It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, were discovered. A group of British officers on a tiger hunt, stumbled on these ancient works of art. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning the period from 200 BC to 650 AD.
The 29 caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and nerve - centres of the Buddhist cultural movement. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Exquisite wall - paintings and sculptures speak volumes of the India of yore. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.
Cave 1 houses some of the most well - preserved wall paintings which include two great Boddhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. Caves 2 , 16 and 17 also contain amazing paintings, while Caves 1, 4, 17, 19, 24 and 26 boast of some of the most divine sculptures. The flying apsara, of Cave 17, and the image of Buddha preaching in Cave 17, are a couple of unforgettable works of art. The Ajanta caves and the treasures they house, are a landmark in the overall development of Buddhism as such.
How To Get There
By air: Aurangabad, ( 99 km from Ajanta and 30 km from Ellora ), is the ideal base to visit Ajanta and ellora, is directly linked to Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and Mumbai.
By rail: Aurangabad is directly linked to Mumbai and Pune. Jalgaon, a railhead on the Central Railways line, is 59 km from Ajanta.
By road: State buses run from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Bijapur to Aurangabad, and from Jalgaon to Ajanta. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (M T D C) operates conducted tours from Mumbai to Aurangabad.
Where To Stay
The M T D C Holiday Resort near Aurangabad railway station, the Ajanta Travellers Lodge at the caves and the M T D C Holiday Resort at Fardapur (about 4 km from Aurangabad) apart from regular hotels in nearby areas, provide satisfactory accomodation.