Ellora & Ajanta Caves

Ellora & Ajanta Caves

Ellora

 Ellora is an ancient village 30 km from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra famous for its magnificent rock cut architecture comprising of Buddhist, Hindu and Jaina cave temples and monasteries built between the 6th and 10th century A.D. These structures were excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills and number 34 in all- 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jaina. The coexistence of structures from three different religions demonstrates the prevalent religious tolerance.

 The Buddhist caves are the earliest and comprise of mostly viharas or monasteries, some of which have shrines with the image of Buddha. The Kailasanatha temple in the Hindu group is a stupendous piece of architecture with interesting spatial effects and varied sculpture. The Jaina caves are characterised by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings, fragments of which are still visible. Ellora is a World Heritage Site. The town of Elora, Ontario, Canada is named after the Caves.

Ajanta Caves

 Ajanta (more properly Ajujnthi), a village in the erstwhile dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad in India and now in the state of Maharashtra(N. lat. 20 deg. 32′ by E. long. 75 deg. 48′) is celebrated for its cave hermitages and halls. As of 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site specifically nominated for the international World heritage program.

 The caves are in a wooded and rugged ravine about 3 1/2 m. from the village. Along the bottom of the ravine runs the river Wagura, a mountain stream, which forces its way into the valley over a bluff on the east, and forms in its descent a series of waterfalls, 200 ft. high, the sound of which must have been constantly audible to the dwellers in the caves. These are about thirty in number, excavated in the south side of the precipitous bank of the ravine, and vary from 35 to 110 ft. in elevation above the bed of the torrent.

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Get In

Ellora Caves are an impressive complex of rock shrines,  representing the three different faiths of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism,  that were excavated between the 5th to the 13th centuries CE. The complex is in Maharashtra State, about 24km from Aurangabad.

By plane

Aurangabad is the nearest airport, and there are daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai. It’s a domestic airport 15 km away and can be reached directly from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur.

By train

Aurangabad is the nearest railway station, and there are regular trains from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Amritsar etc. There is an overnight train from Mumbai.
Two trains, the Tapovan Express and the Devgiri Express, depart daily from Mumbai to Aurangabad.

By bus

Aurangabad is the nearest location for inter-state buses.
Aurangabad to Ellora is around 30km. One can reserve Auto which will charge around IDR350-400. Or else take Govt Buses from Central bus stop (Aurangabad).
Jalgaon (59km from Ajanta) is the nearest station where you should alight while coming from Delhi or Mumbai.

Get around

The city of Aurangabad has all forms of transport right from intra-city buses, metered auto-rickshaws to chauffeur-driven taxis. Intra-city Bus service is Municipal Corporation owned but privately operated. AMT (Aurangabad Municipal Transport) buses ply throughout the city and outskirts reaching thousands of citizens to their offices, schools, colleges efficiently and in a cost effective manner. MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) buses connect Aurangabad to nearby tourist places, distant suburbs and villages around. As a tourist one is recommended to either take Metered Auto-rickshaws (3-wheeler taxis) or Chauffeur driven Taxis. These taxis are not very expensive and are ideal for one day tours to Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad, etc. A hatchback type air-conditioned taxi will cost you around INR 7.00/- per kilometer for a least count of 80 KM or 8 hours whichever is less. Rates of more premium taxis are also computed in same manner with a higher cost per KM.

See

  • The Ajanta Caves depict the stories of Buddhism spanning from the period from 200 B.C. and 650 A.D. These caves were discovered in the 19th century by some British Officers who had been on a tiger hunt.These 29 caves were built by Buddhist monks using simple tools like hammer & chisel. These caves were the retreats of Buddhist monks who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning. The elaborate and exquisite sculptures and paintings depict stories from Jataka tales. The caves also house images of nymphs and princesses.The Ajanta caves and the treasures they house are a landmark in the overall development of Buddhism as such.
  • The Ellora (Verul) Caves have been Carved during 350 A.D. to 700 A.D. these structures represent the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. These caves 34 in number are located 29 km. from Aurangabad. They are fascinating and the finest example of cave temple architecture housing elaborate facades and exquisite interiors. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain.
 

The nobility, grace and serenity inherent in Buddha is reflected in the sculptures of these caves. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two – storeyed structure sports a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is architecture. The entire structure was a exquisite piece carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain – abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability, the world’s largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. The most striking feature about this structure is that unlike other temple structures that are built base onwards, the sculptures or architects of this majestic and fantastic sculptures started carving from the very top and the sides. The gigantic yet delicate and intricate piece of ancient work is the most amazing structure here. The Dumar Lena cave, dedicated to Lord Shiva, resembles the famous cave temple of Elephanta. The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which Cave 32, houses a beautiful shrine adorned with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof, and a yakshi on a lion under a mango – tree, while Caves 32 and 34 contain grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves sport the images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of Mahavira.These caves are a treasure of India which hold the wealth and display the rich Indian heritage.Festival: Every year in the third week of March, M T D C organizes the Ellora Festival of Classical Dance and Music at the caves.

The caves are open from 9AM to 5:30PM Tues-Sun (closed on national holidays) Cave Timings: 9.00AM to 17.30PM Indian Standard Time (IST) Ajanta Caves remain closed on Monday and Ellora Caves remain closed on Tuesday. BOTH CAVES REMAIN OPEN ON ALL NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

  • Ghrishneshwar temple is half a kilometer from the Ellora Caves, and 30 km from Aurangabad. It is an 18th century temple that presents outstanding architecture and carving. This place forms one of the five Jyotirlinga sites in Maharashtra where Lord Shiva is worshipped. The Holkar temple nearby is a must-see.
  • Daulatabad Daulatabad, earlier known as Devgiri, is situated at a distance of 13km from Aurangabad. Also termed as the city of fortune, it houses a stupendous 12th century fortress well placed atop a charming hill. This invincible fortress boasts of a 5 kilometer sturdy wall and an intricate series of ramparts. Don’t miss the climb to the very top through the bat cave.
 
  • Bibi ka Maqbara A replica of the Taj Mahal, the Bibi-ka-Maqbara is the only example of Mughul architecture of its kind in the Deccan plateau. It was built in 1679 by Aurangzeb’s son, in tribute to his mother, Begum Rabia Durani. It lies in the city of Aurangabad itself.
  • Panchakki Pan Chakki is a 17th century water mill. The name has been derived from the mill that crushed grain for the pilgrims. There is a picturesque garden here that houses several beautiful fish tanks and it plays abode to the memorial of a Sufi Saint.
  • Aurangabad Caves, a fine piece of architecture, is presented in the most unembellished manner. The caves lie just outside the city and are believed to have been excavated between the 2nd and the 6th century. They house the most stunningly intricate carvings. There are nine caves in all, most of them being the viharas. The 4th and the 7th cave are worth a look. The 4th cave stands well supported on 12 columns carved with scenes depicting the stories from the Jataka tales, whereas the 7th cave is embedded with carvings of women, adorned with jewels. The main attraction is the sculpture of a ‘Bodhisatva’ praying for deliverance. Also, the views of Aurangabad from the caves make it worth a trip. One can see the Bibi-ka-Maqbara almost from the air.
  • Soneri Mahal, an old historic monument now converted into museum houses a variety of ancient Indian pottery, dresses, remains of local palaces and antiques of daily use. A number of sculptures and reliefs from the local excavations are also on display. It is located within Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University Campus and is on the way to Aurangabad caves.
  • History Museum – Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University also located on the University campus has on display a good number of ancient Indian paintings, coins, fabrics, arms, artifacts, etc. The museum collection is huge and has some fine sculptures from the excavation at Bhokardan, a nearby historic site.
  • Chatrapati Shivaji Museum – As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to the great warier of Maharashtra – Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. A number of exhibits associated with Lord Shivaji are on display. The museum is on the way to Ajanta caves from the city.
  • Lonar – This is site of a meteor which crashed on earth some 50,000 years ago and formed a large crater (few hundred meters in diameter) in the ground.
 
  • Paithan is an ancient taluka town, which lies 56 km to the south of Aurangabad. This place is well known for the exquisite saris that it specialises in. It was a trade centre earlier and also the capital of the Satavahanas. MSSIDC (Maharashtra Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation) has a weaving centre where the traditional art is still practiced. It has formed a very important excavation site recently. Of the few attractions found nearby, the Jayakwadi dam is a treat to the eyes of the avid bird watchers. Next is the Dnyaneshwar Udyan, which is supposedly Maharashtra’s largest garden planned and landscaped on the lines of the Vrindavan gardens at Mysore.
  • Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary is a dense forest reserve, with rare flora and fauna, almost 70 Km. Northwest of Aurangabad. Home to leopards, bears, wolves, hyenas, jackals, flying squirrels and 85 different species of colourful birds.
  • Pitalkhora lies peacefully nestled in the Satmala ranges of the Sahyadris, at a distance of 78km from Aurangabad. There are 13 cave sanctuaries embedded in this region. These monasteries date back from 2nd century BC to 5th century AD. Rich carvings with elaborate details can be seen in these monuments. WARNING: The side road to reach Pitalkhora from the main Aurangabad road is in an extremely bad shape. Don’t go unless you have a SUV/Tata Sumo type of vehicle. The caves are reachable via a footbridge that is in a very bad shape. There is not much to see in the caves except for half-finished carvings.
  • Siddharth Garden is a beautiful landscaped garden, with good variety of trees and shrubs. There is a small aquarium inside the garden, however the biggest attraction is the Siddharth Garden Zoo, with a large variety of animals, viz. Lions, Tigers (White & Bengal), Leopards, Crocodiles, Snakes (Snake-house), Civet cats, Hyena, Fox, Porcupine, Emu, Deers and sprawling lawns to sit and have a great picnic.

Sleep

  • Hotel Kailas  is the closest hotel to Ellora Caves and is a few meters from the entrance. The hotel offers cottages and standard rooms. A few of the cottages overlook the caves but are priced slightly higher than the normal cottages.
  • Alternatively, one can stay at Aurangabad and visit the caves on a day trip.
  • Ellora Heritage Resort, Ellora Village, Aurangabad District (near MTDC), +91 902 828 2885  checkin: 15:00; checkout: 10:00. European themed cottages, western style bathrooms with solar heating. Grassy lawn space offering tents, some large with a western bed. Also providing space for backpackers with their own tents. Restaurant includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Garden with 180 degree views of the Ellora Mountain, in which the Historical Temple Caves have been carved. 

Since Aurangabad is a tourist place, the city has a number of good hotels from all the budget categories suiting the needs of all tourists visiting the city. The budget hotels are located near the Aurangabad Railway Station and City Center, The mid range hotels have been distributed over the city and the 5 star & 4 star hotels are located near the Chikalthana Airport.

Budget

  • Hotel Shreemaya Behind Tourist Home,Aurangabad

Near Railway Station.

Near Aurangabad Airport

  • Hotel Manasi – Jalna Road, CIDCO, New Aurangabad
  • Hotel Sahyadri – Near new High Court, Jalna Road, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Heritage Palace – Opposite ‘Sakal Papers’, Jalna Road, CIDCO, New Aurangabad

Near Aurangabad Railway Station

  • Hotel Classic – Near Goldie Cinema, Station Road, Aurangabad
  • MTDC Holiday Resort (Government Owned & Opetated) – Station Road, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Great Punjab – Station Road, Aurangabad

Near Aurangabad Central Bus Stand (CBS), Private Bus Stand & the City Center

  • Hotel Manmandir, Opp. to Old Court, Adalat Road. There is a Air-conditioned Dormitory for Rs.150 per head. Locker is free.   – Adalat Road, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Kohinoor Plaza – Nirala Bazaar, Samarth Nagar, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Raviraj – Adalat Road, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Girnar – Near LIC, Adalat Road, Aurangabad
  • Hotel Amardeep – Adalat Road, Aurangabad

Outskirts of Aurangabad

  • Aurangabad Sports Club (A.S. Club) – Nagar Road, Aurangabad

Mid-range

Near Aurangabad Airport

  • Lemon Tree Hotel, Aurangabad – R 7/2, Chikalthana, Airport Road, Aurangabad.
  • Hotel Amarpreet – Kranti Chowk, Jalna Road, Aurangabad

Near Aurangabad Railway Station

  • MTDC Holiday Resort (Government Owned & Opetated) – Station Road, Aurangabad

Outskirts of Aurangabad

Splurge

Near Aurangabad Airport

  • Aurangabad Gymkhana Club – Jalna Road, CIDCO, New Aurangabad

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All pictures by the author mebes3t

 

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