The Caves of Maharashtra are perfect examples of arts and crafts of ancient India. Dating back to over a few centuries these caves are believed to be the dwelling of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks. Spellbound by the beauty and mystery of these caves visitors have continued visiting the Caves of Maharashtra over a long period.
The most visited caves of Maharashtra are:
- Aurangabad Caves
- Ajanta Caves
- Ellora Caves
- Elephanta Caves
The 700 year old Ajanta Caves is situated in the panoramic gorge in the shape of a gigantic horseshoe. Several stories from Jataka and illustrations from the life of Buddha are engraved on the walls of the Cave. Total number of caves found here are 31, of which 5 caves are Chaitya-Grihas or halls, and the rest are Sangharamas or Viharas (monasteries).
The 34 caves of Ellora have Buddhist halls of worship, Monasteries and Hindu and Jain temples. It took over five centuries to dug these temples and monasteries out of the ground. The artistic legacy of the Ellora caves has earned it the honor of being a world heritage site.
The caves are numbered for the purpose of easy recognition. The earliest built of all these caves are the Hindu Caves numbered 27, 29, 21, 28, 19, 26, 20, 17, and 14. The oldest Buddhist cave is Cave number 6 while cave number ten known as Chaitya Griha or Carpenter's Hut is the most popular cave of all the Ellora Caves. The ceiling of this enormous hall has been carved in such a way that it gives an impression of wooden beams. There is a 15 foot statue of Buddha situated in this cave. The Buddhist Caves popularly referred to as 'Viharas' have several rooms designed for the purpose of sleeping, living and cooking.
Dug out of soft rocks Aurangabad caves are artificial caves. The architecture of these caves is influenced by Tantric Hinduism. Aurangabad caves are found in two separate groups, each group consisting of 5 caves.
The 4th cave of the western group is the oldest. There is a Stupa in front in a collapsed condition. The other western caves are Buddhist Monasteries which are also known as Viharas. There are open courts surrounded by open cells. It's believed that the Viharas were built to give shelter to the Buddhist monks. The 6th and 7th cave falls in the eastern group. These caves depict the most fascinating work of art. There are sculptures of women in exotic hairstyles and ornaments, Buddha and also Ganesha. To the left of cave 7 there are sculptures of Bodhisattva praying to rescue from the 8 dangers of life representing death. A few km away from Aurangabad is the famous monument of Bibi-ka-Maqbara.
Elephanta caves are located on the Elephanta Island near Mumbai harbor. The caves date back from 9th to 13th centuries. The Elephanta caves are cut from solid rocks and contain sculptures, and a temple of Lord Shiva. The temple has opening from three sides which lets the light in from many angles. This is the most interesting feature of the temple. The sculptures seem to move with the changing angles of light. There is a large hall with 9 sculptures of Lord Shiva depicting different moods inside the temple. There are pillars inside to support the roof.
Portuguese after taking the possession of this place found a huge statue here and named these caves as the Elephanta Caves. Prior to that these caves were known as "Gharapuri" or The Place of Caves. Mahesha-Murti Cave is the most important cave among the seven caves of Elephanta. The cave temple here is of 5000 square meters and is reached by climbing more than 100 stairs. more...
Only 40km away from Ellora caves, Pitalkhora caves are located in the Aurangabad district. With many unusual sculptures these caves date back to the 2nd century BC. These caves are cut into the side of a narrow valley. Pitalkhora caves mainly comprises of Viharas or Buddhist monasteries. There are scriptures of Yaksa or girl.
Dating back to 2nd BC the Pitalkhora caves have motifs of animals and unusual figures like Yaksa, carved on its walls. The main entrance has a wide terrace with snakes and guardians on the door.
How to reach there
Private cars, taxis, buses are all available. Package tours to these caves are also available. Frequent train services are available from Aurangabad and Mumbai and also other cities of Maharashtra. Airports are also there in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Aurangabad.
Last Updated on : May 1, 2015
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