Ajanta and Ellora caves are located in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district.
The Ajanta caves are Buddhist cave monuments which date back to the period ranging from the 2nd century BCE to 480 CE. There are a total of 30 rock-cut monuments. The caves also consist of sculptures of Buddhist deities and paintings. The paintings depict tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala and past lives & rebirths of the Buddha. They are highly expressive, emoting through form, pose, & gesture, and are considered to be the finest example of Indian art. The caves also have a 250-feet rock wall, carved on which are different Buddhist traditions’ worship-halls and ancient monasteries.
UNESCO believes that these masterpieces influenced the art that developed later in India. The building of caves started in two phases. The first phase began in 2nd century BCE, while the second one continued from 400 CE to 650 CE or from 460 CE to 480 CE, as suggested by the old accounts. The whole site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is under protection by the Archaeological Survey of India. Some records also suggest that these caves served as a resting-site for pilgrims & merchants and a retreat for monks in monsoon.
Ellora caves, on the other hand, have monuments from Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist religion. They also feature artwork from the period 600-1000 CE. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the caves are one of the world’s largest monastery-temple cave complexes. Cave 16, specifically, features a monument dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kailasha temple in the chariot shape. It is excavated in single monolithic rock – also the world’s largest. The temple excavation shows mythologies found in Shaktism & Vaishnavism and gods & goddesses.
The site consists of more than 100 caves. Out of these 34 are accessible to the public. There are 5 Jain, 17 Hindu, and 12 Buddhist caves. All are built near to each other which shows the religious harmony that was prevalent in ancient India.
Today both Ajanta and Ellora caves are significant tourist attractions in Maharashtra.