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Ajanta Caves Tour

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The Ajanta caves are situated in the Aurangabad district in the state of Maharashtra in India. Amidst the Sahyadri hills, the rock-cut caves are located by the side of the river Waghora with thick forest all around it. The caves are said to be the masterpieces of Buddhist art and architecture. It depicts the flourishing era of Buddhism and also the religious influence, it had at that period of time. It is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Today, these caves hold the distinction of being a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Ajanta CavesThere are thirty caves in Ajanta, some still unfinished. The caves are said to have gone through times of prosperity as well as the decline of the two sects of Buddhism, the Hinayana and the Mahayana. Their stupendous architecture is still visible in the caves. They are adorned with paintings, scriptures and the works of both the sects. The Ajanta caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and religious devotees for more than 800 years.
Thus, it is one of the famous pilgrimage sites in India.

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History :

Ajanta Caves shows the shift from the Hinayana sect of Buddhism to the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. While the Hinayana sect made use of the stupas and other rock forms to represent Buddha, the Mahayana sect used idols. Cave number 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 have been cut by the older sect, Himayana. While those of number 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26 relate to the Mahayana sect. The 19th and 26th caves are Chaityas. Some of the caves have not been finished till date.

Cave number nine, ten, twelve and thirteen were prepared in the first phase and date back to somewhere between 2nd century BC and 1st century BC. Cave number nine and ten comprise of the Chaitya Halls or shrines. Cave number twelve and thirteen basically served as viharas or monasteries.

The second phase came up with cave number one to seven, eleven and forteen to twenty-nine. All of these caves date back to somewhere between 5th century AD to 6th century AD. Cave number nineteen, twenty six and twenty-nine comprise of Chaitya Halls or shrines. While, cave number one to seven, eleven, fourteen to eighteen, twenty to twenty-five, twenty-seven and twenty-eight are viharas or monasteries.

Cave number two, three, five, eight, twenty-three to twenty-five and twenty-eight are still unfinished.

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Description of the Ajanta caves :

Cave 1 has, most of the elaborate carvings on its façade. depicting scenes of the life of the Buddha. Cave Two is known for the paintings on its walls, ceilings, and pillars. The front porch consists of cells supported by pillared vestibules on both ends. Four colonnades support the ceiling. The hall has four colonnades that support the ceiling and surround a square in the center of the hall. Each arm or colonnade of the square is parallel to the respective walls of the hall, making an aisle in between. There are three doorways: a central doorway and two side doorways. Two square windows were carved between the doorways to brighten the interiors.

Many caves are adorned with sculptures and paintings that depict Buddha preaching in a sitting position. With the use of simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out these magnificent figures that ornate the walls of these structures.

Ajanta, at present :

It was only in the 19th century that the Ajanta caves were discovered. Paintings are there, all over the cave except for the floor. At various places the art work has become eroded due to decay and human interference. Many areas of the painted walls, ceilings, and pillars are in dilapidated condition. In order to 'read' the narratives in these paintings on the wall, the devotee has to walk through the aisles. The Jataka tales are depicted which catches the attention of the local and foreign devotees who thus, make a pilgrimage tour to India.

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How to reach Ajanta Caves :

The nearest airport of Aurangabad is approximately 108 km away. Aurangabad is the nearest railhead too but one can also board trains in the Jalgaon railway station, approximately 58 km away. Ajanta Caves are well linked to Mumbai by road. Bus services are available in plenty

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