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Ajanta Ellora Caves

One of the most astonishing pieces of human architecture, Ajanta and Ellora caves, are a man-made wonder in the modern world. Constructed in 100 BC Ajanta caves are famous for its mural paintings depicting jataka tales. On the contrary Ellora caves are an aggregation of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples dating back from 5th century to the 10th century.

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Ajanta and Ellora caves highlight the Indian craftsmanship achieved by its artisans as early as the 2nd century. Ajanta caves are an incredible chain of caves carved out of the horse-shoe scarp in the Sahayadiri Hills. There are a series of 30 caves carved out of the mountain range facing a steep gorge. These rock cut caves have several rooms and sub-room creating an aura as charismatic and mysterious as the jataka tales.

Ajanta caves are more famous for its illustrious fresco paintings depicting the life and times during the Mahayana Buddhism. The paintings mostly illustrate the life of Buddha and the society during that time. Among several motifs and paintings in Ajanta caves the fresco of Padmapani and Vajrapani have gained attention world wide. Padmapani is said to be the depiction of Lord Vishnu with a lotus in hand where as Vajrapani is said to be the protector and guide of Buddha. Similar paintings have been located in Sri Lanka and are more popularly known as Sigiriya. Another attraction is the reclining statue of Buddha. This shows how well spread Buddhism was during that time period.

These caves were long forgotten till they were rediscovered in 1819 by John Smith of the Madras Presidency. The ecstatic settings and breathtaking paintings make it even more memorable.

The Elloras are 34 caves spanning through a distance of 2 kilometers. It is the best example of how harmoniously different religions coexisted in those times. There are 12 caves of Buddhist (600 AD to 800 AD), 17 of Hindu (600 AD - 900 AD) and 5 of the Jain community (800 AD - 1000 AD). The most famous cave is number 16, the Kailasha Temple, which was known as Verul in ancient times. The cave has magnificent setting with waterfalls gushing and covering the façade of the cave. The temple was built in 760 AD and it took 150 years for its breathtaking sculpting. The temple was built during the reign of Rashtrakutas. The caves are renowned for its amazing sculptures which largely depict the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is world’s largest monolithic structure.

The cave number 10 is the only Chaitya and cave number 12 is a three storied Vihara. To be more precise both Ajanta and Ellora caves consist of Chaityas and Viharas which were the chapels for prayers and monasteries where the monks lived and imparted their teachings. 


Both Ajanta and Ellora caves are said to be inhabited by monks of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions for over 800 years. These caves were conceived as places to pray and teach in isolation, far from the influences of the worldly pleasures.

Excavations and research by archeologists reveal that these caves have been hollowed out of solid mountain rocks with the help of hammers and chisels alone. Collectively, these caves were built over a period of 600 years. Even when visitors wonder how artisans in those times managed to paint such exuberant frescos and carve out such massive structures, archeologists have found that the caves are hollowed in such a way that it allows natural light during the day.

There are some paintings in Ajanta’s cave number 26 which are incomplete, which speaks of the mystery about the circumstances due to which the artisans and painters had to leave it. Besides this a golden figure of Avalokiteswara infuses much intrigue in our minds. We can interpret the art the way we want, may be this mystery makes these caves more striking and alluring.


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