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Visit Ellora and Ajanta Caves Near Aurangabad
Aurangabad is a market town, with few paved streets. But tourists don't come for this town. They come for the famous cave temples of the region... at Ellora (18 miles) and Ajanta (66 miles).

Ajanta Caves

There are 30 caves in all, carved out of a horseshoe-shaped cliff. They were discovered in 1819 by a British army officer on the trail of a panther. The caves are a series of subterranean Buddhist temples whose discovery ranks among the major archeological finds of modern times. The caves were created over a period of eight or nine hundred years, from about 200 BC to about AD 650. Nothing is known about the monks and artisans who created them.

Some of the caves are covered with frescoes. These were created by covering the rough surface of rock with a layer of clay mixed with cow dung and rice husks. A coating of white lime plaster was added and then the colors applied. What is left of them is a mixed grab bag of myth and legend along with real life scenes. Openings in the cave walls allow enough sunlight for only minor inspection. To help out attendants flash high-powered lamps. Now continue on to the fabulous Ellora Cave Temples.

Ellora Caves

There are 34 cave temples at Ellora: 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and five Jain, built in that order, probably from the 7th to 13th centuries AD. These caves have never been "lost".

No matter how much research you do preparing for a visit to Ellora, you will not be prepared for what you will actually see. The first thing to remember is that each temple is carved out of what was once a solid mass of rock, without scaffolding, starting at the top and chiseling downward. Yet each building and all of the sculptures are perfectly proportioned. In some cases the carvings are as intricate and delicate as lace.

Cave 16 houses a Hindu Temple known as Kailasa. Three million cubic feet of rock were chiseled away before the complex of temple buildings, life-size elephants, and realistic sculptures were completed. The focal-point sculpture shows Ravana, the evil king, being subdued by Shiva who's crushing him underfoot. Ten lifetimes is what it may have taken to create this temple.

Cave 10, known as Vishwakarma provided an interesting introduction to the series of temples. It has been carved to simulate wood. Even the angels on the exterior do not prepare you for the surprise when you first step inside the cave to a high-ceilinged nave-like chamber, similar in style to a Christian church. This room is dominated at the far end by an enormous 15-foot Buddha. Fluted stone beams curving across the ceiling give the impression of an upturned ship. Outside, beside stone lions, are steps leading to an upper gallery from which one can see the rows of carved queens.

Cave 11 and 12 are interesting examples of three-story temples. The facade is austere, but inside are many handsome carvings.

Caves 14, 15, and 29 are all Hindu. The deities in Cave 14 are Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Shiva. In Cave 15, the second story shows reliefs of Shiva performing various deeds.

Caves 30 to 34 are the Jain caves. They are a little farther away. Cave 32 is the best. It was built in the 12th century. From the outside it appears smaller and less elaborate, but inside it is really quite impressive, with traces of color still visible on the walls and the ceilings.
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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