Dating as back as 2nd century BCE, these finely surviving examples of ancient Indian art are a total of 29 in number. Ajanta Ellora tours are famous for their rock-cut sculptures and expressive paintings that use gesture, pose and form to present emotions. Not only that, but there are
paintings depicting the past lives and rebirth of the Buddha, Jataka tales and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. It comprises the ancient monasteries and worship halls, and it is believed that the monks retreated there during monsoon.
These simple yet breathtaking caves were constructed in two periods, the first between 2nd century BCE and 1st century CE and the second one several centuries later.
Ajanta Caves were discovered by a British officer while he was off hunting tigers.
The caves exotic setting and fine architecture started to attract attention within a few decades. After that, a number of projects were started to restore its lost glory.
Figuratively, the caves have a total of 36 identifiable foundations as some of them were discovered after the original numbering of caves from 1 to 29.
The later-identified caves have the letters of the alphabet before their names, like 15A, identified between originally numbered caves 15 and 16. These numbers are just for convenience and don’t represent anything.
The volcanic eruptions at the end of the Cretaceous geological period are partially responsible for the construction of this human wonder.
The monasteries are caves carved in the second period, wherein a shrine centred on a large statue of Buddha, along with finely carved deities around it. These viharas are much better than the earlier ones, who were both simple and lacked shrines.
Next are the worship halls or chaitya-griha. The oldest ones were built between 2nd century BCE to 1st century BCE, while the newest ones were constructed in the late 5th century CE. Though built in different time zones, the architect of both resembles that of a Christian church( without the crossing) suggesting that the design of Ajanta caves was centred on the cathedral-style architecture found in rock-cut carvings of ancient India.
The paintings in the caves mainly narrate Jataka tales- legends describing the previous births of the Buddha. Hindu and Jain texts also describe these tales. In these tales, Lord Buddha is incarnated many times, sometimes human and sometimes even animal, and lives selflessly for the greater good of others.
When is the best time to visit this place?
The best time to come to these caves is during winters (November to February); though one can visit during the monsoon season (June to September) too.
The months from June to March are considered equally good too. One should avoid visits during summers (April to June) as the temperature becomes too hot to enjoy the exotic beauty of caves.
Transportation to this place –
As Ajanta Caves are situated around 113 km to the north of Aurangabad and 50 km from Jalgaon.
The nearest airport is situated in Jalgaon which is 50 km away from here. It is linked to Mumbai and Ahmadabad, though this airport that is situated in Aurangabad. It is 100 km away from the place and is linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Mumbai.
If one travels from the airport via car or taxi, it will take around 3 hours to reach the cave from Aurangabad.
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