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A walk through the Ajanta Caves – photo feature

December 3, 2007

The Ajanta caves are about 30 in number and have been carved out of sheer rock. They are from two distinct periods: 2nd century B.C. to the 1st century A.D and 5th – 6th century A.D. and represent the Buddhist form of architecture. The venue chosen is a beautiful and isolated one, a horse-shoe shaped gorge about 2 hours drive from Aurangabad. The place is a sacred place, and at one time was a place of worship and meditation for Buddhists.

The photograph below, which I made by combining 3 photos into one shows the curve of the gorge. You can see the caves at the left and the right.

 

It’s a long walk if you want to see all the caves and can easily take up to 3-4 hours, if not longer. It depends how long you want to spend in each cave. There are those who spend a whole day examining the various paintings and sculptures.

 

The photograph below has an inset of the entrance of a temple. Some of the carvings are quite intricate, both outside and inside.

 

You can see the remnants of the beautiful paintings here. This corridor is outside the temple and despite that parts of the painting have been preserved.

 

It is very dark inside the temples (the Buddhists used water and reflectors to light it up) and it is difficult to take photographs although small dim lights have been placed at strategic places. The use of the flash is not allowed as this ruins the paintings.

 

A slightly detailed view of the paintings is given in a box at the bottom left.

 

Even the roof was painted.

 

The temple below is one of the larger ones and looks beautiful with the glowing lights.

 

The carvings are breathtaking and awesome, just like the paintings.

 

The statue of the Sleeping Buddha is famous.

 

The paintings and sculptures represent the events from the life of the Buddha. Many of the stories depict great tales which preach Buddhism and the path to Nirvana.

 

The statue below is said to be the best preserved statue of the Buddha at Ajanta.

(All photographs are copyrighted to me)

It’s best to avoid Aurangabad in summer as it’s very hot! Difficult to take for someone who is not used to heat and the sun. There is a lot of walking to do!

Related Seeing/Reading:The cave temples of Ellora
Aurangabad caves, Bibi-ka-maqbara and the Daulatabad Fort – photo feature
Aurangabad in pictures
Other travel articles with photos
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33 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2007 9:55 am

    Hello Nita,
    Long time no see.
    As I look forward to a white xmas in DC and not being able to travel, I am green with envy and blue with longing as I look at these pictures…
    But man, has truly created some wonderful things…

  2. December 3, 2007 10:07 am

    Nita: What a great post!

    You write that they used water and reflectors to light up the insides. I think as a child I read somewhere that the sun comes in only just before sunset so the caves were painted over a period of time using that light. Did you find any such reference too?

    Thanks.

  3. December 3, 2007 10:18 am

    Thank you Catwalq, yes I can hear your longing. Why don’t you make a trip out here? India will welcome you and your friends! As a student group you could even get some decent discounts!

    Shefaly, yes some of the caves did have the sun come in at certain angles are certain times and you are absolutely right! However there are some caves that go deep inside, and the inner sanctum is pitch dark. I was absolutely in awe as to how the ancients managed to work inside here. Mirrors,sometimes huge ones, were used. There were gullies and pits in the ground in the main halls, which we were told held water, to enhance whatever light was present.

  4. December 3, 2007 10:39 am

    These are nice images.
    Went there some five years back, is a great place to spend a day.

  5. December 3, 2007 11:37 am

    Oh lovely pictures. I need to see them in real now. A few years back an American friend had asked me if India had anything preserved from the ancient times, like we see in Greece. I had mumbled something then, but have since learned much about India.

    You should write a piece on India’s monuments, their preservation and Indians attitude to their culture – Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian. Unless you have already done that!

  6. December 3, 2007 1:14 pm

    Nita – this is a delightful treat, and you have made really fine composite pictures to show the spaces in these caves. I am completely envious of you for having made this journey. That you were captivated and your imagination was stirred is so well expressed in this post. I love the fact that sacred places in all cultures have been the result of the labours of many people to give physical form to their beliefs. These caves should make it into a list of “Wonders of the World” if there is such a compilation. I have been to St Peter’s in Rome, and quite understand that these holy sites you have shown are of equal magnificence. I am happy just to be able to see the computer just clearly enough, right now as, even if I travelled to these caves today I would not be able to see them at all well. Wonderful! G

  7. December 3, 2007 1:14 pm

    went there last, in a different life time (8th standard types)….. had great memories of both Ajanta nad Ellora…. this post brought back a lot of good memories…. should go back to visit !!

  8. December 3, 2007 3:05 pm

    Ujj, hi and thanks. Nice to see you here.🙂

    Anand thanks. That’s a lovely idea and no, I have not done anything as comprehensive as that. But that is a goal I can certainly keep in mind.

    Suburban, It feels great to read about your reaction. I hope one day you can indeed travel to India.

    Harini, I went there just last month and now I want to visit again! We spend about 4 hours there but finally turned back as we were too tired. It was so hot!

  9. ulag permalink
    December 3, 2007 9:42 pm

    great pictures!!!!

  10. December 3, 2007 9:47 pm

    Nice post and beautiful pictures, Nita. I’ll be visiting Ajanta-Ellora on my next trip to India.🙂

  11. December 3, 2007 11:14 pm

    wow finally u got to putting up the pics
    refreshed my memories !

    i had a very old book my granddad purchased while on its trip there, would have to search it but the pics in that one are quite awesome. if i find it i will definitely post

  12. Jackie permalink
    December 4, 2007 6:45 am

    “bout time I came out of lurking to admire this wonderful eye-feast. Thank you, Ms. Nita. Your entries are always a must -read, along with a few of your regulars. Thank you!

  13. December 4, 2007 8:39 am

    Thanks Ulag, Amit, Prax, Jackie.🙂
    Amit, good to hear that you are will visit ajanta ellora on your next trip…these are treasures that every human being should see! I will be writing a post on Ellora next week.
    Jackie, good to hear from you. And thank you!

  14. December 4, 2007 3:38 pm

    The very first panoramic photograph gives a clue to the audience about this place and the area which needs to covered. Thanks for sharing these.

  15. December 4, 2007 4:19 pm

    Hi, Nita. I’m here via suburbanlife and I am just enthralled by these photos of caves. They are so ethereal, I’m stunned.

  16. December 4, 2007 4:23 pm

    Also, while I’m at it. I just did four posts in a row about domestic violence in the U.S. following the murder-suicide of a man and his wife and three children. The wife was a friend of a friend of mine, and she wants bloggers everywhere to post in honor of her friend’s murder. I posted resources for U.S. victims of domestic violence, but I imagine you would be a great source for posting about the problem and resources in India. Let me know if you post. I’m keeping track and counting, for the sake of the family. We bloggers have something unique to offer to comfort them.

  17. December 4, 2007 7:30 pm

    Thanks Arun, Individual Voice.🙂

    Individual Voice I have written a fairly long and detailed post about domestic violence in India here. In fact I have given stats for the world too.
    I would like to do something in honour of your friend’s wife, but in India I would feel very hesitant to recommend the organisations that help battered women.

  18. December 4, 2007 7:45 pm

    Nita, thanks for this refreshing gulp of the holy Indian waters of spirituality!…

  19. December 4, 2007 11:01 pm

    I read the domestic violence post you wrote last year and it was excellent. I’d like to better understand why you are hesitant to post organizations. Do they exist? If so, how do women find them? What is the purpose of the secrecy? I’m very curious to know.

  20. December 4, 2007 11:10 pm

    @the individual voice:

    Actually in India it is very difficult to say which organisations are doing good work as some govt. centres (which help unfortunate women who have been abandoned or beaten by their spouses) have got involved in sex scams and even some NGO’s are suspect. There are some good help centres too but as I do not have a personal experience of any of them personally I would hesitate to mention them, particularly because this is a very sensitive subject.
    But yes, there are a lot of women’s groups like Vimochana for example which help women (mainly by counseling and providing support like legal help) and they are present in all cities. These are ofcourse very reliable but they are not specifically geared to help victims of domestic violence, but also dowry victims, female foeticide etc. Women in India tend to get a raw deal!

  21. December 4, 2007 11:56 pm

    Impressive pictures!

  22. December 5, 2007 12:58 am

    Nita, you are opening my eyes. Thank you.

  23. December 5, 2007 9:11 pm

    Very nice pictures Nita. Good post. Thanks for sharing.

  24. December 5, 2007 10:27 pm

    beautiful photos nita. Need to make a visit now. I loved the first shot, and also the one in the dark – the effect there is surreal.

  25. December 5, 2007 10:36 pm

    Ray, Prerna, thanks.

    Arunk, thanks. And surreal is the right word! That’s exactly what I felt when I was inside the caves…it was a strange out of the world feeling and it was kind of spiritual too. In fact in most of the times it was impossible to take pictures, it was pitch black except for some glowing object at a distance. And when I thought that people had made these paintings and sculptures more than a 1000 years ago, it left me in absolute awe. I was totally gone!

  26. December 6, 2007 1:43 am

    Absolutely stunning. I can only imagine being there and the feelings induced, but WOW…the art, architecture, spirituality, and nature of it all. When I eventually tour India I’ll have to spend a day there. Thanks for the tip.

  27. December 6, 2007 10:39 am

    @Mish Lee:

    Thanks. Hope you make the trip soon! And in Aurangabad there’s Ellora too, which I will be posting about next week. You need to spend another day there because you cannot do Ajanta and Ellora on the same day as they lie in different directions.

  28. December 17, 2007 7:23 pm

    Nita, I am late reading this post.. Great post! I haven’t seen these many pics anywhere else.. There are lot of things to explore from these carvings on every structure of this Place. but sadly these carvings are almost dieing.

    I guess this place has got structures representing three faiths – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

    and BTW I am Jain – Shwethamber.

  29. December 17, 2007 9:18 pm

    @Bharath:

    Thanks. I always get a little confused about Buddhism and jainism. I do know that both worship the Buddha. By the way I am a great fan of Buddhism and am more in tune with the philosophies of Buddhism rather than Hinduism.
    ajanta is just buddhist and if they have some other gods here, these were never the main ones. Temples here are dedicated to Buddha.

  30. Arun Nigudkar permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:29 am

    Dear Neeta,

    You have done excellent job on displaying Ajanta. I would like to supplement your hobby and interest. Ajanta Cave s is a unique site, it is only here that 18 ancient Indian sciences can be seen . Our Ancients had used those very skillfully in a span of 800 years from 2nd cen BC to 650 AD, The problem with our History Teachers is that they totally neglect the scientific aspect of understanding Ajanta paintings and talk in general on Buddha Jatakas. I deliver talks on what were the sciences that went in the actual production of the cave paintings and how our Civilization was besically science orinted.

  31. babasaheb tarkase permalink
    October 29, 2010 5:12 am

    Yes there is proof for water used as reflectors for painting go in any cave and see 6-8 inches deep space to store water and see the direction of sun in the whole day some angle light would be there.

  32. October 31, 2012 5:33 pm

    a gart indian

  33. babasaheb tarkase permalink
    May 12, 2016 6:55 am

    one should visit the site once in life to see the greatest indian culture painted in natural colors no machines for excavation no chisels hammers nor any surfactants to make surface plain for paintings.

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