Ajanta and Ellora Caves: in and around Aurangabad

World-famous today, it was only in 1819 that the Caves of Ajanta and Ellora had been discovered. It happened almost accidentally: an English officer went into the forest near Aurangabad for hunting. From the scrap of crescent-shaped bill, he noticed a strange glitter in the foliage and rubble. He set out to explore, enrolling assistants from the locality. Read more about the Ajanta and Ellora Caves and places to see in and around Aurangabad

By and by a wonderful world, 2000 years old, emerged, as caves were unearthed or opened up. Whoever be the visionary behind the creation of the amazing art of Ajanta and Ellora, his vision was sublime and be bad managed to rope in a group of extraordinarily gifted artists to execute his vision. Now recognized by UNESCO as one of the greatest monuments of historical importance on Earth, the magnificent caves of Ajanta and Ellora are a treasure in the true sense of Indian history.

"I may err in my judgment, but it is my humble opinion that no monuments of antiquity in the known world are comparable to the caves of Elora, whether we consider their unknown origin, their stupendous size, the beauty of their architectural ornaments, or the vast number of statues and emblems, all hewn and fashioned out of solid rock! In publishing this work, therefore, so far from imposing upon the public, I hope and trust that I am rendering a service to the antiquary, and contributing to the amusement and instruction of the general reader," wrote rather apologetically Mr John B. Seely, Captain of the native infantry, in his Wonders of Elora, in 1824.

Within this secluded valley they set to work to excavate in the precipitous escarpments of the living rock places of worship and of residence, pillared halls and cell-surrounded Courts adorned with beautifully carved sculpture, and marvelously executed painting. Wonderful in their architectural planning and engineering skill, these eternal structures which serve the interests of an eternal quest do not stand astride the horizon obscuring the sun and sky, but are veiled deeply by the massive folds of mountain rocks and luxuriant verdure.

The Ajanta represents the highest development of the art of fresco-painting in India. The antiquity of these caves and paintings go back to an extensive period between 2nd century B.C. and 8th century A.D. Apart from showing scenes from the Jataka tales—accounts of the Buddha's earlier incarnations— we find princes and princesses bedecked with jewellery, hermits, transactions at the market, celestial musicians, war-horses in colorful trappings, animals and birds. The image of the meditative Buddha appears vibrant with life, giving us different moods when approached from different angles.

There are thirty rock-hewn caves at Ajanta, cut into the scarp of a cliff. They were used either as Chaityas or as Viharas.

The splendors of Ajanta are still in the process of being unraveled. Some new paintings came to light only recently.

About 30 km from Aurangabad is yet another sickle-shaped hill Ellora . The rock-cut temples—34 in all—belong to three faiths: Buddhist, Jam and Hindu.
These were built between 4th and 13th centuries A.D. While the Buddhist temples are simple in their style, the Hindu temples present quite sophisticated execution.

The Kailaslia Temple

Constructed by the Rashtrakuta King, Krishna I, this is a marvel in architecture. Approximately twice the area of the Parthenon and greater in height, lavishly carved and sculptured with epic motifs, this fabulous edifice has been carved out by hand from a single rock and has gateway, pavilion, courtyard, assembly hall, vestibule, sanctum and tower! The Kailasha Temple has no parallel in the world.

Journey to Ajanta and Ellora

Although Ajanta and Ellora are grouped together, they are situated apart. The bases for trips to both the sights can be either Aurangabad or Jalgaon.

Aurangabad is on the Manmad-Kacheguda metre-gauge line of South Central Railway. Jalgaon is on the direct rail route from Mumbai to Delhi and Kolkata on Central Railway.

From Jalgaon, the Ajanta Caves are 59 km by road. Aurangabad is linked with Mumbai by air. A motor road connects Aurangabad with Ellora and Ajanta, 30 and 106 km away respectively. One visits Ellora first. From there one can go to Ajanta via Phulambari.

Special excursion coaches leave for Ellora and Ajanta, daily in the morning, from Aurangabad Railway station. The office of the India Tourism Development Corporation t Aurangabad Hotel can arrange for cars.

There are comfortable rest houses at Ellora and Ajanta. Aurangabad has good western style and Indian style hotels.

Places to see in Aurangabad

Often, on their way to Ellora and Ajanta, the visitors pass through Aurangabad hurriedly. But there is no reason why they should not stand and stare at the monuments of Aurangabad which are important in their own rights.

The original name of Aurangabad is Khidki—or window. It was the gateway to Deogiri and Pratisthan, Daulatabad and Paithan of today.

In half a day, the visitor can cover the following sights.

Aurangabad Caves

These rock-cut caves situated in the south-west (behind Bibika-Maqbara) were made between 2nd and 6th centuries A.D., and were meant for Buddhist hermits. One of the series of 12 caves is a ball of worship; the rest are Viharas. They are adorned with notable art. Near the Maqbara in Khuldabad is the austere tomb of the last great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.


This finest Mughal monument in the Deccan was built between 1657 and 1661 by Aurangzeb—a mausoleum in memory of Dilras Banu Begum, also known as Rabia Durrani, the first wife of Aurangzeb. The Taj Mahal of Agra was its model and the marble was brought from Jaipur.

The mausoleum rests on a 72-foot-square platform and all the four minarets at the corners too are 72 feet high.


This 17th century A.D. watermill turns large grinding stones even today by harnessing water. Nearby was a great relief centre for the poor in days gone by. There are cool chambers under the reservoir used in summer by those who want to study for long hours. There is a perennial waterfall.

Places to see around Aurangabad

Daulatabad Fort

This fort, called in olden days as the Deogiri Fort, is 13 km off Aurangabad and is on the way to Ellora. This was built in 1187 by Bhilama Raja of the Yadav dynasty.

In 1294 Allauddijn Khilji occupied it. It was renamed Daulatabad, by Mahammed-bin-Tughlaq who for a short time shifted his capital from Delhi to this place.

Subterranean passages and the 65-metre high extraordinarily beautiful Chand Minar are of special interest.


Paithan is 56 km from Aurangabad. Once famous as Pratisthan, a city on the river Godavan, this place is now famous for its gold and silver lace and sarees.

Pithalkhora Caves

75 km away from Aurangabad, this series of 13 caves are specimens of the rock-cut architecture of the early Hinayana Buddhist period.


Nanded is 236 km from Aurangabad. Situated on the bank of Godavari, this fort-town has a gurudwara where the remains of the last Sikh guru are enshrined.


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