The ancient, Ajanta caves

Aurangabad (meaning “Built by the Throne”) is named after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The city is a tourist hub, surrounded with many historical monuments, including the Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves. My time in Aurangabad started off with a little excursion…. to the local hospital! Its ok, relax, i just got a little splinter in my foot in Jaipur and it didn’t come out so here at the hospital, aswell treating me like a celebrity due to my fair complexion, they simply prescribed some antibiotics,

wrapped it up and sent me on my way tooo…..

The Ajanta Caves! It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive through the plains and plateaus of the Deccan valley

Once at the site we then had a bit of a hike up (my Indian Dad got some assistance!)

and then we were up at the caves! The Ajanta Caves are a series of 29 Buddhist cave temples in Ajanta, India, some of which date from the 2nd century BC that were carved out of a horseshoe-shaped cliff along the Waghora River.

They were used by Buddhist monks as prayer halls (chaitya grihas) and monasteries (viharas) for about nine centuries, then abruptly abandoned. They fell into oblivion until they were rediscovered in 1819.

Encompassing both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the Ajanta caves preserve some of the best masterpieces of Buddhist art in India.

Our knowledgeable guide wasted no time and launched into an in-depth analysis of the caves (not all of them, only the most important and it was have taken days otherwise!) Whilst my terrible short term memory mean i can’t recall all the details, i’ll pass on as many as possible and let wikipedia fill in some of the gaps

The caves are traditionally numbered starting from the one closest to the village, not chronologically by date which can get a touch confusing and is another reason why a guide is so valuable here.

The Mahayana caves, feature colorful murals and statues depicting the life (and former lives) of the Buddha and various Bodhisattvas. Whist others reflect the earlier Theravada tradition of depicting the Buddha only in symbolic form such as a throne or footprints. The caves also depict scenes from everyday life and many include inscriptions indicating a prince or noble who gifted the cave to the monks.

First sanctuaries (including sanctuaries No. 9, 10, 19, 26) – chaytia-grihas – were created during the Satavahana dynasty in 2nd – 1st century. Murals preserved from this time belong to the oldest monuments of painted art in India. It is absolutely astonishing that some of these paintings still remain from 2000 years ago! 2000!!! And even more than that, the level of artistry in the paintings and engineering brilliance in the creation of the caves puts many of today’s engineers who rely so heavily on modern technology, to shame.

My favorite was Cave 1 – The most popular of the monastery caves at Ajanta. With little rooms around the edges where monks would sleep and meditate in darkness, every inch of the cave was originally painted! Although much has worn away over the centuries

Towards the end of the explorations it began to POUR down with rain. As the intoxicating smell of rain on dusty cliffs rose up, we simply sat under the cover of the caves and enjoyed.

We had to run to some of the caves through the rain, but it was well worth it and when still partially drenched, we posed infront of the green, wet cliffs for a family snapshot!

Back down to the entrance and on our way out – we also saw some monkeys! I was thrilled but no one else seemed to care a huge amount because apparently they are so common here.

When my Indian family comes to Australia – i imagine they’ll feel how i felt when we see kangaroos!


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