It is home to some of the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art. UNESCO calls them masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. I am talking about the rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments called Ajanta caves that is located about 120 kms from Aurangabad city in Maharashtra.
Everything about Ajanta is mesmerizing. Be its U-shaped gorge along the meandering Waghore river with its umpteen waterfalls, its sheer engineering marvel, its acoustical capabilities or its creative oomph that one can experience through paintings, sculptures and carvings, it is a treat to the eyes and an experience of a lifetime. 30 caves, the oldest about 2200 years old, portraying stunning rock architecture with expressive paintings, pictorial tales and interesting sculpting beg to be explored.
This photo essay is an attempt to give you a sneak peek into its diverse beauty. However, I would recommend that you see it in person to get the true experience.
Above photo: One of Ajanta’s most iconic paintings, it depicts the gentle features of Padmapani or Avalokiteshwara, a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The colors may have faded over the years, but its grace and three dimensional beauty still remains.
Above photo: A few kilometers from Ajanta caves uphill through the forest brings you to a view point from where you can see all the 30 caves in one way along with the entire gorge landscape and the meandering Waghore river. A much recommended location on your next trip to Ajanta caves.
Above photo: Cave 19 is one of the top caves to visit in Ajanta. It’s large worship hall is made up of beautifully decorated pillars, an arched roof, many sculptures and beautiful acoustics.
Above photo: It is an absolute joy to sit in one of Ajanta’s caves and just admire the entire cave landscape. And may be even visualize how it would have been 200 years ago.
Above photo: If you walk downward from the viewpoint to Ajanta caves, you will come across a steep drop in the gorge, a large 7 tiered waterfall and the Waghore river flowing by the Ajanta caves 30 to 1 (in descending order).
Above photo: Cave 17, another one of Ajanta’s gems is home to an intricately carved inner shrine with a large statue of Buddha, many wall paintings and ceiling work.
Above photo: This wall painting in Cave 17 portrays a story from the Jataka tale. Called Shaddanta Jataka, it is about a 6 tusked elephant giving away his tusks.
Above photo: Ajanta is not simple rock cut caves, but one that has been painstakingly carved with beautiful designs and motifs.
Above photo: Cave 26 has to be one of Ajanta’s best caves when it comes to sculpting, sheer size and the stories it tells through its sculpting.
Above photo: A sculpting story in Cave 26 where the demon king Mara asks his daughters to seduce Buddha and break his meditation.
Above photo: Another angle to show you more beauty from Cave 26, one of the top caves to explore in Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra.
Above photo: Cave 2, along with Cave 1 is an absolute treat to the eye. The wall paintings, the 3 dimensional colored ceiling, the Buddha statue, the carved pillars and the amazing work in every nook and cranny makes this cave extra special.
Above photo: Cave 1 is famous for its paintings that have stood the test of time. There are so many things to see and learn here. Just this cave should take you an hour if not more.
Above photo: This is how the ceiling of Cave 1 looks like. Murals adorn not just the walls, but the ceilings too. The motifs talk about life at that time.
Above photo: This wall painting in Cave 1 is from the Mahajanaka jataka tale where the king (Lord Buddha) abdicates his throne to become an ascetic.
Above photo: The view that greets you as soon as you enter Cave 1. Everything about it is special. It’s wall paintings are legendary. Its ceiling murals are amazing. Its pillar carvings are spectacular and even the statue of Lord Buddha in the inner shrine is splendid. One of Ajanta’s top attractions.
Above photo: Another one of the wall paintings in Cave 2 of Ajanta. This depicts Lord Buddha in Tushita heaven. You can also see the mandala like carvings on the wall beside the ceiling and more colorful murals on the ceiling.