One of the most impressive, astonishing and unforgettable masterpieces of architecture I’ve ever seen in my life.
05.01.2007 - 06.01.2007 30 °C
5 January 2007
The best way to visit Ellora and Ajanta is to stay in Aurangabad, a dusty and loud city but really well connected with the caves. We arrived to Aurangabad early in the morning (there is a direct night train from Mumbai). There is a couple of good restaurants open even at 6 am, just turn right while leaving the parking in the front of the railway station. We didn’t really look for a hotel, as usual in India the hotel always look for you first, so don’t worry.
The temples in Ellora are just 30 km away from Aurangabad. The best way to get there is to take a bus from the bus station, which is a little bit away from the railway station area. For 5Rs/per. (after bargain of course) you can get there with an auto-rikshaw.
We decided to go to Ellora the same day we arrived to Aurangabad, but we had lost a lot of time in the cues to buy the train ticket for our next destination (Indian trains bureaucracy is just unbelievable for us - Europeans). Anyway we arrived to Ellora at 11 am. It was already so unbearably hot. It’s really wise to take a big bottle of water with you, there are more than 30 caves to visit!
The biggest attraction of Ellora is definitely the Kailasa Temple. An absolutely amazing Hindu temple devoted to Shiva. It symbolize the Kailasa Mountain which, according to Hindu religion, is home to Shiva. The temple is … breathtaking. It was built from one piece of stone, actually carved from a giant rock! And it’s bigger than the Parthenon in Athens. It’s really worth to enter inside (5$, the entrance to the rest of the caves is free) and look at each detail of the marvelously sculptured façade.
The Kailasa Temple inside
Kailasa temple - an ornament
The Kailasa temple inside
The Kailasa temple inside
The temple is surrounded by an imposing two levels “archway” (which is also home to many bats). There are some fabulous sculptures of Shiva on the 2nd level but climbing the terribly steep, slippery and completely dark stairway is pretty dangerous. The sacred rooms inside the temple are serene and it’s atmosphere is really spiritual. I spent there around two hours, it’s so incredibly beautiful! Then, I climbed the rock in which this temple was carved, the view is stunning and believe me it leaves you speechless.
The Kailasa Temple seen from the surrounding rock
Women lokking at the Kailasa Temple
After such an incredible “architectural experience” the Buddhist caves (on the right of Kailasa Temple) looked really poor to me, at least at the first sight. No imposing and widely decorated sculptures, no ornaments just simple caves with a statue of Buddha or a Stupa inside. But maybe it was actually the point of men who carved those caves. Maybe this simplicity reflects the will to focus on what is really important, on what’s essential...
The Buddhist caves
The Hindu and Jain temples are located on the left of Kailasa Temple. There is a narrow and picturesque path which leads you there. The Hindu temples remembered me the Egyptian temples in Luxor, probably because of the great colonnades.
The picturesque path to the caves
Western tourists taking rest in one of the Hindu caves
The Jain temples are definitely the “richest”, I mean the most decorated. They’re just submerged with ornaments. We were visiting the Jain temples in the evening, after 5 hours spent in the other caves, and I must confess that the thing I remember the most from that place was the sunset. The incredibly soft and colourful light of the Indian sun on the lonely tree that grow just in the front of the last temple.
Inside one of the Jain temple
In a Jain temple in Ellora
It’s is easy to get to Ellora but to catch a bus back to Aurangabad in the evening seems to be impossible. There are many jeeps running to Aurangabad but you need to bargain hard and then wait until the jeep is full, which in India means overcrowded. We were 21 persons traveling in our jeep, some of on the roof. But what I like about India is the very friendly atmosphere in all means of transport. No matter how uncomfortable it can be, it is always a positive social experience.
A little girl in our overcrowded jeep to Aurangabad
6 January 2007
The journey started early in the morning. A praying muezzin from the mosque nearby our hotel waked us up. We took the bus to Ajanta which is about 100 km away from Aurangabad. It was a very pleasant way, the bus was almost empty, at least at the beginning, so we could observe the beautiful sunrise above the surrounding hills. The bus don’t reach Ajanta, it leaves you 4 km away from it, in a crazy place called T-junction. Why is it crazy? Well, to get to the bus which goes to the caves you need to pass through a kind of souvenir market, specially created for western tourists. What’s really funny about it is that you need to pay a entrance fee of 5 Rs, just to pass through, which can be a difficult task if you’re not good enough in saying “no”, the vendors are really skilled.
When we finally reach our bus I was sure that we left all the vendors behind. I realized that it was an illusion when I find out that my neighbor is a postcard seller.
I really can’t find suitable words to describe how amazing the Ajanta caves are. First of all there are situated in a magnificent place, a kind canyon looking river valley, so the landscape is just breathtaking. The caves themselves are all Buddhist caves and they’re much more ornamented than those in Ellora.
The caves an the impressive surroundings
Colonnades, large halls and impressive Buddha statues inside are really beautiful. In some of the caves you can still observe wall paintings. How strong must have been the faith and the devotion of men who carved all these 30 caves ? One of them is unfinished and it’s one of the most impressive of all. While looking at it I realized how hard work it was to built such a cave without any of our modern, electric tools. All the caves are masterpieces of art, there’re the most incredible sculptures I’ve ever seen.
One of the caves
Inside one of the caves
Inside one of the caves
Beautiful statue of the lying Buddha
On the other side of the river is the viewpoint (keep your ticket if you want to go back to the caves). But the truly great view is some 100 meters away. Not only the caves are absolutely awesome here, the river is as well.
Masterpieces of nature
Masterpieces of nature in Ajanta