Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora

I have always been intrigued by history, love to visit historical places and especially places which have a story to tell. Stories of courage, valor, magicians, ghost, kings and queens. These take you back to the childhood days, the magical period for all human beings.

With these thoughts I planned by next visit to Ajanta and Ellora caves and then towards Khajurao and Gwalior.

To visit Ajanta and Ellora, one has to come to Aurangabad, one of the tourist hotspots in Maharashtra. There are many historical monuments and places in and around Aurangabad. There is good connectivity by road as well as with train to this place. I took a morning train from Thane, outskirts of Mumbai to Aurangabad, by afternoon i was there at Aurangabad.

After taking rest for sometime in the afternoon, i wanted to visit BiBi ka Maqbara in the evening. Therefore got out of my hotel and started looking for an Auto to reach this place, as i was scouting for an auto, a name called mini taj mahal came into light, exploring a bit more i came to know that this is the other name for Bibi Ka Maqbara. It is called so because of its resemblance to the original Taj Mahal.

As you can see from the picture, it does look like the Taj Mahal in Agra. This place was built by Azam Shah, son of Aurangazeb in remembrance of his mother. It is one of the important sites in Aurangabad.

Next day i planned to visit the Ellora caves which is around 30 kms from the city. In between is the daulatabad fort around 15kms. I took an auto from the main city, took some time out to visit the fort, the fort stands tall over a hillock, it is under the ASI,here is a brief description of the fort taken out from Wikipedia

“The Daulatabad Fort (aka Devgiri Fort) located about 15 km (9 mi) north-west of Aurangaabd was one of the most powerful forts during the medieval period. Built in the 12th century CE by the Yadava Dynasty, it’s a citadel that was never conquered by any military force. The British called it the “best fort of India”, due to its extraordinary military strength. Built on a 200 metre high conical hill, the fort was defended by moats and trenches running around the hill at its foot besides the most complex and intricate defence system. The fort has two fixed massive canons which can be pivoted. The fortifications comprise three encircling walls with bastions ”

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Dark Passage

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The great Moat around the fort

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View from the Top

After spending a good 2 hours exploring the fort, it was time to head towards Ellora caves, these group of caves were constructed different religious(buddhist, jains and hindus) groups at different times, they are a world heritage site and are maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. These are fascinating work of art and architecture, i wonder how in those times such huge rocks could be cut out and constructed as caves. I think its a case of mind over matter.

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The pillar at Kailasanatha Temple

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Kailasanath Temple

 

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Courtyard at Kailasanath Temple

These Carvings and architecture exhibit how flourishing and expanded our culture was during those times, we where and are so rich in our cultural dynasty. Although with time these statues are withering away in time still what is left does show the grandeur of that era gone by.

There are total 34 caves in this arena, some belonging to Jainism as well. Majority of them are Buddhist caves and monasteries.

Exploring these old historical monuments brought light to the simple and disciplined life of the monks and students in this part. In most of the statues one finds people to be in meditative state as well as in peace.

By 5 pm i was done with all the caves, its a long stretch. One can explore via foot or take a auto rickshaw. The place is well maintained by ASI. After reaching back at the hotel, i started making plans for my visit to Ajanta caves, the caves are around 100 km from Aurangabad, in that way I had to leave Aurangabad and find accomodation near Ajanta caves. There are not many places for stay however there is the Maharastra tourism guesthouse, I quickly called their land line and luckily got a room for staying.

The next day I boarded a state government bus for Ajanta caves, the journey time is around 2.5 hours. I reached the place around 2 in the afternoon, had lunch at the guesthouse and since it was late, i planned to visit the Cave site the next day, relaxing in my room for the rest of the day.

 

It was the month of April, It was a clear and a bright day, with spring in the air. I was really excited to visit the oldest caves of India. Quickly getting up early and finishing my breakfast and heading straight towards the caves, my hotel was around a distance of 1 km from the the Cave site, i went out and started looking for an auto, since this was a highway not many auto’s were plying on the way, however luckily I asked one bike rider to give me a lift and he readily agreed.

There is a big museum as well at the entrance of the Ajanta caves, i thought i will visit it after the cave exploration. The caves are a distance away, battery operated buses take you to the cave site. Unlike Ellora here all the caves are Buddhist caves, there are some beautiful paintings on the walls of the caves depicting the life story of Buddha and the Jataka tales.

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Entrance to the caves

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Paintings on the cave walls

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Statues inside the caves

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Stupa

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It was a mesmerizing experience visiting each and every cave, although some places the paintings are getting eroded wit the passage of time but still the grandeur of those times can be felt. There is a small climb up the hill from were one can get a panoramic view of the caves.

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View from the top of a hillock

Finally a fascinating journey was coming to an end, I was more than satisfied with what i saw and experienced in this place, a journey back in time brings out a lot of learning and education, now it was time to move ahead, move towards Madhya Pradesh  and find whats in store over there.

 

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