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Old 31st December 2013, 21:14   #1
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Default 770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves

So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or Nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his round. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked. Always, when you think you have come to the end of her tremendous specialties and have finished hanging tags upon her as the Land of the Thug, the Land of the Plague, the Land of Famine, the Land of Giant Illusions, the Land of Stupendous Mountains, and so forth, another specialty crops up and another tag is required. I have been overlooking the fact that India is by an unapproachable supremacy the Land of Murderous Wild Creatures. Perhaps it will be simplest to throw away the tags and generalize her with one all-comprehensive name, as the Land of Wonders.

Mark Twain.

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Perhaps, glimpses of those wonders can be seen in the multitudes of Historical sites strewn across the country which even in their various stages of decay do not fail to amaze us.

This is a photologue of a trip to two such sites near Aurangabad: The caves of Ajanta and Ellora and a short visit to Bibi Ka Maqbara also known as The Taj of Deccan.


Dec 21-25 was supposed to be my longest road trip till date. A drive from Pune to Calicut to attend a grand re-union at my college to commemorate 10 years of our passing out, followed by a wedding at a very close friend's house in Kannur. However some last minute emergencies at both mine and wifey's office meant we had to cancel the trip. As a consolation however, and also to use up the leaves that would otherwise lapse at the end of the year we decided to take off on 30th and 31st. Initial plan was to head for an idyllic beach holiday at either Tarkarli, Murud or Ganapatipule. But the new year frenzy meant that already limited options for accomodation at these places were filled up and it absolutely did not make sense to go down to Goa at such a short notice and pay the inflated accomodation prices over the new year weekend.

A lot of brainstorming later we settled on Ajanta and Ellora. Not exactly the idyllic holiday we initially intended for, but then ever since I got to Pune, I always wanted to plan a trip to these twin World Heritage sites. So Ajanta and Ellora it was. Accomodation was booked at Ambassador Ajanta at Aurangabad. Plan was to do Ellora and Daulatabad fort on the same day we reach Aurangabad, go for Ajanta next day and on the third day visit Bibi Ka Maqbara before heading back to Pune.

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Old 4th January 2014, 07:07   #2
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Default Day 1 - Dec 28 (Sat): Pune - Ellora caves - Aurangabad

We wanted to leave home early, by 7 AM atleast. But by the time we left our home it was already past 9. Tanked up at Baner road (I believe I got scamed by the pump attendents) and headed to McD at aundh for breakfast. Finally by 10 we were actually on track.

Hit Nagar road to exit Pune. Traffic was moderate but chaotic till about Koregaon after which it eased just a little bit. There were quite a few cars I guess heading towards Shirdi, being weekend.

Road surface was ok and fourlaned for most part till Aurangabad. The landscape was quite beautiful specially around Ranjangaon with the winter adding touches of light brown/yellow to the rolling hills. We also happened to spot a heavily camouflaged Linea under testing.

Sometime after Ahmednagar, the hills gave way to plains. We also started seeing quite a lot of Sugarcane fields between Ahmednagar and Aurangabad. Although the traffic was not too bad, but since the road doesn't bypass towns on the way, you do lose some time.

We reached Aurangabad limits by around 2:30 PM and had lunch at a Dhabha on the Aurangabad-Nashik road before turning left towards Daulatabad.

Ellora caves are around 20 Kms from Aurangabad. On the way lies Daulatabad Fort. Initially we had thought it would be possible to cover Ellora and Daulatabad in a day. But since we had left quite late from Pune, we decided to move Daulatabad on to Day 3.

Ellora cave complex has quite a big Parking space and despite the weekend rush there was ample space to park vehicles.

The caves extend over a length of around 4.5 Kms. You can either walk down or take Autorickshaws that take you around from one cave cluster to another. The entire cave complex can be broadly classified into three groups on basis of the eras. Cave Nos 1 to 12 are of Buddhist origins, Cave Nos 13 to 29 are of Hindu origin and cave Nos 30-34 are of Jain origin. Cave Nos 1 - 25 can be accessed by one single stretch. The pathway from Cave 25 is blocked and to access other caves you need to take another route. This is where the Autorickshaws come in play. They take you from this cluster to cave 29 and caves 30-34.

The Hindu Caves

As soon as you enter the cave complex from the Parking lot you come across Cave 16 towards your lect. This falls under the Hindu group of caves and can be safely said to be among the most impressive ones.

The entrance to the Cave No. 16 ( Kailashnath )

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The entire Temple was carved top - down on the rock.

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One can't help but be amazed about thinking of a time when these were intact.

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The rock carved sculptures were bewildering. Some depicting Visnu's various Avatars.

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Narasimha avatar of Visnu Tearing through Hiranyakasyipu

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Visnu in his celestial sleep

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Last edited by vibbs : 15th January 2014 at 22:01.
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Old 13th January 2014, 21:48   #3
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Default Day 1 - Dec 28 (Sat): Pune - Ellora caves - Aurangabad (Contd.)

The Hindu Caves (Contd.)

Sculptures Galore!!
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The sheer details in some of the carvings blow your mind off.
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This view perhaps indicates the scale of the Temple and gives an idea how it has been cut away from the mountainside top-bottom. Must have been a sight to witness during its Heydays.

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Some other caves falling within the Hindu Cluster.
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Old 13th January 2014, 22:53   #4
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Default Day 1 - Dec 28 (Sat): Pune - Ellora caves - Aurangabad (Contd.)

The Jain Caves

The caves 30 to 34 are of Jain origin.
Not as grand in scale as those of the Hindu era, but no less remarkable anyhow.

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The level of details in many of these carvings just blow your mind off.
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There is very little ambient light, many places you are not allowed to use flash nor are you allowed to carry tripods. Hence you need to improvise a lot to get those slow shutter speeds working.

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770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8758-large.jpg
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Old 13th January 2014, 23:02   #5
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Default Day 1 - Dec 28 (Sat): Pune - Ellora caves - Aurangabad (Contd.)

The Jain Caves (Contd.)

770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8763-large.jpg

A closer look at the ceiling.
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The rock has been carved through and through.
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Old 13th January 2014, 23:19   #6
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Default Day 1 - Dec 28 (Sat): Pune - Ellora caves - Aurangabad (Contd.)

The Buddhist Caves

To the other side of the Hindu caves are the Buddhist ones. These caves are mainly Viharas. The design is modeled largely on Wooden architecture.
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There was very less ambient light.
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See how the pillars are modeled to give a wooden appearance.
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A lone tree
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It was past six by the time we were done with the Caves.

The drive to Ambassador Ajanta, Aurangabad where we had booked for stay took us a almost 2 hrs. This was largely due to terrible traffic till about Daulatabad fort. The road passes through an ancient gate, just before Daulatabad fort. This gate is wide enough to let only one vehicle pass at a time which invariably leads to a pile up of vehicle either side of the gate. Then it is a mad scramble with no one following any code of road decency in a race to crawl ahead.

Hotel Ambassador Ajanta is a three star property. It is quite old and it shows in the furniture and interiors. Food was average and service not too bad. Nothing great but then not much to complain about too.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention about the brilliant roads within Aurangabad city. Just that they resemble moonscape more than roads.

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Old 14th January 2014, 21:49   #7
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Default Day2 - Dec 29 (Sun) : Aurangabad - Ajanta - Aurangabad

While Ellora caves were an amalgamation of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cultures, the Ajanta caves are entirely Buddhist. These caves were apparently hidden from human civilisation for around 1000 years and were accidentally discovered by John Smith and his team who were chasing a tiger in the hills.

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Ajanta is around 120 Kms drive from Aurangabad, towards Jalgaon. The road is single laned and not very good which results in over 2 hrs drive time to Ajanta.

The Ajanta cave complex is a couple of Kms from the Parking lot. MTDC runs buses from the Parking lot to the cave complex. At the entrance of the complex is a restaurant again run by MTDC. This and numerous villagers selling fruits are your only source of food at the caves. One would require close to 4-5 hrs to explore the caves and surroundings, so its always advisable to carry enough water along with you.

Excavated on the horseshoe shaped hill face , facing a stream that runs through the gorge are about 30 caves. A path turns left from the Complex entry point which takes you to the other side of the stream and up the hill on the opposite to the Caves side taking you to the lower view point and finally to the upper view point which was where John Smith had seen the caves for the first time.


Enroute to the Lower view Point
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View of the caves from somewhere enroute to the Lower view point.
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At the Lower viewpoint
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During rains, Waghora stream gushes down the gorge forming in its way a stepped waterfall. Alas it was dry now.
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View of the caves from the lower View Point.
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The place would for sure wear a different look during rains
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It is possible to hike up to the upper view point from here, but the sun had already got my wife tired, so we decided to give the hike a miss. The upper view point can be accessed via road on the way back to Aurangabad through a detour at Balapur.

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Old 14th January 2014, 22:02   #8
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Default Day2 - Dec 29 (Sun): Aurangabad - Ajanta - Aurangabad (Contd.)

Entrance to one of the caves: Cave No. 26
770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8889-large.jpg

The sleeping Buddha
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770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8898-large.jpg

Some more carvings
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While the Ellora caves were all about carvings, Ajanta had a lot of paintings too.
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Perhaps an unfinished cave?
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Old 14th January 2014, 22:16   #9
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Default Day2 - Dec 29 (Sun): Aurangabad - Ajanta - Aurangabad (Contd.)

770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8941-large.jpg

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Its the paintings that make Ajanta special. Most of them depict happenings from Jataka tales.
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Telling stories through paintings.

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Caves with a high number of painting are maintained dark with a view to preserve them. You are not allowed to use flash in these caves while photographing and some basic lighting is provided. Since tripods are not allowed, getting good pictures become difficult. Great efforts were taken to restore the paintings which had suffered a lot due to natural decay, water seapage, vegetable growth etc.

770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8971-large.jpg

This guy was looking at us from the top
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770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8977-large.jpg

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Old 14th January 2014, 22:19   #10
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Default Day2 - Dec 29 (Sun): Aurangabad - Ajanta - Aurangabad (Contd.)

The view from the Upper viewpoint. I cant imagine the view after rains, with numerous small waterfalls and Waghora flowing down below.

770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_8990a-large.jpg

The lower view point viewed from the Upper view point with the caves in the back ground.
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And well a customary snap of 'The Red'
770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves-img_9008-large.jpg

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Old 14th January 2014, 22:23   #11
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Default Day 3 - 30 Dec (Mon): Aurangabad - Pune

Initially we had thought we will cover Bibi ka Maqbara and Daulatabad fort before heading back to Pune. But the previous two days had us tired and we also found out on net that Daulatabad requires some amount of walking. Plus the sun was up by the time we were, and the prospect of walking again in the sun did not impress my wife too much. So we had to put Daulatabad on hold, to be tried out probably on a later date and decided to go ahead with only Bibi ka Maqbara.

Bibi ka Maqbara is also called Taj of Deccan. World wide web tells us it was designed by the son of the chief designer of the original Taj at Agra.

All though Bibi ka Maqbara is pretty decent in itself, the alias and the obvious resemblance to the Taj Mahal does bring in comparisons. But to be fair on both, they really are on different scales to be compared.

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We were done with Biwi Ka Maqbara by noon and started off on the drive back to Pune. It was mostly uneventful except for a bad traffic Jam in Ahmednagar. Hence we decided to break the journey for lunch there (dont remember the restaurant name).

We hit Pune by 6 PM.

The highlight of the trip for me was the ability to curb my urge for speeding. I had made a mental note not to cross 100 Km/hr during the entire trip. My GPS log told me that the top speed I hit was 94.5 Km/hr . Mission Accomplished.
We left Aurangabad satisfied but with a resolve to be back again for a longer trip perhaps just after the rains, when the hills will be carpeted green. That time Daulatabad Fort will definitely be on the itinerary.

And there ends the Photologue

Cheers!!

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Old 16th January 2014, 14:54   #12
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Default Re: 770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th January 2014, 15:53   #13
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Default Re: 770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Thats a very detailed set of of one of the biggest wonders of our country which for most of us till now was limited to a few pictures found in our history text books in school.

And yes the Taj of the Deccan was surely forgotten by now from the high school days and for a moment one can pass off as the original one. Thanks for a perfect pic of that too!

This photologue surely makes one wake up and add this destination to the priority list. Guess its not yet over so keep more pics coming, the ones which are still stored in the nooks of the memory drive!

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Old 16th January 2014, 16:40   #14
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Default Re: 770 Kms, 3 days & a glimpse of a Bygone Era: Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Brilliant photologue, Vibbs. I am also fond of visiting such places with historical importance and have seen Buddhist caves in Karle and Bhaje near Lonavala and Pandava Caves in Nashik. But the ones at Ajanta and Ellora are just mind blowing and incomparable in size. I wonder how many man-years of efforts must have been spent to come with such massive and beautifule piece of art. By the way, these seem to be well maintained by the concerned authorities, probably because it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Other such cave complexes in Maharashtra are in shambles due to apathetic attitude of the Government authorities.
This now certainly goes in my list of must-visit places. As you said, I might also do it just after the next monsoons to enjoy it in the greener surroundings.
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Old 16th January 2014, 17:48   #15
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Default Re: Day 3 - 30 Dec (Mon): Aurangabad - Pune

Quote:
Originally Posted by vibbs View Post
Bibi ka Maqbara is also called Taj of Deccan. World wide web tells us it was designed by the son of the chief designer of the original Taj at Agra.
Dude! I was there in December 2011 to Ajanta, Ellora. I drove all the way from Bangalore, it was fun! I haven't had a vacation in 3 years now! I still remember everything my trip to Aurangabad. Everything came back to me when I saw the pics. Lovely pics! Thank you for the wonderful travelogue.

I always enjoy driving down to Pune, but I didn't expect the drive from Pune to Aurangabad would be so good. My wife had painted a pretty bad picture of allegedly bad roads from Pune to Ahemadnagar, and from there to Aurangabad. On my way to Ellora, I saw board to one of the Jyotirlings, on my way back, I wanted to visit the place, but even after repeatedly looking for it, I couldn't find it, and no one pointed to the right direction. I think I wasn't destined to see it. I also visited Shanishingapur. Once again I thank you for making me relive those wonderful moments!
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