Ajanta Caves

Ajanta is one of the world famous tourist attractions in India. Located in the state of Maharashtra about 59 Km from Jalgaon and 107 Km from Aurangabad, Ajanta is well connected and sees hordes of both foreign and domestic tourists throughout the year.

Ajanta Caves are 29 rock-cut Buddhist caves dating back to 200 BC and 450-650 AD. The caves were built during two phases about four hundred years apart.

The architecture of the caves represent two schools of thought from their respective periods. The early Hinayana school where Lord Buddha was represented only symbolically by a throne, a set of footprints or a stupa; and that was followed later by Mahayana sect who represented Buddha in human form.

The caves were cut in a horse-shoe shaped hill-side along the curve of rippling Waghora River.

Each of the caves was originally directly connected to the stream through steps, though today one can only see the evidences of that existence in a few caves.

The caves were meant to be for the monks who lived and meditated here. Distinctly, few of the caves were ‘viharas’, the monasteries, where the monks lived while the others were ‘chaityas’, the prayer halls.

The caves are numbered in terms of their accessibility from the entrance. Few of the most prominent and best preserved caves are Cave 1, 2, 9, 10, 16, 17, 19 and 26. Of these, caves 9 and 10 are ‘chaityas’ from Hinayana period while 19 and 26 are ‘chaityas’ and 1, 2, 16 and 17 are ‘viharas’ from Mahayana period.

However as Buddhism retreated, Ajanta lost its glory and was forgotten. The caves remained absolutely hidden for centuries until a hunting party led by a British Cavalry officer, Captain John Smith, discovered it in midst of dense greenery on the hill side.

And that threw Ajanta Caves into the limelight! Ajanta Caves soon became famous for its well sculptured and beautifully painted walls depicting incidents from Buddha’s life alongwith those about his lives in previous births as given in Jataka tales.

What is more amazing about these caves is the fact that these were sculpted and painted in very poor light as very natural light reaches the interiors of the caves.

While as per few, oil lamps were used, few others support the theory that mirrors were used for reflecting and magnifying the diffused rays of sunlight. Another interesting theory states that the depression in the floor of the caves was filled with water to act as mirror and reflect the little light that reached in.

Considering the intricacy of the beautiful work that adorns the walls of Ajanta Caves, it is hard to believe that one could produce such fabulous results in so dim light.

Today, Ajanta Caves though are giving in to age, climate and damage by scores of daily visitors, yet these are India’s most sophisticated ancient paintings.


Timings of Ajanta Caves: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Closed on: Mondays and National holidays 

Best Time to Visit: Oct-Mar and Jul-Aug



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