5: Ajanta Caves

by - January 11, 2014

The Ajanta Caves
While Aurangabad itself has a few sights of its own, the main reason for visiting was to see the nearby caves of Ajanta and Ellora - two separate ancient networks of caves.  The caves at Ajanta are the older of the two, constructed between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD.  They are carved into the cliff face of a dramatic bend in a river and, after being superseded by the caves at Ellora, were forgotten for over a thousand years until they were stumbled upon by a British hunting party.  There are 28 different caves at the site, ranging from the small and relatively unimpressive to grand, vaulted temples.  Incredibly, partly due to their being in ‘hibernation’ and partly due to their protected location, the paintings within the caves are very well preserved, despite some of them being over two thousand years old.

Painting on a cave roof
We had taken up a reasonable offer by the hotel management to hire a driver for a couple of days (the guy who had picked us up from the station) so we were able to make the two hour journey from Aurangabad in our own time, arriving just before midday.  We approached the caves along the river and soon got a glimpse of just how extensive the complex is.  Dense undergrowth had concealed the majority of the caves when the British hunting party stumbled across them – with only a few arches being spotted by one of the men.  Now, however, the cliffs have been stripped of vegetation allowing the caves to be seen in all of their glory.  As we were visiting in the dry season, the scene was very dusty and orange tinted – in the rainy season apparently waterfalls flow over some of the caves and the scene is far greener. 

Team Photo
Unfortunately it soon became clear that we would be sharing the caves with countless groups of school children for the day – though while it was annoying that the caves were all very busy, the kids were really excited to see us westerners and all wanted to talk to us, shake our hands and get photos with us.  One of the school groups actually posed for a class photo with myself and Sergei at the centre, though this was a feeble exercise as the majority of the kids were staring away from the camera – towards us.  I was expecting to see far more tourists – we saw maybe a dozen while we were there and it was very strange to be given the amount of attention that we were.  After seeing the majority of caves we crossed the river towards the viewing point on the inside of the bend which gave a great panorama over the full complex.  It is a really special place and I can’t imagine how exciting it would have been for the British party who discovered them.  Instead of trying to describe them further I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Reclining Buddha statue

Incredible Vaulted Ceiling

A painted ceiling in one of the caves

Sitting at the viewpoint

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