Ajanta Caves commonly known as The Ajanta and Ellora caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra are India’s contribution to the world ofart. Preserved as a world heritage site by UNESCO , the shrines hereare handmade wonders cut out of rock. It is considered as a sacred place in India as one the Buddhist holy ground . The Ajanta caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship Halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 250 feet wall of rock.
These caves are a series of 29 Buddhist temples some of which date from the 2nd century BC.Encompassing both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions,It preserve some of the best masterpieces of Buddhist art in India.Many visitors explore the Ajanta cave in conjunction with the near by Ellora caves
History OF AJANTA CAVES
These caves were discovered in AD 1819 and were built up in theearlier 2nd century BC-AD. Ajanta dates from 100BC while Ellora isyounger by some 600 years. The village of Ajanta is in the sahyadri hills. The caves were built in a period when both Hindu and Buddha gods were simultaneously revered in Indian culture. There are 29 caves at Ajanta which are all Buddhist and 34 caves at Ellora which are a mixture of Buddhist , Hindu and Jain.
1. AJNATA PAINTINGS
Avalokitesvara , “Lord who looks down” is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The paintings and rock sculptures in the Ajanta cave , a Buddhist monastic complex in the Maharashtra state of India are a testimony to the golden age of Buddhism in India and a unique artistic achievement. Buddha’s life is the underlying theme of all the sculptures and paintings, in addition to stories of Jatakas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddhist monks created these marvelous murals that depict the story of Buddha’s incarnations. All the paintings have been etched and painted using mineral dyes.
The walls and ceilings of the cave also have paintings of the lives of kings and the common people beautiful women, jewellery and hairstyles.The paintings of the walls of the caves are made using the tempra technique. This is a complex technique where painting is done on a dry surface after a coating of 1 cm thick layer of a mixture made of clay , cow dung and rice husk is put on the wall. The colour used for painting has been made from natural products.
2. The beautiful caves
Cave 1 :-
The most popular of the monastery caves. Every inch of the cave was originally painted, though much was worn away over the centuries. The doorway to the antechamber is flanked by murals of two great Bodhisattvas. On the right, holding a thunderbolt is Avalokitesvara ( or vajrapani) the most important bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. On the left holding a water lily is the bodhisattva padmapani.
Cave 2 :-
The façade of this cave shows the king’s of Naga and their entourage. Inside a glorious mandala dominates the ceiling held by demons and decorated with birds, flowers, fruits and abstract designes. The ceiling gives the effect of a cloth canopy right down to the sag in the middle.
Cave 4 :-
Largest of the Ajanta monasteries.
Cave 9 :-
One of the earliest prayer hall notable for its arched windows that let softly diffused sunlight in the cave. This cave features a large stupa.
Cave 10 :-
Theravada prayer hall thought to be the oldest cave temple at Ajanta dating to the 2nd year century BC.
Cave 17 :-
It is covered with many well preserved wall paintings. Maidens and celestial musicians are on the ceiling and Buddha’s celestial guardians, goddesses, lotus petals and scroll work adorn the doorway. One mural in cave shows prince Simhala’s encounter with man eating ogresses of Sri Lanka where he’d been shipwrecked
Cave 26 :-
A Mahayana prayer hall ( chaitya) . The highlight is a large carved statue of the reclining Buddha , representing his moment of death. Below him, his followers mourn his passing; above, celestial beings rejoice. The cave also contains a stupa with an image of the Buddha in the pavilion.
Northern Maharashtra around 400 kilometers ( 250 miles) from Mumbai.
how to get there
By Air :- The quickest and most sensible way to get to Aurangabad is to board a flight ( about 45 minutes ) from Mumbai to Aurangabad airport.
By Rail :- Nearest station is Jalgaon or Bhusaval . Taxis are available at stations which take customers directly to their destination. Travel time 6-7 hours from Mumbai to Aurangabad.
By Road :- Taxis and autorickshaws are widely available in the state. It takes 2-3 hours to drive from Aurangabad to Ajanta.