The Ajanta caves seem to have been excavated in the shape of a horseshoe cut out of rock surface that is almost 76 meters in height. It is today a UNESCO world Heritage center and is thronged by hundreds of tourists from all parts of the world. There are in all 30 caves that contain 600 years of carvings. These caves have increased the interest of those who love art and history and are marveled at the fact of the carvings by hand in the hard rock. Here you can see the life of man depicted in stone art, done only with a hammer and chisel, and the beliefs of Buddhism.
The Ajanta caves were built during 100 BC by monks and artists of those times. These were recently discovered by the British officer John Smith of the Madras Presidency, in the 19th century. The earliest caves were created in the 100 BC during the Satavahana Dynasty and the later ones were carved in the 5th to 7th century. It is also said that these were built in two phases, one in the 200 BC and the second in 600 AD. The caves were later abandoned by the monks, who are said to have come here for the peace and tranquility.
These stone carvings are seen as a work of masterpiece in India. Here in the Ajanta caves you see exquisite carvings that are done out of the mountain rock. These are cave temples of the Buddha, and have mystical figures of the Lord and others. There are stupas and dwelling cells known as viharas. The carvings here have a great influence of Buddha religion and Jataka tales. The walls and paintings here are of the highest level of craftsmanship and depict the mythology and lifestyle of the ancient times. The great Buddha image in Cave 1 is a masterpiece and the cave itself comprises elegant motifs, along with paintings of Vajrapani, Bodhisattvas, dancing people, princesses, girls, golden geese, bull fights, pink elephants, the Persian embassy, etc.
Every cave here has something to depict, and does so in a grand manner. However, the interesting thing to note is the Cave 4, which has an unfinished image of the Buddha. Cave 6 is of Mahayana phase and Cave 5 is a doorway. The 9th and 10th caves are gathering halls. Besides, there are monasteries and stupas in other caves. The murals found here are in the style of tempera and the painting done is with the use of glue, dried lime wash and plaster. The colors used are red, black, lapis lazuli and the terra verte, which are all naturally available in the rocks. Even the sculptures were painted, but in the due course, the paintings have washed away.
The Ajanta caves are located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra, India. The place is situated in the district of Aurangabad, which is around 400 km from Mumbai. The Aurangabad city is around 107 km from the caves. The location of the Ajanta caves is 75 degrees 40' N and 20 degrees 30' E. The river Waghora flows nearby and is in the midst of the mighty Sahyadri hills. There are thick forests surrounding the caves, which is why these have remained secluded since millennia. Nearby important cities are Pune (232 km), Ellora (32 km), Nasik (224 km), Nanded (275 km) and Mumbai (400 km).
When to visit
The best time to visit if from November to March, when the weather is pleasant and winters arrive. Summers are hot (April to May). Monsoons begin in the month of June and continue till October, making it unpleasant to visit in the rains. Avoid visiting the caves during the holiday season also, as there is a mad rush of visitors.
The caves are opened in the morning at 9 a.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m. Mondays are closed completely.
Entry for children under 15 years is free, while adults are charged Rs. 10 per head for Indians and Rs. 250 per head for foreigners.
There are very few choices to stay in Ajanta. The choices range from mid-range hotels to budget hotels. You can stay in the city of Aurangabad as well, as it is just a few km from the caves and offers quite a wide range of options to stay. Some hotels in Ajanta are:
- Ajanta T Junction
- Ajanta travelers lodge
- Hotel Kilas
- Hotel Padmapani Park
You can easily reach Ajanta caves from Jalgaon or Aurangabad. You have to arrive at the airport in Aurangabad or the railhead in Jalgaon. National highways can be found connecting Aurangabad.
- By air: The nearest airport is 108 km away and is connected to various cities in India. There are several flights from Aurangabad to other major cities.
- By train: You can reach Jalgaon railway station, which is closest, and you can hire a taxi from here to the Ajanta caves.
- By road: If you come from Aurangabad, you can get a luxury bus, taxi or private car to Ajanta. The network of roads is good, so you can easily come to Aurangabad or Jalgaon from other parts of the country as well.