Located In Maharashtra, 100 kilometers from the city of Aurangabad. Ajanta provides a unique platform to study the early phases of Buddhist sculpture, painting and architecture. The Ajanta Caves were discovered accidentally by a British Captain, John Smith in 1819, while on a hunting expedition. Aurangabad can be reached by flight or train, or even by motored down to from Manmad , the nearest railhead being 55 km north at Jalgaon city of Maharashtra, India.
» Ajanta Caves :
These 3rd-century caves are fine achievements by Buddhist monks and are considered the finest masterpiece of Buddhist art and architecture.The caves are cut from the volcanic lava of the Deccan and are set in beautiful blooming surroundings. These historical manmade caves comprise of beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings that depict the life of the Buddha. At Ajanta, the paintings on the walls, illustrate the events in the life of Gautama Buddha.
» Architecture Ajanta Caves :
The Ajanta caves are dedicated solely to Buddhism. The caves including unfinished are thirty in number of which five (9, 10, 19, 26 and 29) are “Chaitya-Grihas” and the rest are “Sangharamas” or Viharas (monasteries). Cave 26 by far is most magnificent and has some ornate sculptures. The Ajanta Caves are well known for their fresco paintings. The 30 Chaityas and Viharas have paintings, which illustrate the life and incarnations of Buddha. The interiors are enhanced by a variety of paintings on the ceiling that include geometric patterns, floral and ornamental motifs, a variety of animals, birds and plants.
» Ellora Caves:
The Ellora caves, 34 in number, are the finest specimens of cave temple architecture. These structures reflect the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD period. 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 interiors of the cave are exquisitely adorned.
» Architecture of Ellora Caves :
Ellora has 34 caves with intricate interiors and ornamental facades. The 12 Buddhist Caves depict Lord Buddha in various poses. The 17 Hindu Caves embody carvings of the Hindu Gods- Siva, Vishnu, Durga, Parvati and animals. The 5 Jain caves include figures of the Jain saints. The most fascinating structure is the magnificient Kailash Temple hewn out of a single rock and is three storeys high. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.
The best time to visit the caves is during the monsoons- the river is swollen and the ravine is surrounded by gushing waterfalls. The cooler winter months- between October and March- are also a comfortable time to travel to Ajanta. The summers are quite grueling, especially as you have to walk around quite a bit.
» By Air : Aurangabad can be reached from New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay), international airport. Govt. run Indian airlines flight to Aurangabad daily from New Delhi and Mumbai.
» By Rail : Two express trains with an accommodation run between Mumbai an Aurangabad, daily. If traveling from New Delhi to Mumbai, alight at Jalgoan from where the caves can be reached in one hour.
» By Road: Ajanta- 106 kms, Bombay- 392 kms, Ellora- 30 kms, Nanded- 272 kms, Nasik- 221 kms, Pune- 229 kms, Shirdi- 136 kms.