Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Ajanta Caves, Part 1

Outside Aurangabad, the Ajanta Caves date all the way back to 200 B.C. and are remarkable examples of ancient Buddhist architecture. The roughly 30 caves are a mix of temples and monasteries, where Buddhists did their meditation and their daily living, overlooking the Waghora River.

The caves required centuries of work to construct - and some were built as recently as the 5th and 6th centuries AD - and are incredibly well-preserved, especially considering their age, with some of the original paintings still visible. But they were forgotten for years and only rediscovered by a British tiger-hunting party in 1819, which found them when a tiger disappeared into one of the then brush-covered caves. Tourists have been able to visit them for the past 50 years.

Behold the impressive string of caves!

Remember, the temples are carved straight into the mountainside, no empty spaces later filled with stone. These columns seem innocent enough holding up a front entrance, but every empty space you see is removed stone. And then you walk inside and the accomplishment becomes absurd. Two hundred years of hand chiseling to create one of these chambers.

Ho-hum, when's lunch? The most impressive painting in the most impressive temple. Such fluidity and volume, hundreds of years before the Renaissance. You could have been huge in Europe!

The caves are on the outside of a big horseshoe bend in the river. This view is looking away from the center section of the caves toward the other side of the river. Quite a bend. And probably quite a river during monsoon. Yes, we were there during the height of the dry season.

Buddha is present in about a third of the temples. Another impressive detail of the paintwork.

Not all the temples are finished. Peeking into an unfinished temple gives you more respect for the effort needed to carve out a chamber. All the mounds in the photograph are sections still to be removed (but now never will be).

A final look out from inside a temple, a nice view.


  1. Love your photos! So far, Aurangabad has been one of my favorite destinations in India. Loved it!!

  2. An amazing place and we're glad you're enjoying our blog. There are so many great things in India to write about.