Exploring the Ajanta Ellora Caves

While Ajanta Ellora Caves are often clubbed together, they are actually two separate sites. Today, Ajanta Ellora Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site which exists on the wishlist of many travellers. These caves are a stunning example of what mankind can do with hammers and chisels. They are undoubtedly one of the best man-made creations.

History of Ajanta Ellora Caves

History of caves

The history of Ajanta Caves goes back to the time between the 2nd century BCE to 480 or 650 CE. The caves were built in two phases. However, some of the caves were not completed, and some had been excavated for a short period of time.

On the other hand, Ellora Caves, situated in the village of Ellora, happened to be younger, with a history dating back to the 5th and 10th centuries CE. The Ellora caves are divided into 3 parts – Hindu Caves, Jain caves, and Buddhist caves. Ellora Caves have always had the attention it deserves. 

What makes Ajanta Ellora Caves an Architectural Gem?

Ajanta Caves: The caves at Ajanta were excavated out of a vertical cliff above the left bank of the river Waghora in the hills of Ajanta. Additionally, they are 30 in number, including the unfinished ones, of which five (caves 9, 10, 19, 26, & 29) are Chaitya Grihas or Sanctuary, and the rest are Viharas or Monastery. 

Rock-cut staircases connect the caves to the river. The excavation activity was carried out in two different phases, separated by an interval of about four centuries. The first phase coincides with the rule of the Satavahana Dynasty, while the second phase corresponds to the Vakataka Dynasty.

Ellora Caves: Built during a later period, the Ellora Caves have Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu rock-cut temples. The most prominent among these is the Kailasha Temple, built in the 8th century CE. Moreover, not satisfied with just excavating a hole in a cave, the king instructed the entire rock face to be cut away.

The temple has been carved from the hillside with enormous pillars, statues, gateways, corridors, and walls depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. In terms of scale, the ground plan of the Kailasha Temple is believed to be the same as that of the Parthenon and the height is about half of it.

Ajanta Ellora Caves: Interesting Facts

Ellora Caves’ Facts

  • Ellora caves were carved on the volcanic basalt formation, also known as the Deccan Trap.
  • Cave 15, which is the Dashavatara in Ellora, depicts the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu.
  • Cave 29, which is the Dhumar Lena, has a design similar to that of the Elephanta Caves.

Ajanta Caves’ Facts

  • Ajanta Caves were excavated on a rock surface that appeared to be horseshoe-shaped.
  • The carvings of the caves appear to be wooden constructions.
  • The main subjects of the paintings found in the caves are Jataka tales and incidents from the life of Lord Buddha.

Their Significance

Cave paintings

The Ajanta Caves paintings are the earliest and most important wall paintings in India and are particularly significant because all other forms of paintings, such as palace murals and paintings on wood, cloth or palm-leaf from before 1000 CE, have not survived. It became an important centre for Buddhist religion and art.

The Ellora Caves not only bear witness to the three great religions – Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism, but also illustrate the spirit of tolerance which permitted these three communities in a single place, which thus served to reinforce its universal value.

Key Attractions of Ajanta Ellora Caves

Ajanta and Ellora caves are inspiring architectural wonders with a historic sentiment attached to them. Additionally, these caves are a treat to witness with the naked eyes and are one of the most famous historical places in India. 

Below are some of the major attractions or places to visit at the Ajanta and Ellora Caves:

Ajanta Caves: Ajanta Caves comprises 30 rock-cut caves, which showcase some of the finest paintings and sculptures ever recorded in Indian history. While exploring this archeological gemstone, you should not miss out on visiting Cave 1, Cave 2, and Cave 16.

Ellora Caves: Ellora Caves has 34 caves, each of which has its own speciality. If there is a time constraint, then you must make it a point to visit at least Cave 1, Cave 2, and Cave 16. Otherwise, do not miss out on the Ellora Caves waterfalls.

A Guide to Ajanta Ellora Caves Trip

March to June is the best time to visit Ajanta and Ellora Caves due to the pleasant weather. From June to September (monsoon) the region receives an average of plenty of rain showers, which makes the exploration experience a delight. 

Ajanta Ellora Caves timings:  

Ajanta Caves

Timings: 9 am to 9:30 pm. However, it remains closed on Monday.

Entry Fee: INR 40 per head for the Indian Tourists & INR 600 per head for the foreign tourists. However, there is INR 0 for children below 15 years old. There is also an extra charge of INR 25 per camera.

Ellora Caves

Timings: Ellora caves open at sunrise, and its closing time is around sunset.

Entry fee: INR 40 per head for the Indian Tourists & INR 600 per head for the foreign tourists. There is also an extra charge of INR 25 per camera.

How to Reach Ajanta Ellora Caves?

Being a popular attraction in India and one of the best places to visit in Aurangabad, they are easily accessible through various modes of transportation. Moreover, you can reach them by air, train, and road.

Their Timeless Legacy

Calling these wonders mere ‘caves’ would be an utter disgrace to the brilliant craftsmanship of ancient India. It is really hard to imagine that such complex designs were carved out of rocks. It is fascinating that sculptures with minute details depicting stories from the Jatakas and religious scriptures on the cave temples’ walls stand strong even today. Climate change, weathering – nothing could take their glory away.


Which caves are better, Ellora or Ajanta?

Both the Ajanta and the Ellora Caves have their own beauty and significance. Ajanta Caves are known for their paintings. On the other hand, Ellora caves are known for their mythological sculptures.

How far is Ajanta Caves from Ellora Caves?

The distance between them is about 100 kms.

Can Ajanta and Ellora Caves be covered in one day?

Yes, you can cover both in one day if you rush through the sites. There is a 3 hour distance between them both. So, it may be a good idea to keep 1 day for each the Ajanta Caves and the Ellora Caves.

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