world's greatest historical monument recognised by UNESCO located just
55kms from Jalgaon city and 105 kms from Aurangabad City of Maharashtra,
India. There are 30 caves in Ajanta of which 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries. These caves were
discovered in AD 1819 and were built up in the earlier 2nd century
Most of the paintings in Ajanta are right from 2nd century
BC-AD and some of them about the fifth century AD and continued for
the next two centuries. All paintings shows heavy religious influence
and centre around Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of
Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of
mud-plaster in the tempera technique.
The Ajanta Caves (75°40’ N; 20°30’ E)
are situated at a distance of 107 km north of Aurangabad, the district
headquarters. The caves attained the name from a nearby village named
Ajanta located about 12 km. These caves were discovered by an Army
Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one
of his hunting expeditions. Instantly the discovery became very famous
and Ajanta attained a very important tourist destination in the world.
The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of
Indian art, particularly painting.
These caves are excavated in horse–shoe shaped bend of rock surface
nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora.
The location of this valley provided a calm and serene environment for
the Buddhist monks who retreated at these secluded places during the
rainy seasons. This retreat also provided them with enough time for
furthering their religious pursuits through intellectual discourses
for a considerably longer period. The caves were excavated in
different periods (circa. 2nd century B.C. to 6th century A.D.)
according to the necessity. Each cave was connected to the stream by a
flight of steps, which are now almost obliterated, albeit traces of
some could be noticed at some places.
In all, total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also include
an unfinished one. Out of these, five (cave no. 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29)
are chaityagrihas and the rest are viharas. In date and style also,
these caves can be divided into two broad groups. The earliest
excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism of which similar
examples could also be seen at Bhaja, Kondane, Pitalkhora, Nasik, etc.
In total, 5 caves at Ajanta belong to this phase, viz., 9 & 10 which
are chaityagrihas and 8, 12, 13, & 15A which are viharas. These caves
are datable to the pre-Christian era, the earliest among them being
Cave 10 dating from the second century B.C. The object of worship is a
stupa here 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 also fall into two broad phases.
The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave
nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C. The headgear and
other ornaments of the images in these paintings resemble the
bas-relief sculpture of Sanchi and Bharhut.
The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D.
and continued for the next two centuries. The specimen of these
exemplary paintings of Vakataka period could be noticed in cave nos.
1, 2, 16 and 17. The variation in style and execution in these
paintings also are noticed, mainly due to different authors of them. A
decline in the execution is also noticed in some paintings as
indicated by some rigid, mechanical and lifeless figures of Buddha in
some later period paintings. 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
also. The ceiling decoration invariably consists of decorative
patterns, geometrical as well as floral.
Currently Aurangabad is the nearest Air point for Ajanta. It can be
reached from New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay), international airport.
Indian airlines as well as Jet Airways have daily flight to Aurangabad
from New Delhi and Mumbai.
Jalgaon is the best place to drop in for Ajanta if you like Rail
journey. It is centre point of all major railway stations of India and
has Bhusaval (Just 28kms from Jalgaon) as Second largest depot of
railways in entire Asia.
Ajanta Caves roadways linking the caves with Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar,
Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Bijapur,
and Aurangabad are just excellent. Regular as well as direct buses and
taxis are available between Aurangabad and Ajanta Caves.