'Ajanta caves' is a complex of 31 Buddhist caves, located in a scenic valley of river Waghur near Aurangabad. It includes well-preserved paintings dating back to 1500 years and is a recognized World Heritage for its murals and sculptural masterpieces.
Maharashtra is known for its abundance of Buddhist caves – about 800 of them spread across various districts. But of these, the 32 caves at the World Heritage Site of Ajanta stand out distinctively and attract tourists in large numbers because of their architectural splendour, Buddhist legacy and artistic masterpieces, including narratives painted on the walls of ‘chaityas’ (prayer halls) and ‘viharas’(residential cells). The caves include paintings and sculptures described by the government’s Archaeological Survey of India as “the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting” and these are representative of Buddhist religious art with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales.
Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, India.
Ajanta caves are known as the masterpiece of Buddhist religious art across the globe. This UNESCO heritage site, named after a neighboring medieval village, has more than 30 caves. All the caves are rock-cut in nature, and the antiquity of it goes back to 2000 years. It is on the ancient trade route, which was part of a network of silk routes.
Ajanta cave complex is on a horseshoe-shaped escarpment overlooking the Waghur river. These fascinating caves were carved out of rock in two phases. The first phase started around the 2nd Century BCE under the dominance of Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism, and the second around 460-480 CE under Mahayana Buddhism. These caves were used for several religious purposes and had dedicated functional roles like Chaityas (prayer halls), Viharas (assembly halls) that made the ancient monastery at Ajanta.
The paintings in the caves depict the events from Buddha's life, his past lives, and other Buddhist deities. The beautiful narrative murals on the cave walls are accompanied by decorative paintings portraying nature and geometric patterns.
The place from where Captain John Smith saw the Ajanta caves and rediscovered it for the world in 1819 is known as 'View Point', and it acts as an entrance to the caves.
Caves 1, 2, 16, and 17 are known for paintings from Jataka tales and Avadana tales. Caves 9 and 10 are the Theravada (Hinayana) chaityagrihas (Buddhist prayer halls) consisting of a Stupa representing the Buddha. Caves 19 and 26 are chaityagrihas from the Mahayana period and have Stupa with Buddha images. The several inscriptions in caves mention the patrons of the site that primarily include merchants, traders, kings, ministers, and monks.
The art of Ajanta has influenced the later art schools and monuments in Deccan. The legacy of the painting tradition is seen at other sites like Sigiriya in Sri Lanka and Kizil in Central Asia.
The Ajanta caves are carved in the Basaltic Gorge of river Waghur. Basaltic Gorge is a unique geological formation with various lava flows that created the Deccan trap. The forests surrounding Ajanta are adjacent to the Gautala Autramghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
The region of Aurangabad has a hot and dry climate. The summers are more extreme than winters and monsoon, with a temperature up to 40.5 degrees Celsius.
Winters are mild, and the average temperature varies from 28-30 degrees Celsius.
Monsoon season has extreme seasonal variations, and the annual rainfall in Aurangabad is around 726 mm.
Things to do
- Visit View Point and cave complex
- Visit the Site Museum and Information Centre
- Explore the beauty of nature
- Visit medieval fortified Village of Ajanta
- Shopping from local artisans and shopping plaza
Nearest tourist places
- Ajanta Ellora International Festival for dance, music, and craftsmanship celebrated in October.
- Explore other cave sites like Pitalkhora, Ghatotkacha, Ellora, and Aurangabad.
- Visit the archaeological sites like Daulatabad Fort, Bibi ka Maqbara, Anwa Temple, Chandikadevi Temple at Patanadevi.
- Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Visit a Hindu pilgrim centre Ghrishneshwar temple, Ellora
Special food speciality and hotel
Non-veg: Naan Khaliya
Vegetarian: Hurda, Daal Batti, Vaangi Bharata (a special preparation of Brinjal/Eggplant), Shev Bhaji
Agricultural Produce: Bananas from Jalgaon.
Accommodation facilities nearby & Hotel/ Hospital/Post Office/Police station
Being an important tourist destination, it provides good tourist facilities like hotels to stay in, restaurants, primary health centres, and public toilets. MTDC has set up a restaurant adjacent to the site for the convenience of visitors.
Visiting Rule and Time, Best month to visit
Ajanta caves visiting hours: 9.00 A.M to 5:00 P.M (Monday Closed)
One has to leave vehicles at T Point and get the green bus, as the site falls inside the protected forest.
No eatables are allowed at the site.
June to March is the best time to visit Ajanta caves.
Language spoken in area
English, Hindi, Marathi