India: Caves, Caves, and More Caves in Ajanta and Ellora

Back in December, we took a few days to go to the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharastra (the same state Mumbai is in, about 6 hours away). Unfortunately, in order to visit the caves the best place to stay is in the city of Aurangabad, which is really not a very nice place. There are very few good hotel options and it seemed that the few affordable places with good reviews were booked so we ended up in a pretty depressing place (this was after we switched hotels) near the local cinema.

The first day we headed out to Ajanta, which is the farther of the two, about 2 hours outside of Aurangabad. Ajanta is a group of 29 Buddhist caves built in 200 and 600 BCE. They were accidentally rediscovered in 1819 by British officer who was hunting a tiger (ah, those were the days). They are pretty much all in a row, and some are more impressive than others, with large Buddhas and stupas inside. My favorite was the one with giant reclining Buddha on one side.

The second day we decided to do a kind of package deal where a driver took us to the Ellora caves first, and then a few other small sites. We ended up in a van with an Indian family–parents and a son who was around 10. We felt bad for intruding on their family vacation, but they were very nice and friendly, offering to explain several things to us.

Ellora has 34 caves built between 500 and 1000 BCE, and they are varying religious origins: Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist, and they are more spread out.

After seeing a few of the Jain caves, we went to Ellora’s main attraction: the Kailasa Temple. It’s actually not really a cave in the traditional sense and was in fact carved out of one single rock, starting from the top and working their way down–it is even multi-storied. This is extremely impressive when you see just how enormous Kailasa is (according to Wikipedia it is double the size of the Parthenon). We decided to get a guide to show us around and gain some insight into the various carvings. Our guide was an older gentleman who used to be a teacher, which became quite obvious when he scolded us for not paying attention or standing in the wrong place! But he was very knowledgable and we learned a lot about the Indu gods and their marriages.

After Ellora the driver took us on a whirlwind tour of Aurangabad’s other offerings, which include a special kind of weaving (both paithani and himroo). We saw some beautiful hand-woven textiles, but they were all above our price range. Next, we went to the Ghrishneshwar Temple. We wouldn’t have been necessarily interested in this temple, but the Indian family was quite excited to visit and explained to us that it was there because it is believed that when Shiva destroyed Jyotirlinga he divided her into 12 pieces that dropped to the earth and this temple is one of 12 in the world where a piece of her is believed to have fallen. The most fascinating part of it all for us was that the men had to remove their shirts (still not sure why!) as they walked in to the inner part of the temple. So Manor joined the gaggle of Indians, along with the father and son from our tour and removed his shirt to walk through.

Random cow churning...butter?

Next we went to the Daulatabad Fort, a gorgeous old fort atop a mountain. It was great fun to explore; there is even a secret underground passage, but it was full of bats so we stayed out! There were tons of schoolchildren around and we soon learned that before Christmas vacation all the school take the kids on field trips. We got a lot of photo requests from giggly young school girls and boys…

…who seemed to follow us to Aurangabad’s big attraction: the Mini Taj aka Bibi-ka-Maqbara, the burial place of Aurangzeb’s wife, Rabia-ud-Durrani. It is an imitation of the Taj, hence the title Mini Taj. It’s lovely, but after seeing the actual Taj, I can say it’s not that exciting.

People dropped coins down onto the tomb.

We got back to our hotel around 7 pm and had a lot of time to kill before our midnight train. After dinner we decided to see a movie at the local cinema, which turned out to be the latest Mission Impossible movie. In Hindi. We actually had virtually no problem following the simple plot and had a lot of fun as the crowd of young Indian men hooted and hollered at various times. It was also fun watching Hindi words come out of Tom Cruise’s mouth!

104 Comments

Filed under Accommodations, India, People, Sites

104 responses to “India: Caves, Caves, and More Caves in Ajanta and Ellora

  1. Well, they’re wonderful.🙂

  2. Love India! Thanks for the pictures.

  3. I’m so jealous, I’ve always wanted to see Mission Impossible in Hindi!

    Seriously though, gorgeous photos and fantastic location!

  4. Brittany Ketter

    The pictures are beautiful!!! Oh! My heart is so much in India! Praying for that beautiful nation! I can’t wait to go there!

  5. i havent been to these caves.. went to Mumbai when i was very young…a small tour…
    Mission Impossible in Hindi… 🙂
    must have been a funny experience..

  6. Beautiful images — what an amazing adventure.

    As someone who is slightly claustrophobic, however, I’m thinking I may not be able to fully enjoy the caves personally. So THANK YOU for sharing these images and letting me live vicariously through your experience!

  7. Bumped into your blog on WordPress’s main page, and had to click–I was just in Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora a few weeks ago, and am from New York, too! Love your photos (well done in Ajanta, with the lack of flash!) and have enjoyed flipping through previous posts. The NGO you’re volunteering with in Mumbai sounds great, and your travel plans for the next few months sounds like such a fabulous adventure. I hope you both enjoy it! I’ve really reading your posts and am looking forward to more.

  8. Awesome photography! Looks like an incredible trip.

    Thank you for sharing!

    …following your blog…

  9. Incredible! I really need to get out from behind this desk and see the world….

  10. These images are really nice especially how you have got in so close with some of the detail. I love photography and these are special.

  11. I could never understand how man can make idols with his own hands and then worship them. Creators worshiping things they have created. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

    • Ram

      There are some people who cannot understand why people believe in God!

      When you look at the picture of your mom, what do you think?
      1) Mom looks great and feel her love
      2) Wow! What a shiny looking paper!

      If you say your answer is 2, you will see only stones. Sorry for you!

    • madbull

      Well, If men can worship a figment of their imagination, they can worship an idol they created to.
      One form on irrationality isn’t greater than the other.

    • Initially, Buddhists were against idol worship until other sects of Buddhism developed. So were Christians and other religions. I am not sure what happened but despite if these idols were erected out of mans arrogance, the energy that it took to sculpt these was great and positive. I don’t align myself with any particular religion but I find these and other idols and symbols as a reminder to strive to be something better, to control the arrogance that comes with being human and to mind how I behave and treat others.

    • UCTeja

      Well…. I heard them saying… “The Idol is always present in the stone… all we do is removing the excess deposit on that…!”

      • It is not right to comment on other religions without having even a decent amount of knowledge of them. It is also ignorant to assume that people who follow these religions can’t read and won’t tell you what’s you are ignorant about. Buddism and Hinduism don’t really believe that idols are gods. They just believe that physical manifestations help in reaching God, like this line from the Bhagavad Gita – “It is much difficult to focus on God as the unmanifested than God with form, due to human beings having the need to perceive via the senses”.
        I did not intend to preach but thought it was necessary to clear a misconstrued remark.

  12. These are beautiful photos!
    I am a WordPress photographer too!
    Great job.

  13. madbull

    Wonderful article and photos, I haven’t visited these caves despite spending my entire life in India, should so soon. I have heard there are many fascinating caves in Karnataka as well.

  14. The elephant sculptures are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Stunning photos of an amazing heritage site!

  16. Amazingly beautiful pictures! Brings back memories!!

  17. I read the book and watched the movie “Passage to India” a long time ago and also knew of a fellow who went to India. I was very impressed with both the book and the movie and often wondered about the fellow who went there and what he was looking for and what he found. Oddly, though, I can’t say that I have had a really great desire to go there – I would rather climb great mountain ranges and sky dive (neither of which I have done either but find the notion quite exciting!!)

  18. That is one stupendous place! I think it possibly puts Petra and Egypt to shame. I’d love to go there and see those – I’d be okay with the bats too. My father was based in Southern India for 5 years when he was a small boy and he still tells me wonderful things about it. He was around the ‘Malabar Caves’ area (where the film ‘Passage to India’ was based). I’m determined to visit his old stomping grounds myself.

    Really enjoyed looking at that,
    Carol.

  19. Know first hand about those Indian hotels first hand. They are a real adventure!….Not into the Hindu worship but the elephant statues are very cool. I was in West Bengal last year way up on the Bhutan border, then across into Nepal.

  20. wow! that’s all I can say..wow!

  21. Well captured. Though we Indian deny vehemently, but the British did re-discover ancient India for the Indian during colonial times. I hope you got to see the amazing effects of lighting on the paintings in Ajanta as well. Your comment on Tom Cruise speaking Hindi is funny because I would often re-watch a Hollywood movie in Hindi just to get a hang of the translation🙂

  22. Great shots, must be a memorable trip

  23. You captured a great deal of beauty … and I especially enjoyed the caves. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Wow… this is like comparable to the temples in Egypt. great job on the photos🙂

  25. Absolutely incredible pictures! Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience!

  26. I just saw something on a travel show about these Buddhist caves. How interesting to come across it again.

  27. Wonderful trip and beautiful photos.

    My country is not far from India, but also a chance to see these beautiful things.

  28. I think the random cow is making juice from sugar cane.
    Great work!

  29. Thanks a lot for Nice pictures and recalling our heritage.

  30. Beautiful pictures ! very ethnic. Do you like Indian music too ? I have a posting about India and its music which sang by The Beatles. Here is the link http://priajelita.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/within-you-without-you/ Please check it if you have time. Thank you.

  31. The sculptures at Ajanta and Ellora are really beautiful and awe inspiring. And you are right about the shortage of good places to stay nearby, which is just frustrating. As for the legend of Jyotirlinga check out http://www.mahashivratri.org/legend-of-shiva-linga.html .
    🙂 Hope u had a good stay in India.🙂

  32. what a great time. I was in India this time last year and had nothing of this kind of adventure.

  33. Wow this is amazing. Thanks for sharing. It encompasses several things I love; travel, religion and art.

  34. what amazing adventure..🙂

  35. amazing indeed! for a person who has just started off on her wanderings in Delhi, this post makes me realize how much more there is to experience in the world!

  36. Gud Details, and Excellent Photographs ..

  37. A good coverage of Aurangabad, Ellora and around. It is very difficult to cover all of the caves and carvings in a couple of days. Also, difficult to photograph in these caves. If you use flash, the images turn out flat. If you use natural light, you must have a tripod (and time). Wish you visit Ajanta also some time. Also, grateful if you remove the shanties on the cover photo, when you have so many beautiful images to showcase.

  38. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed as well. I liked the angles you took time to do to present such stunning pictures!:)

  39. Ajanta and Ellora are truly incredible! Travel down South India for more of such impeccable architecture!!
    Bon Voyage
    http://www.theburntmap.wordpress.com

  40. It’s very beautiful, it’s very worth visiting

  41. Remarkable photos! . . . Makes me want to go back to India to visit these sacred caves!

    http://arabianmusings.wordpress.com/

  42. ***The LensMaster

    This must have been a breathtaking journey…

  43. My country…. India is special!!

  44. it’s called INCREDIBLE INDIA with versatility…
    all snaps are showing the culture of India….beautiful images….wonderful angles of shots…
    thanks for sharing….

  45. construction in INDIA was always memorable like taj mahal,lal fort,kutubminar,and many places which is still world famous.
    for same now a days experiment in home takes a incredible turn and one of the great work continuously happening by one real estate company head quartered located in bagalore.take a look.

  46. Hello guys all photos are very good…………

  47. Oh my god…views liek that leav em breathless… You know what facinates me the most? Is that such fanstatic stone carvings and scuptures are made hundreds of years ago, with uncomfortable tools and yet with suc precision that nowadays many so called “asrtists” wouldn’t be able to make anything half as impressove and wonderful. Nowadays it’s just a piece of metal or rock with a hole inside and called outsdanting art.
    I’d love to see it by my own eyes one day! :)) Great post

    http://dressupforme.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/under-the-red-label-love/

  48. Nice to see a blog on India getting freshly pressed.
    Thanks and congratulations.

  49. Great photos of amazing places.

  50. botanicart

    Beautiful!!! Definitely on my travel list!!!

  51. My father-in-law went to the Ajanta caves recently and said they were amazing. I’m really looking forward to traveling south sometime and visiting!🙂

  52. Great pictures! I’m moving to Mumbai in April and hope to visit the caves once I’m settled. Considering how ancient they are, they do seem well preserved. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  53. Not just ‘caves, caves and more caves….’! These were carved starting from the top, down a mountain side and then into the mountain, one is double the size of the Parthenon. Most impressive works of art and culture from over 3500 years ago. But man was more civilized then!

  54. Wonderful review. The caves are beautiful. Really a treasure for India.

  55. All in one: Review

    Now that makes India to be proud of…Taj Mahal
    Well of course caves too… In our childhood we have done so much readings(in History) about those caves…Memories recovered..:)

  56. I’m from India and also happen to be an Art History student🙂 We studied all this last year . Next time you should definitely Visit some of the Temples in the the South like Bhridishvara Temple in Thanjavaur(also called Tanjore) and the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai. Chennai, has some very interesting, Pre-colonial architecture and even an Armeanian Church, which is the one of the oldest in the Indian subcontinent and is if I’m not mistaken, also the place where the first Armeanian Journal in the world was published. Up north, the Dhilwara Temple on Mt Abu, Rajasthan is something everybody should see. It is a beautiful Jain temple with the the most unbelievably intricate marble carvings.😀

  57. You know, it’s interesting to see sites of India through someone else’s eyes. I am from India but have seen hardly anything at all, always preferring to look abroad for greener pastures than those at home! I’ve heard the ruins at Hampi are also very beautiful.

  58. Brilliant
    That was a great post, one of my favorite posts of February by far!!

    Cheers
    ~Ron

  59. Reblogged this on emilylewis100 and commented:
    An amazing journey and beautiful pictures.

  60. Bridget

    Thanks for braving the inconveniences of India travel and sharing these fantastic photos and your view of the world. Much appreciated!

  61. Beautiful pictures !! And I love your detailed explanation. I will definitely visit this place in my next trip to India.

  62. What a wonderful blog of your written adventure with photos. The whole piece would be right at home in a major travel mag or history book. The pictures show a great sensitivity toward the subjects you were taking. It is awesome to think that such beauty was actually craved thousands of years ago by human hands. Thank you for taking time to share this with our WordPress family. I for one, so appreciate your efforts and work in publishing this blog.

  63. teddyoshea

    Truly amazing photo’s, what a place

  64. phani

    Wonderful review. The caves are beautiful

  65. Well Man, I can see some of my favorite Gods in those caves😉

  66. These caves are really temples of different religions. There are Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism temples in the caves. It is an awesome sight. Check out more http://indiatripping.com/

  67. Reblogged this on Endless Highway and commented:
    Great post on India!

  68. That’s what I call real good art, That carving in stone is beautiful

    Dan

  69. Thanks for the great photos. I love Hindu and Buddhist art!

  70. Ya bro you are right in india all caves are very good…. even i agree with you that india is the most traditional country in the world thats why we are saving all ancient arts……….thanks for expressing what is india………..i love you

  71. very good Review.the caves are wonderfull.i love to travel for india

  72. Ajanta and Ellora are one of the best example of indian art history. The carving and the statues are made with sharpness of art. Really its amazing.

  73. Reblogged this on Gealachs Blogg and commented:
    Jag vet att det blir många “reblogs” när jag väl sätter igång, men jag var bara tvungen att dela med mig av det här, älskar att hitta bra inlägg med många bilder från ställen som jag inte kände till sedan tidigare och förmodligen inte kommer att få möjlighet att besöka.

  74. Ram

    Are you guys planning to visit Mahabalipuram too?

  75. beautiful pics… I must say that through I have been born and raised in India. I have never been to Ajanta caves… But after watching your pics I definitely feels that one needs to make one trip for sure.

  76. I’d like to have known more about the mini taj. I shall go google it without delay! Cheers.

  77. JH

    Namaste.🙂 Can i just say you are one of the luckiest people on earth! I’ve always wanted to go to India. The country is so full of culture and history. Thank you for sharing the pictures.🙂 Love it!

  78. Pingback: India: The Magnificent Taj Mahal and other Agra Offerings | Brooklyn Meets Bombay

  79. Why viewers still make use of to read news papers whe in this technological
    world the whole thing iss presented on net?

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