agencies organize these tours, offering insightful information about the caves’ history, importance, and artistic elements.
The nearest airport is Aurangabad Airport, about 100 km away, offering convenient connections to major cities in India. Jalgaon Railway Station is the closest for those traveling by train, 60 km from the caves. Additionally, the caves can be reached by road, with easy connectivity from nearby cities.
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