A series of 29 rock-cut cave temples which are a lot more than an architectural wonder, Ajanta Cave Temples are a prominent attraction and a gift of history for the entire country. Some of finest masterpieces of Buddhist culture and times are very well preserved by these temples which are also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Situated close to the city of Aurangabad in the state of Maharshtra, Ajanta Cave Temples entice millions of tourists and art lovers to sense their charming beauty. The sculptures as well as the paintings on the walls of caves are the finest examples of talent and finesse of Indian craftsmen several centuries ago. Ajanta Cave Temples – Maharshtra
Architectural and Artistic Grace of Ajanta Cave Temples – Maharshtra
Spreading from east to west, these caves are numbered from 1 to 29, however not in any particular order. Apart from the artistic charisma, one prominent fact about these temples, their architecture, sculptures and paintings is that centuries have passed but they have firmly stood fast against all the odds and their beauty hasn’t diminished at all. These murals are a portrayal of society at that time. The caves that display immensely magnificent pieces of art and should be particular interest to visitors are Cave no. 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26. Let us know about these caves and their distinctions in a little more detail:
- Cave no. 1 – This is the most popular and beautiful caves of Ajanta. Its prime attractions are a sculpture of Lord Buddha in preaching posture and the two Bodhisattvas- Padmapani and Vajrapani. The sidewalls of this cave show two episodes of Buddha’s life before he attained enlightenment- the miracle of Sravasti when Buddha manifold himself into thousand images and the other one depicts Mara getting attracted to him.
- Cave no. 2 – This cave is a Mahayana which depicts kings of Naga and his followers. Its ceiling appears like a shade made up of cloth and has flowers, fruits, birds and abstract drawings painted on it.
- Cave No. – 4 is the largest of all the Ajanta caves but appears to be incomplete.
- Cave No. 16 – The highlight of this cave is the fascinating painting of Sundari who fainted when she heard that her husband Nanda (Buddha’s half-brother) has decided to become a monk.
- Cave No. 17 – The numerous paintings on the walls of this cave monastery have sustained themselves quite well despite of being so historic. They depict goddesses, lotus petals, maidens, celestial musicians and Buddhas.
- Cave No. 26 – The special attraction of this Mahayana prayer hall is huge carved figure of Buddha showing his time of death. Below this sculpture are his followers mourning his demise.
History of Temples
On the banks of Waghora River was a horse-shoe shaped cliff which was carved into caves in as early as 2nd Century B.C. These caves are the Ajanta Temple and served as Chaitya Grihas (prayer halls), Viharas (monasteries) and refuge during monsoon for Buddhist monks in those times. It is believed that the entire work of carving, sculpting and painting lasted till about 6th Century B.C. But there was some point of time in history when they were left completely abandoned only until they were discovered again in 1819 by John Smith, a British Army Officer while he was out in the forests for hunting. Since then till now, Ajanta Caves have been the most excellent architectural treasure of not only India but the entire world, and hopefully will always continue to be in the future too.
Festivals and fairs
The most prominent festival of Ajanta Cave Temples is the Ajanta Ellora festival which is celebrated here with a lot of grandeur and enthusiasm. The venue for the gala event is Soneri Mahal which is the most beautiful backdrop for any such celebration. Held in the month of November, the musical and cultural extravaganza lasts for four days. Handicraft exhibitions, cookery competitions, essay writing, cultural shows etc. are the main attractions of this festival.
Cave Temple and timings
The temple remains open on all the days of the week except for Monday. The timings are from 9 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.
Best time to visit
In this region, summers are quite hot and humid. So the best time to be around here is between the months of October and March when the climate is pleasant and absolutely ideal for sightseeing excursions.
Most people like to visit the caves of Ajanta and Ellora in combination. So planning a single trip to explore both these amazing architectures is a great option.
- Location → Near Aurangabad, Maharashtra
- Dedicated to → Lord Buddha
- Main Attraction → Cave temples carved out of rocks
How to reach
- By Air → The nearest airport is at Aurangabad and is at a distance of 99k from the temples. It has regular flights from all the major airports in the country.
- By Rail→ Jalgaon is the closest railhead which connects major cities of the country to Ajanta caves. Another railway station nearby is Bhuvsal, 28km from Ajanta. From here, tourists can conveniently hire taxis to Ajanta Cave Temples.
- By Road → To Reach Ajanta Temples by road, one firstly needs to reach Aurangabad ahead of which, your destination is a further journey of about three hours. Taxis and other private transports are also readily available from Aurangabad to Ajanta.