Located in the heart of the Sahyadri hills near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, are the most beautiful rock-cut caves of India, the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Hewn into the hills almost 20 centuries ago by Buddhist monks, the Ajanta and the Ellora caves in 1983 were declared as a part of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The art depicted in the caves are a perfect way to convey messages about Indian culture and tradition. The art as well as the fact that every inch of caves was carved with bare hands, makes these caves one of the most visited sites in India. John Smith,an officer belonging to the Madras Regiment of the British Army was the one to discover the caves in the year 1819.
Built during the Gupta period these caves were carved using simplest of tools-the hammer and chisel, yet the beauty of these caves remains unmatched to any modern architectural wonder. The Ajanta caves, a set of 29 caves are together in the shape of a horseshoe. The beauty of these caves remains untarnished and is a proof of the caves withstanding the ravages of time.
The caves walls are adorned with magnificent murals and paintings depicting the diverse stories from Jataka tales, including the incarnations of Lord Buddha as Bodhisattva and many more stories.
One of the most impressive among the caves is Cave 10 which has a mural depicting 50 elephants painted in various poses with raised trunks and erected tails.The paintings were made using a basic coat of ferruginous earth with vegetable fibres, grass and few other organic fibrous materials. Colours were obtained from lapis lazuli, terra verte, lime, kaolin lamp black, gypsum and red and yellow ochre.The Ajanta caves are a monument that truly displays art, history and heritage.
Excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment are the Ellora caves, which have murals drawing inspiration from Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. There are a total of 34 caves which are either Buddhist Viharas or Chaityas or Hindu, Jain temples. The Hindu temples were built during the Rashtrakuta period and the Kalachuri period.
Among the 34 caves, 12 are dedicated to Buddhism, located in the south, 17 dedicated to Hinduism, located centrally and 5 dedicated to Jainism, in the north. Cave 29 known as the Dhumar Lena was the first cave to be excavated among the 34 caves. Cave 16 is the Kailasa Temple or the Kailasanatha which is about 7 meters and has murals painted in series, the first believed to be painted during the initial carving of the caves, and the next in the following centuries. Another interesting cave is the Dashavataracave (cave 15) which has murals and paintings depicting the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. It also depicts the story of Hiranyakashipu.
These caves reach the pinnacle of beauty in the late afternoon when the golden sunshine brings to life the colour on the wall and the ambiance in the caves.
The full beauty of the Ajanta and Ellora caves is impossible to describe in words, a visit to these caves is a must. These caves are not only a heaven for the heritage lovers but is a wonderful medium of educating visitors about the rich culture of India and the mythological stories that come along with it.
So pack your bags and get ready to enjoy the marvellous beauty of the Ajanta and Ellora caves!