Ajanta Things to Do

  • Things to Do
    by anilpradhanshillong
  • Things to Do
    by anilpradhanshillong
  • Things to Do
    by anilpradhanshillong

Most Recent Things to Do in Ajanta

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    A Few Words in Buddhism - Basic Explanation

    by anilpradhanshillong Written Feb 27, 2012
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    A brief definition of some Buddhist words may be proper for a better appreciation and enjoyment of the stupendous wonders of the Ajanta and Ellora caves.

    A ‘chaitya’ is a meeting or assembly hall; a ‘vihara’ is a dwelling place for the monks; a ‘stupa’ is a place where some relic of the Buddha, like hair or tooth or utensils used by him, is entomed.

    The ‘Hinayana’ phase was when the Buddha was not worshipped directly but only through symbols like the stupa, the Bodhi tree or his footprints. Later, in the ‘Mahayana’ phase, the physical form or image of the Buddha was worshipped directly.

    ‘Boddhisattva’ is a term applied to those who could have become Buddha but chose to remain on earth to guide others to attain ‘mukta’ or salvation.

    ‘Jatakas’ are tales told by the Buddha of his previous births either as a human being or as an animal or bird to better explain his preachings. They are like the Christian parables. Both used such didactic stories to convey a moral. However, in the jatakas, the re-birth element is predominant.

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    Drink water, take your time, and enjoy!

    by Liatris1 Updated Oct 8, 2011
    Up the stairs to the caves
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    There are 29 caves, so you can easily spend most of the day here. Bring water (or by it in the kiosks at the parking lot) with you when you walk. It can get really hot in the valley on the way to the caves. The caves are often cooler.

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    Rediscovered jungle beauty!

    by smirnofforiginal Updated Apr 26, 2010

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    The Ajanta Caves, also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, are older than their twin (Ellora Caves), dating from the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD. The fall of the caves of Ajanta are actually due to Ellora and were actually forgotten about until a British hunter literally stumbled across them in 1819. The jungle had reclaimed them but the beautiful paintings had been fantastically preserved. The caves are stunningly set in a horseshoe around a gorge which, after the monsoon has waterfalls to boot - would imagine that is an awesome time to view here.

    You must take an "eco bus" to the site of the caves. Now, I am taking a wild leap here and assuming that these chugging, old buses are called "eco" because, by using them they are limiting thevolume of traffic... The buses are relatively regular but be advised, when they are due to leave people emerged out of the blue to take them! You pay the conductor (7INR per person) on the bus and the fare is one way.

    There are many steps to climb at Anjanta which are tiresome in the blanket of heat. You can, should you so wish, hire a chair with 4 carriers and pretend you are modern day Maharaja. One of my children was very ill so I actually did pay for one for him. It was either that or giving him a piggy back which I certainly did not fancy! I regretted it in as much as the chair carriers are in a hurry to get around the site so that they can get their next ride. I gave them what I think was a good tip but they started shouting at me demanding I give them that each (on top of the payment for the chair) - it niggled me!

    NB flash photography is not allowed.
    At the time of my visit (April 2010) all caves were open to the public but the rumour is that they are going to be closing some off to preserve the artworks.

    The paintings are quite remarkable BUT my advice is if you intend to visit both the Ellora and the Ajanta caves, to visit Ajanta first as Ellora really are superior!

    as with all sites in India there is one fee for Indians and another for visitors!
    and as all sites in India, anybody hanging around the cave who starts "casually" talking to you about the cave(s)... is a guide official or unofficial and is after baksheesh!

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    Understanding Ajanta...

    by MM212 Updated Mar 22, 2010
    Caves 15 - 24
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    The dramatic setting of the Ajanta Caves, carved in a cliff within the deep horseshoe-shaped gorge of the Waghora River, adds to their intrigue. The thirty caves line the outer bank of the gorge and are numbered sequentially with number 1 being the cave closest to the entrance of the site (except for caves 29 and 30). This numbering system does not correspond to the order in which they were carved; the caves in the centre are generally older, from the Hinayana period (2nd century BC - 1st century AD) when the depiction of Buddha in the human form was generally forbidden, whereas caves at either end date from the later Mahayana period (4th - 7th century AD) when Buddha was generally represented in a human form, as a statue or in painted murals. These later caves are the ones that contain the exuberant murals and statues for which Ajanta is best known. The attached photos show general views of the site and the tips further below describe each cave in more detail (11 must-see caves are denoted with a star "*").

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    Viewpoint

    by MM212 Updated Mar 15, 2010
    Viewpoint over the gorge of the Waghore River

    At the top of the hill on the opposite (inner) bank of the Waghora River is a strategic viewpoint over the entire 30 caves of Ajanta. To get there, one must cross one of the two concrete bridges (near Caves 8 and 27) and walk uphill for another 20 minutes. Undoubtedly, the views from there are stunning and make the hike worthwhile, but I chose skip it in order to save my energy on the hot sunny day when I was in Ajanta. Seen in the attached photograph, on the top of the hill on the left hand side, is this very viewpoint.

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    Cave 4

    by MM212 Updated Mar 15, 2010
    Sculptures in Cave 4
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    Carved around 500 AD, Cave 4 is one of the newer in Ajanta and its largest vihara. Although never completed, the monastery still contains some impressive sculptures and traces of faded paintings. Its portal is intricately carved with a bodhisattva (enlightened being) as the "reliever of eight great perils", while the interior square hall is supported by 28 pillars. An inner sanctuary contains a Buddha statue in a preaching position.

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    Cave 27

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Inner sanctuary of Cave 27
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    The last cave one typically enters in Ajanta, Cave 27 is partially ruined. It is a vihara (monastery) from the early 7th century that was carved on two levels, but the upper level is partially collapsed. The only interesting features are the carvings on the walls of its front porch and the large Buddha statue in its inner sanctuary.

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    Caves 22 & 23

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Rich carvings of Cave 23
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    Caves 22 and 23 are both unfinished viharas (monasteries) that date to the early 7th century. The small Cave 22 is of lesser interest. It was carved a little higher up and is reach via a few steps. The larger Cave 23, on the other hand, contains a noteworthy portal and beautifully carved decorations in its interior, despite being unfinished.

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    Cave 17 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Murals of Cave 17
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    Considered one of the most beautifully decorated among Ajanta's viharas, Cave 17 has the best preserved and the largest number of murals. It dates from the late 5th century and is similar in design to Cave 16, with 17 monk cells surrounding the main hall and an inner shrine with the usual a large Buddha statue. The walls are entirely covered in dazzling paintings depicted various scenes from the Buddhist tradition.

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    Cave 26 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Reclining Buddha of Cave 26
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    One of the last caves in the sequence, Cave 26 is well worth the effort of getting here. It is a chaitya griha (congregational temple/chapel) carved around 500 AD and is one of the grandest in Ajanta. Its façade, though not well preserved, is carved with beautiful figures and statues and contains a horseshoe window that illuminates the nave. Though devoid of paintings, the interior is magnificently decorated with sculptures and carvings along its walls, friezes and columns. It consists of the typical long central nave, surrounded by a circumambulatory passage and columns, all topped by a lofty ribbed barrel vaulted ceiling. The end of the nave is dominated by the shrine showing a seated Buddha figure. The most striking features of this chapel are the "Paranirvana" panel consisting of a 7-metre statue of a "reclining Buddha" in preparation for nirvana, and the panel depicting the "Temptation of Buddha".

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    Cave 21 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Inner sanctuary of Cave 21
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    Cave 21 is a beautiful vihara (monastery) carved in the early 6th century AD. Its front porch with ornate columns leads into spacious square hypostyle hall surrounded by 12 residential cells. Intricate bas-reliefs are sculpted on the pillars and the friezes in the interior, while fine faded murals cover the walls and colourful geometric and floral motifs are painted on the ceilings. The inner sanctuary is very richly decorated and contains a large Buddha statue in his preaching position flanked by bhodisattvas (enlightened beings). When I visited in Feb 2009, the front of the cave was obstructed by scaffolding for a restoration project.

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    Caves 18 & 19 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Interior of Cave 19
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    Skip Cave 18, which is of lesser interest, and head to the magnificent Cave 19. It is a chaitya griha (congregational hall/chapel) carved in the 5th century AD with one of the most splendidly decorated façades in all of Ajanta. The interior is typical of chaityas, with its long nave, topped by a ribbed barrel vaulted ceiling and flanked by rows of carved round columns and two aisles. The end of the nave is dominated by the domed shrine on which is a bas-relief image of a standing Buddha. The column capitals and frieze are intricately carved and the walls contain numerous well-preserved paintings.

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    Cave 16 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Squatting statue in the ceiling
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    Carved in the late 5th century AD, Cave 16 is another vihara (monastery). Its front porch contains a portal flanked by carved maidens and a colourfully painted ceiling. The interior walls are covered with numerous fine paintings of scenes from the Buddhist tradition, while the ceiling beams appear to be supported by a interesting carved figures of squatting men (see attached photo). The interior is surrounded by 14 residential cells for the monks and contains an inner shrine, dominated by the usual large Buddha statue.

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    Cave 10 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Murals of Cave 10
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    Cave 10 was the first discovered by the British soldiers who stumbled across forgotten Ajanta by chance in 1819. It is also the oldest cave, carved in 200 BC, and Ajanta's largest chaitya griha (congregational temple). Its design is quite similar to the adjacent Cave 9, with a giant horseshoe window in the façade illuminating a long nave and two colonnaded side aisles, all topped by a vaulted ceiling. Again, a large stupa or dagoba shrine representing Buddha dominates the end of the hall. Some of the murals within the cave date from the later Mahayana period during which depiction of Buddha became permissible.

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    Cave 9 (*)

    by MM212 Updated Mar 14, 2010
    Fa��ade of Cave 9
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    Cave 9 is the first chaitya griha (congregational temple, or chapel) one encounters in Ajanta. It is also one of the oldest, carved in the 2nd century BC during the Hinayana period in which Buddha was never depicted in a human form. The cave is thus devoid of statues, but the two figures flanking the façade, and some interior human paintings, were added later during the Mahayana period. In fact, there are two layers of paint on the walls, the earlier dates from the 1st century BC while the later one is from the 5th century AD and contains human figures. The interior is typical of chaityas consisting of a long central nave, lit up by a horseshoe window in the façade, surrounded by colonnaded aisles and topped by a barrel vaulted ceiling. At the end of the nave is the dagoba or stupa, the domed shrine representing Buddha.

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