Maharashtra is one of the most amazing states of India for its verdant nature, vast coast lines and the rich history that is enshrines for hundreds of years. Ajanta caves are perhaps the best example to prove that. Located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, the Ajanta Caves are more than thirty rock-cut cave monuments, specially preserving Buddhist monuments created nearly around the 2nd century BCE. The caves are the spectacular hive of some of the finest specimens of Indian art, especially paintings. Most of the paintings depict the tales from the Jataka. At present this is a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1993 and is completely maintained under the surveillance of the Indian Archeological Department.
The groups of caves that look like a horse shoe from the aerial view have been conglomerated to form the Ajanta Caves. These caves have two sections. The sections are divided considering the phases of creating the wonderful pieces of artwork. The first phase was built during the 2nd century BCE and the second phase of the journey started and ended around 400 to 650 CE according to the history of the caves and from the accounts of Walter M. Spink.
The Ajanta caves are situated near Jalgaon, outside a small village named Ajantha. The geographical location is 20° 31′ 56 ″North and 75° 44′ 44″East and 104 Kilometers from the main city of Aurangabad. Ellora caves are situated at a distance of 100 kilometers from there. Beside the Waghora River, the horse bow caves impregnate with priceless arts of ancient India.
The Ajanta caves are the corpus of ancient Indian art. Traces of Sri Lankan art form Sigiriya has also been found and preserved inside the ancient rocky caves until it was rediscovered on 1819.
From 1-29 the caves have been numbered for the better understanding of the travelers and also for the people appointed to maintain the caves. These days, a path connects the caves from one another but during the ancient days people used the riverfront to reach the caves. That was pretty adventurous experience for them indeed. The viewing platform situated in the Ajanta caves deserves special mention. The ambiance, aura and spirituality of the verdant nature and the awe-inspiring view of the caves can let people explore through heaven for some time being.
Usually, Buddha is the prerogative theme of the sculptures inside Ajanta. The Lord is depicted in various positions and various symbolic forms like footprints or throne etc. The Mahayana Caves have the sculptures of statues that symbolize life and previous lives of Lord Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. Traces of the Satvahana rulers are also found inside the majestic caves.
Cave 16: There is a beautiful portrait of Princess Sundari to be painted after knowing that her husband Nanda, the half-brother of Buddha is about to be a monk. Overall the cave has essence of Mahayana Monastery.
Cave 17: Number 17 is a Mahayana Monastery with many paintings of women and musicians of that era up on the ceiling of the cave. Besides, the ancient artisans have also painted lotus, celestial guardians, Buddha Himself, goddesses and many more. There is one noteworthy mural based on the Sri Lankan style of art of the prince Simhala’s shipwrecked encounter with a killer ogress. The cave also has paintings of the Gods and Goddess besides the nymphs and musicians.
Cave 26: This is famous for the Mahayana Prayer Hall that the Buddhists called Chaityas. The reclining Buddha statue inside the ancient cave tells the story of His death. This is a must seen site during the Ajanta tour.
Tourists cannot reach the caves directly. They have to reach Aurangabad first and from there they will have to take a car to reach the Ajanta Caves that takes around 2-3 hours approx.
Nearest Airport is Aurangabad. Jet airways fly from Mumbai to Aurangabad and that takes 45 minutes.
The nearest station is Jalgaon. Visitors have to take a cab or car to reach the caves from the station.