27 May 2014

Aurangabad: Home of Famous Ajanta & Ellora Caves

Visiting Aurangabad during any vacation was a given in my school and college days because we had family there. There are memories of innumerable trips to Ajanta and Ellora, and each time, it was a new experience. One cannot but stop and marvel at the glory of the place. The sculptures in the caves at Ellora date back to the period between sixth and eleventh centuries. There are 34 caves at Ellora, while the Ajanta caves (2nd century BC to 6th century AD) stand at 29. The caves are located in Aurangabad district.


It is impossible to put into words the sheer magnificence of Ellora’s many caves, but the Kailasa temple complex is the crowning glory. Each time I visited it, it took my breath away. The sunlight shining through the rocks gives the place an other-worldly feel to it. It is said to be the largest monolithic structure in the whole world, and displays the genius of artisans several centuries ago. There is a courtyard with several etchings of episodes from the epics.
Kailash Temple (Photo Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org)
There are also Jain caves at Ellora, with figures of Gomateshwara and Mahavira. There are Buddhist caves as well at Ellora. Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-visit, even if you have already seen it before. Ellora is about 30 km from Aurangabad and is easily accessible by road. To reach Ellora, you will have to book your tickets on one of the Aurangabad flights; Aurangabad is the nearest airport.
Jain Caves in Ellora (Photo Courtesy: http://thinkingparticle.com)

Ajanta caves are about one-and-a-half hours away from Ellora, so you can hire a car and drive around the two places. The paintings in the caves are bound to take your breath away. You might have noticed the image of Padmapani on many a picture postcard from Aurangabad; the image has become representative of the glory of Ajanta. The Ajanta caves are World Heritage sites as they indeed should be. The highlight of your visit to Ajanta is the reclining Buddha, a huge carved statue which is deceptive of Buddha’s moment of nirvana, or liberation from the world.
The Buddha's nirvana (Photo Courtesy: http://www.studyblue.com)
Also don’t miss the Buddha in cave 1, where you can see different facial expressions of the Buddha from different sides, a trick of sculpture. The cave also has several beautiful paintings on ceilings and walls. The painting techniques employed at Ajanta are said to be similar to the fresco methods employed by Europeans. The artists of those times were said to have used only six colors, and the pigments were extracted from natural resources.
Ajanta Cave painting (Photo Courtesy: https://www.flickr.com)
While at Aurangabad, you can also visit the Daulatabad Fort and the Bibi ka Maqbara, the latter being a poor man’s version of the Taj Mahal.
Daulatabad Fort (Photo Courtesy: https://ghumakkarchronicles.wordpress.com)
Bibi ka Maqbara (Photo Courtesy: http://www.rajasthangk.net)
There are plenty of shopping opportunities as well, look for Paithani sarees and bidriware to take home. The city has decent accommodation options and is well connected by air, rail and road. There are regular flights to Aurangabad from major Indian cities.