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Ajanta Caves, a historical treasure hosting an illustrious collection of ancient paintings, are situated in a horse-shoe shaped valley near village Ajintha. This evergreen place of scenic beauty is adorned by river Waghur that flows from the feet of the ravine emerging out of a pool filled in by a seven-leap waterfall. These Buddhist caves built under the patronage of Hindu kings are a fine example of the harmony that existed between the two religions. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the caves, dating as back as 2nd century BC, have been attracting tourists from all over the world for the last two centuries.

Ajanta Caves comprise of Chaitya-grihas, the halls with a stupa, the monument consisting Buddhist relics, used by the Buddhist monks for worshiping and Viharas, the monasteries. Most of these caves have mesmerizing paintings on the walls and attractive floral, vegetative, geometric patterns, auspicious symbols, celestial and heavenly beings on the ceilings.

These mural paintings depict a unique style of art that is not to be found anywhere else in the world. Based on Buddhism or Buddhist philosophy, the paintings tell stories from Jatakas and Avadanas as well as tales based on the life-events of the historical Buddha. They also illustrate Buddhist deities such as Bodhisattvas in graceful poses. The portrayals are as vivid as though narrated. Tourists take long halts before each painting admiring the artistry, dexterity and skillfulness as well as the interesting tales portrayed through the paintings. One cannot help but walk out of these caves impressed by the exceptional aesthetic quality of the paintings.

In one of the bizarre folds of history, the caves were abandoned during the 7th century when the work was in final phases. As per the leading Ajantologists, the researchers who have dedicated their lives studying Ajanta Caves, this happened after King Harisena, supposedly the benefactor of several of these caves, lost power. As the place fell out of the way, forest grew around the caves and hid them under the veil of time.

Over the next 1200 years, the caves passed out of all knowledge, until in April of 1819 when they were accidentally re-discovered by the British soldier, Captain John Smith, following the trail of a tiger. The caves, now the home to large animals and bats, were well preserved by nature. The hiding from time also saved the caves a possible mutilation from the Moghal rulers during the 16th century that other historical monuments in the vicinity had to endure.

After the re-discovery, the caves were subject to a great research from the historians. Tracking back down the pages of history, many pieces have been put together so far to understand this marvelous wonder. One of the evidences discovered tells of Hsuan Tsang or Xuan Zang, as he is known today by historians, mentioning that Dinnaga, the great Buddhist philosopher once lived at Ajanta.

One of the major subjects to curiosity was how these paintings survived so long? Careful inspections revealed that the secret lies in the surface over which these paintings were drawn. Intense preparation would go on in making this surface. The rock walls of the caves would first be roughened up with the help of chisels so they would hold the plaster made out of lime, clay, dung and hay. The paintings were drawn on while the plaster was still wet. This way the colors absorbed by the plaster would dry up with it and become one, preventing the later decay or peel-off. The bright and glowing colors used in these paintings that have lasted so long are referred to as earth colors. They were made from different types of stones, skillfully selected parts of plants such as leaves and flowers and various minerals.

Miraculously re-opened for the admiration of art and culture, Ajanta Caves are the true cultural legacy of India and the world.

The best season to visit the caves is Monsoon, mid June to August, when the Waghur river is at its fullest and the sound of the waterfall can be heard in the caves. However, winter, from November to February, offers a pleasant weather to stroll across pleasurably. Situated 110 KMs from Aurangabad, it’s a two-hour drive. If you have only a flying visit to offer, you can visit Ajanta Caves and Ellora caves in one day. However, it is recommended that you spare a day each for these remarkable monuments.

Note: Ajanta caves are closed on Monday. Photography with flash light on or a tripod is not allowed. You will need to remove your shoes before entering some of these caves as they bear a religious importance for the Buddhists.


Other Places in Maharashtra

Aurangabad | Ellora | Lonar | Ghrishneshwar | Nanded | Mumbai |

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Anokha aur adbhut ajanta!! - by Nihar Chandak  Dated : 2011-05-02
I wid my 9 other frnds started r journey to Ajanta from aurangabad. Being monsoon the climate was cool n pleasant. Green belts all over the mountains. when v reached their i experienced the real beauty of India!! there are in all 21 caves arranged gn c-pattern. the caves seemed to be crypted within the mountains!! i was damn thrilled!! V hired a guide n entered the 1st cave!!
My goodness, it was awesome!! an excellent piece of architecture that even our modern times fail!! as i entered the successive caves it astonished me every time more than the earlier one.. One can simply cannot imagine the art n culture that people had 800 yrs back!! things that surprised me are..
1. excellent symmetry of the carvings. this proves they were gud gn maths!!
2. excellent imagination.. u'll c a different theme in each cave!! the one i personally liked was that of a seashore n a crocodile carved on the roof!!
3. statues of ladies depicted that even they had a fashion sense!! do c for their eyebrows!! :) it proves that women are beauty conscious since long time!!
4. in one cave combination of different walls produced different sounds which resembled tabla n dholaks!! there were even carvings of people wid different musical instruments!!
5. one carving depicted the relation between husband n wife!! It showed lyk husband ws helping his wife in her work!!
6. there worship room.
7. type of ventilation and illumination for the room/cave!! simply mind-blowing..
many things resembled wid that of the modern thinking, modern ideologies, modern art, modern culture!!

This place is truly fantabulous, indeed worth visiting!! One must truly visit atleast ones in its lyf tym!!
Ajanta- A Wonderful Tourist Destination - by Pradnya Wakhre  Dated : 2011-03-08
I went to see the Ajanta caves with my uncle, aunty and cousin sisters when they had come to Aurangabad to visit us. We had hired Innova. We left for Ajanta at 8 am from Aurangabad. My cousin sisters are a bunch of energy packed kids, they were too excited to see the caves, but I was not since I had already seen them, but with the kids I hoped it would be fun.

Ajanta is a world heritage site and tourists from all over the world come to take a look at the beautiful caves. I told my uncle that there were Chaitya Grihas, stupas and Viharas built for the Buddhist monks and that the caves were built under the rule of Hindu kings. At around 10.30 we reached Ajanta, took our tickets and finally the curiosity of the girls was fulfilled. They were too excited to see the caves.

People wonder how the paintings done intricately in these caves survived the sands of time. The colors used in these paintings still look fresh and beautiful. Taking photographs with the flash light on is not allowed inside the caves as it spoils the paintings. My sisters sighed in disbelief after they say a 3D painting on the roof in one of the caves. It was a calf, and if you look at it from any side it looked as if it turned its head to look at you. The painters should have been really skilled and hard working.

Looking at every cave can be exhausting and you need to spare a whole day for the caves. You cannot wear your footwear inside the caves and you need to take them out the entrance of every cave. Hence it is advisable that you hold your shoes in your hands as you make your way to every cave. It is easy that way. Carry water bottles with you as climbing up can be very tiring.
Ajanta - by Pooja Khanna Dated : 2011-01-05
A historical place in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Ajanta is a world famous destination amongst artists from all over the world. This treasure of ancient cave paintings has 29 caves, which are also famous for sculptures. Ajanta is a place worth visiting for people interested in legend, arts and architecture. We went in a season when monsoon had just started and fortunately it rained heavily while returning and we enjoyed the beauty of the nature to its fullest. The entire valley where Ajanta caves are situated is green and full of trees. There is also a river and a waterfall which takes seven leaps before falling in a large pool. During monsoons, this waterfall and the river have a lot of water and make a good view.
To preserve the nature and the invaluable paintings at Ajanta from being destroyed by pollution, the government stops all the vehicles 3 kms before the actual caves. We have to take the tickets and go in the bus provided by government.
Once we reached there, we climbed about 100 steps. The view of Ajanta is horse shoe shaped. Ajanta consists of paintings and sculptures. It is recommended to hire a guide so that you get the information clearly. Many paintings have lost its grace, but still with the light effects guide can be very helpful. The marvelous sculptures and domes with variety of light effects are really interesting.
Each wall of the Ajanta is nearly 40 ft long and 20 ft high. Ajanta paintings are on the walls and ceilings and huge domes are intricately carved. The Ajanta paintings mostly cover the life and teachings of Buddha as mentioned in Jataka stories. There are paintings on ceilings also which do not cover religious themes, but are intricate designs like carpets, somewhere circular somewhere rectangular. Circular designs are concentric circles with flowery bands, whereas rectangular designs cover focus on particular flower especially lotus and animals as well as daily life scenes.
The period when Ajanta paintings were being painted, there was no artificial electricity for the artisans. They had to create masterpieces with the streak of natural light which accidentally enters the dark cave. The colors were not available; the artisans used natural colors from vegetables and some other natural sources also known as organic colors. Somewhere they required to plaster the wall, for which they used the mixture of dung, lime, clay, hay etc. The drawings were drawn until the plaster was wet.