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Old 1st December 2008, 15:55   #1
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Default Around Aurangabad - Part 2

Aurangabad - Part II (Ajanta & Ellora)

Though we had planned to leave MTDC by 0700hrs for Ajanta caves, we could leave only around 0830hrs, thanks to their laid-back restaurant service. It took us two and a half hours to cover the 105kms to Ajanta. The roads and signage all the way were pretty good. Four kms from the caves there is a huge parking lot where all vehicles have to be parked. From hereon you have to use the environment friendly buses run by the authorities. The charges for the shuttle service are Rs7/- one way by non-aircon and Rs.15/- one way by the aircon buses.

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The distance between the parking lot and the Bus Bay is filled with stalls selling souvenirs, snacks and bottled water. At the base of the caves too, there is an MTDC restaurant, just after you purchase the entrance tickets. Since the usage of flash for photography in the caves is prohibited, they have installed fibre optic lights, which will be switched on for you on production of a Rs.5/- ticket that has to be purchased at the time of purchasing entrance tickets.

The caves attained the name from a nearby village named Ajanta. Apparently, these caves were discovered by an Army Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one of his hunting expeditions.
The official guide’s charges are Rs.600/- (non negotiable) or you can avail the services of the freelancers at the door of every cave who will do the job per cave (Rs.20/- to Rs.50/-) or all caves for Rs.300/-. All rates negotiable.

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The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting. They were excavated (circa. 2nd century B.C. to 6th century A.D.) in the shape of a horseshoe, overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora and each cave was connected to the stream by a flight of steps, which are now almost obliterated.

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Totally, 30 excavations were hewn out of rock including an unfinished one. The earliest excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. These caves are datable to the pre-Christian era, the earliest among them being Cave 10 dating from the second century B.C.

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The object of worship is a stupa and these caves exhibit the imitation of wooden construction to the extent that the rafters and beams are also sculpted even though they are non-functional.

The world famous paintings at Ajanta fall into two broad phases. The earliest, in cave nos. 9 & 10, are datable to second century B.C. The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. These exemplary paintings of the Vakataka period can be seen in cave nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17. The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various Jataka stories, different incidents associated with the life of Buddha, and the contemporary events and social life.

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The ceiling decoration invariably consists of decorative patterns, geometrical as well as floral.
The paintings were executed after the elaborate preparation of the rock surface by chiseling grooves so that the layer applied over it could be held in an effective manner. The chief binding material used here was glue.
These paintings are not frescoes as they have been painted with the aid of a binding agent, whereas in frescoes, the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet and acts as an intrinsic binding agent.

It took us about three hours to explore Ajanta so on return near the parking lot, we fortified ourselves with some hot ‘Puri Bhaaji’ and ‘Aloo Parathas’ at one of the ‘fast food stalls’.

Now we had to visit Ellora so we got on to the road back to Aurangabad and about 15 to 20kms from Aurangabad there is a village called Fulambari from where you can go straight to Ellora via Khuldabad. This distance of 104kms took us just 2hrs to cover as the roads were good.

The parking lot at Ellora is right in front of the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa (Cave 16). The Great Kailasa is attributed to Krishna I (c. 757-83 A.D.), the successor and uncle of Dantidurga. A copper plate grant from Baroda of the period of Karka II (c. 812-13 A.D.) speaks about the greatness of this edifice.

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Ellora represents one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the entire world, that too of three different religions - Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism. These caves are hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharashtra, known as ‘Deccan Trap’, the term trap being of Scandinavian origin representing the step like formation of the volcanic deposits. The rock formation, on weathering has given rise to the appearance of terraces with flat summits. One can also have a glimpse of the channels (near Cave 32) through which the volcanic lava once flowed. These channels, due to overheating, have a characteristic brownish red colour.
The basaltic rock is ideal for rock hewing, as it is soft during the initial excavation and hardens on exposure to environment. This induced the religious followers of various creeds to establish their settlements in them.
The Ellora caves are datable from circa 6th - 7th century A.D. to 11th - 12th century A.D. There are nearly 100 caves of which 34 caves are popular and visited by many tourists. Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist; Caves 13 to 29 are Brahmanical and Caves 30 to 34 are Jaina. Thus, we have the greatest religious conglomeration at a single place, signifying the religious tolerance and solidarity of different faiths. The caves are excavated in the scarp of a large plateau, running in a north-south direction for nearly 2 km, the scarp being in the form of a semi-circle, the Buddhist group at the right arc on the south, while the Jaina group at the left arc on the north and the Brahmanical group at the centre
A tourist can plan the visit of these caves according to the time available and depending upon the interest in ancient art. If a visitor has at his disposal three to four hours, then Cave nos. 10 (Visvakarma Cave), 16 (Kailasa), 21 (Ramesvara) and 32 & 34 (Jaina group of caves) should not be missed and one can have a glimpse of the representative art of Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism. If a visitor has an entire day at his disposal, then Cave nos. 2, 5, 10 & 12 of the Buddhist group; Cave nos. 14, 15, 16, 21 & 29 of the Brahmanical group and Caves 32 to 34 of the Jaina group should be visited.
All this valuable information about the caves has been gleaned from the <a href=" http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs.asp"> Archaeological Survey of India’s website</a>
We had barely a couple of hours, hence just reveled in the beauty of Cave 16 and visited Caves 10 & 12.

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The sunset from Ellora is also worth a view and we spent some time gazing at the beautiful sight.

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On return to the parking lot, we were surprised to see a bunch of langurs being fed peanuts by tourists. We were told by the peanut vendors that these monkeys are harmless and will wait patiently for the visitors to feed them. You buy a packet of peanuts worth Rs.5/- and empty them out on your palm and hold it out to the langur. The langur will then amble towards you, hold your hand and pick out the peanut with the other hand and eat! So friendly!

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We left Ellora around 1900hrs and were back in our MTDC resort at 2000hrs, had a decent dinner in ‘Prashanth’, slept well and left Aurangabad next morning as had to be back in Mumbai on Thursday evening. The return drive was rather uneventful and pleasant. Our only regret was we could not see more of Ellora and missed out on the other two major attractions of Aurangabad – the Daulatabad Fort and Paanchakki. Hopefully will do that some other time.

Some important information about
Ajanta caves
Open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Closed on Monday
Entrance Fee:
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - Rs. 10 per head.
Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head

Ellora Caves
Open from sunrise to sunset
Closed on Tuesday
Entrance Fee:
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - Rs. 10 per head.
Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head
(children up to 15 years free)
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Old 1st December 2008, 16:01   #2
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Superb narrative and detailed description of charges and thing to do.
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Old 1st December 2008, 17:15   #3
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Lovely detailed story, tnx for sharing. Useful for my next trip there.

Keep sharing more photos.

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Old 1st December 2008, 17:23   #4
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Add Bibi ka Maqbara (in Aurangabad city) and Grishneshwar Temple (next to Ellora) to the must-see places. And for those have 1 more at their disposal, visiting Lonar Lake (the meteorite lake) which is near Sindkhed Raja/Jalna is recommended.
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Old 16th December 2008, 15:36   #5
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Question Why Ellora twice: for Ghrishneshwar Temple & then for caves??

I have gone through both your travelogues. One thing I did not understand is when you visited Ellora for Ghrishneshwar, why did not visit the Ellora caves - which are hardly a km away? This way you visited Ellora caves' main gate twice.

@ MODERATORS: Please do not consider this as wrong; but for those who will read this travelogue & visit; for them this needs to be specified. Please remove if found offence.
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