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Ajanta and Ellora Cave (India)

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City: Aurangabad / Country: India / Region: Asia / Two UNESCO world heritage listed cave sites located in the Maharashtra state

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      11.02.2010 14:47
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      This place should a priority while planning a visit to India

      Well, I should have been there not when I was only 8 years old, because after spending 24 years in cities stuffed with bricks, irons, cement,CO2, CO, lead and all but very little of what you call Oxygen. I went to Aurangabad and then to the caves of Ajanta and Elora. Amazing...amazing pieces of architecture which will make 21st century's celebrated master pieces blush, make your eyes pop out like those pop ups you get when you log on to google but there will be no ie blocking your explorations, not even warnings. "Una paloma blanka, I am a bird in the sky..." I can't but wonder at these mind-blowing pieces of architecture at a time when we think the technology was not only back dated but it was hardly there at all. Ajanta and Elora, they are awesome.



      The discovery as like most of them was purely by chance. This bunch of British Officers and soldiers had no intention of poking into this thickly wooded and sloppy Sahyadri hill for discovering these caves buried under debris and hidden by green foliage. It was a hunting expedition that these British soldiers were basically in the Deccan Plateau. It was simply an accident when one of these officers, looking down from the hills noticed a rock with the shape of a horse shoe, natural instinct made them to have a closer look which they had and were bewildered when they found the entrance to the caves. Now they were looking from the Sahyadri Hill down below they have to venture across Waghur River, where the entire range of caves could be seen only to be welcome by herds of goats. They went back and informed the Government about their experience and the Government set up a group of expert archeologist for its excavation and this resulted in unearthing what is know now as the Ajanta Cave Temples.

      Since then 29 caves has been unearthed in Ajanta some are unfinished spanning an amazing 800 years containing numerous images of Lord Buddha depicting the essence and story of Buddhism (spanning the period 200 BC-650 BC). These 29 caves are stuffed with amazing paintings, divine sculptures and some unforgettable piece of art including probably the most well preserved wall paintings of Bodhisattvas, Padmapani and Aloketeshwara. These paintings of Ajanta in their range of times and treatment is a panorama of life in ancient India. I was overwhelmed by the flying Apsara (angel) in cave 17 which also houses images of Lord Buddha preaching. To my mind they are remarkable and unforgettable works of art and I am sure if destiny brings you here you will feel the same too, absolutely stunning creations.


      Here is the Listing of the caves for you:Phase 1: Spans 2nd century AD to 1st century AD

      * Chaitya Halls or shrines (Caves 9 and 10)
      * Viharas or monasteries (Canes 12 and 13)
      Phase II: Spanning 5th century AD to 6th century AD
      * Chaitya Hall or shrines (Caves 19, 26, and 29)
      * Viahara or monasteries (Caves1-7, 11, 14-18, 20-25, 27 and 28)

      Unfortunately Caves 3, 5, 8, 23-25, 28 and 29 are unfinished.Amazing part of these caves is that they are really well furnished which stand adorned with paintings on verandahs, inner walls and ceilings.

      As far as the history and origin of the Ajanta Cave Temples is concerned, one can say that they were discovered in the year 1819 (19th century AD).

      While visiting these caves you wouldn't only stuck with awe and gape with wonder and you would wish time stood still.

      The Ellora caves are older than 300 years sitting on the lap of Chamadari Hills, the are excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment around 26 kms north of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, and rightly regarded as a world heritage. Extending in a linear arrangement to a visitor looking like an asymmetrical ridge of rock protruding vertically from the ground.


      Unlike Ajanta it is more of planned architectural construction and history has that many kings and merchants donated massive sums of money for building the cave temples during the rule of Chalukya and Rastrakuta between 7th and 10th century and in fact they were main patrons of Ellora. There is a strong beliefs among certain religious ethnicity that building temples and shrines lead to religious salvation. The rulers strongly believed that these would be something that would establish their excellence and religious sanctity. From this belief and also the craving for fulfillment of artistic desire resulted the wonderful and exotic caves of Ellora. It is an architectural history created during the period between 350 AD and 700 AD. Again unlike Ajanta mainly pertaining to Buddhism Ellora reflects the inner faiths and beauties of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

      The earliest excavation here is of Dhumar Lena. I was amazed at how beautifully, artistically and accurately the sculptures in Buddhist caves here convey and immortalize the nobility, grace and serenity I Lord Buddha. There are two caves (6 and 10) where images from both Hindu and Buddhist faiths co-exist. Cave 10 is dedicated to Visvakarma the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. I was particularly impressed by the Visvakarma cave which is both a Chaitya and Vihara with a serene Buddha seating in a stupa.. The two storied structure is ornamented with a colorful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.
      The Kailasha temple (sanctifying Lord Shiva in cave 16) is an architectural wonder, the whole thing being created and carved out of a monolith. The gateway, pavilion, assembly hall sanctum and tower all hewn out of a single rock.

      Covering a distance of 1 mile from Kailasha temple I reached the Jain cave. Here there is a cave which houses a beautiful shrine adorned with fabulous carvings of a lotus flower on the roof and a yakshini on a lion under a mango tree.
      The other Jain caves has statues of Parasnath, Tirthankara and of course Mahavira.


      Buddhist cave: Caves 1-12 (at the southern end) spanning from 5th century AD to 7th century AD.
      Hindu caves: Caves 13-29 (right in the middle) recreating 8th century AD to 10th century AD.

      Jain caves: Caves 30-34 (at the northern end) spanning 9th century AD to 11th century AD


      By Air: I think this is the best possible rout although I took the rail rout. The nearest airport is at Aurangabad, unfortunately it's a domestic air port. Take a flight to Delhi and then from their get a connecting flight to Aurangabad.

      Since Aurangabad is a major city of Maharashtra it's very well connected by roads. There are buses plying from Aurangabad to Ellora but the best way will be to hire a taxi or may be you can have your own vehicle. I took a taxi which are quite expensive but never mind its fun.
      There are plenty of Hotels with excellent accommodation but my warning is that be a bit choosy about your foods. But if you are in mood to spend money then don't worry you can have the best of everything out here.

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      Thanks for reading.

      (Also available on other sites under the same user name)
      © roktimdutta, January 2010


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