The Ellora caves, 34 in number, are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill, 30 kms from Aurangabad. The finest specimens of cave - temple architecture, they house elaborate facades and exquisitely adorned interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD period. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain.
The sculpture in the Buddhist caves accurately convey the nobility, grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two - storeyed structure sports a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.
The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain - abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. What is amazing about it is the fact, that unlike other temple structures which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides. Gigantic, though it is, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which Cave 32, houses a beautiful shrine adorned with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof, and a yakshi on a lion under a mango - tree, while Caves 32 and 34 contain grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves sport the images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of Mahavira.
These cave shrines are memorable for their invaluable contribution to the enormous wealth of Indian heritage.
Every year in the third week of March, M T D C organises the Ellora Festival of Classical Dance and Music at the caves.
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.