The Ajanta Caves
. The Ajanta Caves (75
. Like the other ancient Buddhist monasteries, Ajanta had a large emphasis on teaching, and was divided into several different caves for living, education and worship, under a central direction. Monks were probably assigned to specific caves for living. The layout reflects this organizational structure, with most of the caves only connected through the exterior. The 7th century travelling Chinese scholar Xuanzang informs us that Dinnaga, a celebrat
Caves of the first period
. The earliest group of caves consists of caves 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15A. According to Walter Spink, they were made during the period 100 BCE to 100 CE, probably under the patronage of the Satavahana dynasty (230 BCE c. 220 CE) who ruled the region. Other datings prefer the period 300 BCE to 100 BCE, though the grouping of the earlier caves is generally agreed. More early caves may have vanished through later excavations. Of these, caves 9 and 10 ar
Caves of the later period
. The second phase began in the 5th century. For a long time it was thought that the later caves were made over a long period from the 4th to the 7th centuries CE,but in recent decades a series of studies by the leading expert on the caves, Walter M. Spink, have argued that most of the work took place over the very brief period from 460 to 480 CE during the reign of Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka dynasty. This view has been criticized by some sc
. On 28 April 1819, a British officer for the Madras Presidency, John Smith, of the 28th Cavalry, while hunting tiger, accidentally discovered the entrance to Cave No. 10 deep within the tangled undergrowth. There were local people already using the caves for prayers with a small fire, when he arrived. Exploring that first cave, long since a home to nothing more than birds and bats and a lair for other larger animals, Captain Smith vandalized the w
. Mural paintings survive from both the earlier and later groups of caves. Several fragments of murals preserved from the earlier caves (Caves 9 and 11) are effectively unique survivals of court led painting in India from this period, and show that by Satavahana times, if not earlier, the Indian painter had mastered an easy and fluent naturalistic style, dealing with large groups of people in a manner comparable to the reliefs of the Sa
. The paintings have deteriorated significantly since they were rediscovered, and a number of 19th century copies and drawings are important for a complete understanding of the works. However, the earliest projects to copy the paintings were plagued by bad fortune. In 1846, Major Robert Gill, an Army officer from Madras presidency and a painter, was appointed by the Royal Asiatic Society to replicate the frescoes on the cave walls to exhibit these
. The monasteries mostly consist of vihara halls for prayer and living, which are typically rectangular with small square dormitory cells cut into the walls, and by the second period a shrine or sanctuary at the rear centred on a large statue of the Buddha, also carved from the living rock. This change reflects the movement from Hinayana to Mahayana Buddhism. The other type of main hall is the narrower and higher chaitya hall with a stupa as the fo
Iconography of the caves
. In the pre Christian era, the Buddha was represented symbolically, in the form of the stupa. Thus, halls were made with stupas to venerate the Buddha. In later periods the images of the Buddha started to be made in coins, relic caskets, relief or loose sculptural forms, etc. However, it took a while for the human representation of the Buddha to appear in Buddhist art. One of the earliest evidences of the Buddhas human representations are found at
. Cave 1 was built on the eastern end of the horse shoe shaped scarp, and is now the first cave the visitor encounters. This would when first made have been a less prominent position, right at the end of the row. According to Spink, it is one of the latest caves to have been excavated, when the best sites had been taken, and was never fully inaugurated for worship by the dedication of the Buddha image in the central shrine. This is shown by the abs
. Cave 2, adjacent to Cave 1, is known for the paintings that have been preserved on its walls, ceilings, and pillars. It looks similar to Cave 1 and is in a better state of preservation.Cave 2 has a porch quite different from Cave one. Even the fa
. The Archeological Survey of India board outside the caves gives the following detail about cave 4This is the largest monastery planned on a grandiose scale but was never finished. An inscription on the pedestal of the buddhas image mentions that it was a gift from a person named Mathura and paleographically belongs to 6th century A.D. It consists of a verandah, a hypostylar hall, sanctum with an antechamber and a series of unfinished cells. The r
Caves 9 10
. Caves 9 and 10 are the two chaitya halls from the first period of construction, though both were also undergoing an uncompleted reworking at the end of the second period. Cave 10 was perhaps originally of the 1st century BCE, and cave 9 about a hundred years later. The small shrinelets called caves 9A to 9D and 10A also date from the second period, and were commissioned by individuals.The paintings in cave 10 include some surviving from the early
How to Reach Ajanta by Flight
. The nearest airport is at Aurangabad, 108 kms away from Ajanta Caves. Aurangabad has a good national airport, which is well connected to major cities like Mumbai, Delhi & Hyderabad.
How to Reach Ajanta by Rail
. Jalgaon Railway station is nearest one to Ajanta Caves, which is approximately an hour and a half away. There are a plenty of private car services you can hire or you can avail the bus service from railway station to the caves.
How to reach Ajanta by Road
. There are regular buses from Aurangabad to Ajanta Caves. Alternative you can hire private car, there are plenty of tour operator you can avail service from, or there are buses to and from the Ajanta Caves. The drive from Aurangabad to Ajanta takes 2 to 3 hours.
Getting Around Ajanta
. Ready to walk a lot before you start because no matter you drive a car or take the bus to Ajanta, you will get off a couple of kms from the caves. The only way to get to the caves is by one of the shuttle buses and to roam around the caves you have to walk.
Best Time to Visit
. Best time to visit Ajanta Caves is during the months of October to February (winter season) and from June to September (monsoon season), these are the best time to visit Ajanta Caves, as the weather is really pleasant during these months.Although March, April and May are holiday season (most of the school colleges are shut downs during these months) in India, but the temperature is really high during these months i.e. between 37
. The caves are in the state of Marathas, Maharashtra, 100 kilometers from the city of Aurangabad. The caves are by the river Waghora, in the midst of the Sahyadri hills burried by thick forest all around. The Ajanta Caves were discovered by a British Captain, John Smith in 1819, while on a hunting expedition.
. The Ajanta caves are important mainly to see the fine line of transfer of the Hinyana and the Mahayana sect, as for the fact he Hianyana did not worship any god or goddess but they used stupas, and other rock forms to represent Buddha. Mahayana on the other hand, used idols of people they worship. Interestingly, the caves include both Chaitya (Prayer Halls) and monasteries and have both types of architecture and art besides paintings and scriptur
Exploring the Caves
. The Ajanta caves depict paintings and sculptures that shows heavy religious influence, revolving around Buddhist philosophy, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Gautama Buddha and the Jataka Tales. The caves are embellished with paintings of infinite charm, sculpted with skills of the highest craftsmanship, narrating scenes of semi mythological history, the royal court and lifestyle of the ancient times.Though the sculptures are of Buddhist
. In the early 19th century, some British soldiers spotted a horseshoe shaped rock while out hunting in the Deccan plateau. What caught his attention was the entrance of a cave and this made the soldiers cross the ravine of the Waghora River.They discovered several caves, against which bush, shrubs earth, stones had piled up and some were even being used as shelters. Archaeologists started excavations and the news of the discovery spread far and wi
Shopping In Ajanta
. Shopping in Ajanta is restricted to the government shops near the bus stop.However Aurangabad is famous for shopping where one can alight or stopover to buy Himroo shawls, Paithani sarees or fabric like Mashru and Kimkhab.Also available are a wide display of jewellery made of semiprecious stones and decorative pieces.