Caves Information



18
Wednesday
Ajanta Caves
Open
10 AM to 5 PM
Ellora Caves
Open
10 AM to 5 PM

This world heritage site is located about 105 km from Aurangabad city. Dating from 200 BC, these caves were excavated in two distinct phases and reportedly took more than 800 years to complete. They comprise Chaityas (Shrines) dedicated to Lord Buddha, and Viharas (monasteries) used by Buddhist monks for meditation. The paintings and sculptures depict incidents from the life of the Buddha and various divinities, with the Jataka tales, illustrating stories of Bodhisattva, being the most famous. Besides the temples and monasteries, there are magnificent murals that attract visitors from all over the world.

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Ajanta Caves Information:

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Cave 1:
This cave is the first we come across. It is attributed to the 6th -7th centuries. There are auspicious motifs on the doorway of cave 1: loving couples, river and tree Goddesses, flying dwarfs and Floral Scrolls.

GREAT BUDDHA IMAGE:

The Great Buddha Image inside is thus approached from a pleasant doorway, seen from different angles the Buddha looks different. The Naga guardians at the base are stylistically related to the larger guardians in cave 20.
GODDESS:
There is a Goddess at the upper left corner of the shrine doorway on cave 1. Her auspicious presence is radiant through the grace of the carving. She represents the earth, as she leans by the flowering tree,. She symbolizes the waters, by the Makara figure on which she stands. She is serene and intimate at same time.
CHERUBIC DWARF:
There is a lovely Cherubic Dwarf, flying through the clouds, bearing a garland of flowers to the great Buddha below. Such image are carved to focus the devotee's eye on the central image.
THE BODHISATTVA:
The Boddhisattva on the right of the Buddha image in the shrine may be a Padmapani Avaokitesvara, who holds the lotus, though this is not certain here. the figure on the left of the Buddha image is generally Vajrapani, who hold the thunderbolt. the lotus of Padmapani symbolizes grace the thunderbolt in the hand of Vajrapani indicates force.
FOUR DEER WITH A COMMON HEAD:
One of the wonders of this cave is a relief carving of four deer. This is a clever composition. All the four deer seem distinct, even though they share one head in common. The bodies seem real, as they have been carved from accurate observation of their forms.
The pilaster on left end of the porch in cave 1 is related to those of cave 19. The pilaster in cave 1 being simpler, probably came earlier than the elaborate ones in cave 19, The pilaster on the left front interior in cave 1, is more elaborate than on the left end of the porch. The medallions have swan and Makara floral design.
BODHISATTVA PADMAPANI:
The famous painting Bodhisattva Padmapani is on the left wall as we enter. This is a famous picture. The Bodhisattva, or potential Buddha, is here shown as an elegant prince. He wears a high crown with precious stones in it. On his neck is a pearl necklace, with a central big blue stone. In his right hand, he holds an open lotus, suggesting awakening, with his gracious bent head and his golden body, the almond eyes and the delicate eyebrows, the figure is almost feminine.
VAJRAPANI:
There is another well-known Bodhisattva Vajrapani with a tiara-like crown of jewels on his head. This potential Buddha may be near portrait of some donor prince of the 6th century.
THE LOVERS:
The Lovers in the same caves were probably painted to attract pleasure -loving patrons. The taboo against sex desire, of the earlier times, seems to have gone by this time
DARK PRINCESS:
The beautiful Dark Princess in profile may also be a portrait of an Andhra Princess. She is heavily bejeweled, with a delicate filigree tiara on her black hair.
DANCING GIRL:
Another picture shows the Dancing Girl with musicians. This group scene is almost like a big painting in Bagh Caves near Ujjain, in Central India, of the7th century A.D.
PRINCESS RECLINING BY A PILLAR:
One of the late lovely figures in this cave is that of a Princess reclining against a pillar. She approximates to the Indian ideal beauty: 'moon-breasted, swan-waisted, elephant-hipped' .She wears an intricate visual crown, large earrings and five-rowed necklace. Her lungi is woven with a typical pattern of horizontal floral details. She looks like a lovelorn young girl, waiting for her beloved.
A MAID IN A SAD MOOD:
This is a study of a young girl, a maid in a sad mood, seated on the ground, Her right hand holding her head with its intricate coiffeur. She is probably a servant girl. Her shapely limbs are rendered with great skill. Her Jewelry shows that even the common people of that time had an instinctive love of decorating themselves.
PERSIAN EMBASSAY:
On a wall on the right hand side, as we enter, is a scene showing the Persian Embassy. This is supposed to be a picture of a real happening in the court of Pulakesin ll. As Pulakesin ll ruled towards the end of the 6th century, the painting confirms the date of cave no.1 as of the 6th century A.D.
The Golden Geese, Pink Elephant, Bull Fight:
The Golden Geese, The Pink Elephant and the Bull Fight suggest that all living things are one. The pictures in cave 1 are skillfully done. And they are pretty pictures. They emphasize happiness. Obviously they were painted to attract visitors.

Cave 2:
The shrine doorway of cave 2 departs from the conventional doorways, of the same cave and of cave 1.
The square motif on the side of the doorway seems to be derived from doorways of other temples in India. Many motifs in Ajanta were taken from elsewhere but adapted to the shrine here.
The notable feature of cave 2 is the heavy-limbed, but swaying Avalokitesvara, with a flywhisk, who flanks the Buddha image. This feature was to develop later, far away at elephanta. The pilasters at right front interior, with squatting dwarfs in between the medallions, are exuberantly carved.
The Harati and Panchika panel at right rear of the cave; is intricate. The narrative carving of the main figures well as the attendants, including the school children, at the base, is fascinating as a domestic scene of that time.

CEILING:

One of the few surviving ceilings, with charming decorations, is in cave 2.The skill with which painters lay down on scaffoldings for long years, to paint these pictures, is reminiscent of the way Michelangelo suffered physical strain while painting the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome.
THOUSAND BUDDHAS:
The wall showing the Thousand Buddha's is a large painting, which overwhelms one with its detailed multiplication.
VOTARIES WITH OFFERINGS:
This panel shows graceful cylindrical figures of the end of the 4th century A.D. going towards the shrine.
WOMEN ON SWING:
The rhythmic movement of the princess starting off the movement on the swing is on the wall of the right hand corridor. The innocent face and the bursting youth of the girl, shows the change Buddhist idea of the 5th century A.D. that physical vitality itself leads ultimately to illumination.

Cave 4:
The porch colonnade of cave 4 began at the same time as those of cave 17,but was not finished. There were faults in the rock, which probably were against further excavations. Apart from the seated Buddha in the shrine, there are large unfinished Buddha images. These remained unfinished because by the time the cave was excavated patronage was finished. There is a double row of kneeling devotees by the crouching deer. All these are witnessing the symbolic wheel of law.
There is a goddess at the upper left corner of the porched doorway with a flowering tree above her. Dwarf musicians play instruments among the seated dwarf on the corner of the pillars. They are carved with great verve. One can almost hear the resonance of sound by looking at them
There is a flowery pilaster at left rear of the Interior. As patronage was finishing, the work on the pilaster was borrowed from previous pilasters of the same kind, through fresh, there is nothing new in it.

Cave 5:
The T-shaped porched doorway is the only feature because the scooping did not go beyond it. The exuberant carvings are evident here and the jambs and the lintems seem to be of later century.

Cave 6:
This was the first important cave of the Mahayana phase. The sculptors were probably copying wooden prototypes, or wanted stable supports, so they included one central pillar in their lower story. The simple octagonal pillars are bare, unlike the pillars of other caves, which have capitals and bases. There extensions at the end of the front and the rear aisles to enable pilgrims to circumambulate the Buddha's throne.
There is a Buddha image in the lower cave 6. He is sitting with his feet squat on the base, in a rigid pose, only enlivened by the gestures of his hand and the flying couples above him. There could be circumambulation around the Buddha's shrine. This is a late cave, because, instead of attendant bodhisattavas, there are attendants Buddha.
The porch doorway is simple with not much carved decoration except attached female figures. There is a medallion in this cave in the colonnade of the shrine vestibule. The couple in the medallion is skillfully carved, but the medallion itself is conventional.

Bhikshu with Lotus :
The painting of Bhikshu in this cave in the middle, done about 5th century, is almost like a relief. There is the rhythmic vitality in the line and boldness of drawing. The painting is almost like a sculpture. The folds of the garment, the rounded belly, and the calm on the face suggest a devote worshipper.

CAVE 7:
The verandah of this cave must at one time have been elaborate. The ceiling was obviously painted. The carving is simple.

Cave 9:
This cave has a Chaitya gathering hall. There are two early paintings, which survive.
Frieze Of Animals And Herdsmen
Naga Worshippers
Giant Horseshoe Window

There is a Giant Horse-Shoe Window on the façade. The carving of this window suggests that it copied a wooden structure of the same time. The pillars and the slanting eight-sided columns are also copied from wooden structures of earlier times.

Cave 10:
This is of about the same time as cave 9. It has a similar shape. The large chaitya gathering hall is 28.5m X 12.3m wide and 11m high. It has a stupa shrine at the ambulating passage around the symbolic stupa.

King With His Retinue:

The paintings in this cave show resemblance with the relief carvings at sanchi in central India of the 2nd century B.C. The painting on the left wall shows the King with his Retinue, worshiping the Buddha tree. The royal party stops at the stupa and then passes through a gateway.
SHAD-DANTA JATAKA:
On the right wall are the series of large wall paintings. One shows the Shada-danta jataka, with the Buddha in his elephant incarnation. This is a crowded scene, but each figure is clearly distinguished from the other. The whole crowd is in movement.
ELEPHANTAS IN JUNGLE:
In one scene are shown Elephantas in the jungle, with a six-tusked elephant, which is supposed to be a previous incarnation of the Buddha. The animals are beautifully drawn and the large space of the forests, with its thick foliage and trees, is contrasted to the houses on the side.
PRINCESS AND TUSK:
In the second scene, the princess, seated on a stool, is shown fainting, because the six tusks of the elephant are brought to the king. The queen has wished that the elephant be killed. Now that his tusks are brought before the court, she faints at sight of them. The drama is manifestly painted.
THE BUDDHISATTVA ON THE PILLAR:
One of the earliest masterpieces of the 1st century B.C. or 1st century A.D. has the simplicity, tenderness and grace of the early archaic art of Ajanta. The gracious figure in the pink and buff cloak surrounded by green aureole is emerging to cast blessings on mankind. Two monks kneel by his feet and the flying angels above his black head indicate that they are going to lift him to heaven. The umbrella on the top is symbolic of the protection he offers to all.
BUDDHA AND THE ONE-EYED MONK:
The painting Buddha and the one-eyed-monk show the devotion of the followers of the Enlightened one. The face and figure of the Buddha here as well as of the monk seem to be echoes of the heavy physical types of Gandhara art of northwest India. Only the flowing draperies have softened their contours. The aureole on the buddha's head and the closed eyes show a dreamy calm.
SHYAMA JATAKA:
The Shyama-Jataka on a wall in this cave relates the story of where the bodhisattava was born as son of two blind parents, a hunter and his wife.

CAVE 11
TRANSITION FROM HINAYANA TO MAHAYANA:
The Buddha in shrine of cave 11 is one of the earliest images at Ajanta. The important fact about this Buddha is that it is attached to a stupa. This means a compromise between stupa worship and image worship.
This cave is interesting, because it shows the transition from the earlier Hinayana to the later Mahayana Buddhist phase of worship. The round stupa has the images of the Buddha to its bare girth.

Cave 16:
The porch doorway of cave 16 set a pattern for the later doorway. Of course, the later once are more complex. Here two Goddesses stand on neatly carved pilasters
The Buddha figure in the shrine is of about the same time as the Buddha in the shrine of the cave 6 (lower) and cave 11 as the Buddha in cave 16 seated with his heavy feet down the base, it is more than life size and fairly uncommon. Lions and other active animals support the throne. Bodhisattvas stand behind him.
This cave gives a good view of the ravine. From the large verandha we enter a hall. There are six cells on each side.

GIANT STATUE:
There is a Giant Statue of Buddha in the abhayamudra, or teaching gesture, in the inner shrine.
DYING PRINCESS:
One of the finest paintings in the world art is on left wall. This shows the wife of Gautama's cousin, Nanda. The Dying princess is suffering from the shock of hearing that her husband has become a monk. Some great master paints the sad drama. Notice the bent head of the princess and the tense female attendants.
BUDDHA WITH A BEGGING BOWL:
On another wall is the Buddha with a begging bowl
PRINCE SIDDHARTH STRETCHING THE BOW:
Still another painting shows Prince Siddharth Stretching the bow
THE DECENT OF THE BUDDHA:
The Descent of Buddha from the Tushita heaven is another masterly panel
THE SUTASAMA JATAKA:
The Sutasama Jataka narrates the story of the previous incarnation of the bodhisattva and the son of the king of indraprastha named sutasama. The prince is trained in all the arts and sciences by a guru at Taxilla. One-day Sutasama was seized by a man-eating dacoit. The prince promised him he would come back and be eaten after he had offered flowers to the Enlightened one. And he did as he promised.
The cannibal was surprised to see Sutasama. He who had once been a fellow student of the bodhisattva at Taxilla and then king of Benares was converted, and he became a king of Benares again.

Cave 17:

The porch doorway of cave 17 is similar to that of cave 16, with which it is contemporary. But the seated couples on both the doorjambs and lintels improve on cave 16. Above are the seven Buddha's of the past with maitreya it seems the left side of the door was painted by different artists, using different colors from the apinter of the right half of the door. The T-shape shrine doorway has goddesses, supported by pilasters. This doorway is highly decorative.
The plan of this cave is simple and severe. The pillars in both the porch and interior are arranged in a strict order. All the pillars were painted. The pillars near the shrine have intricate carvings. The Buddha in the shrine is seated in the Yogasana. His hands are held in the Dharmachakra mudra, or teaching gesture. There are bodhisattva attendants holding flywhisks. The dwarfs bring garlands. Devotees appear with offerings. The circumambulatory passage around the image shows it is a relatively early cave.
The pilasters at the right hand of the porch of this cave are fairly simple. This cave was in transition from Hinayana to Mahayana. So some survivals of symptoms of floral and geometric paintings can be seen on pilasters.

APSARAS AND FLYING SPIRITS:
This large grotto has many paintings of the mature 5th century. The love of happiness radiates through the pictures. The earth has become heaven. The Apsars and the Flying Spirits float accros the sky. Lovers sit in the air houses.
INDRA AND THE APSARAS:
The famous painting Indra and the Apsaras, in the panel above the doorway of this cave, is a lovely fantasy. All the paintings seem to illustrate the beauty of nature and human love and happiness as described by the poet of Ujjain, Kalidasa at the 4th century A.D.
ROYAL PROCESSION:
There is a magnificent painting showing a king and queen with their attendants going in a royal procession. There are colorful umbrellas over their heads and trees in the background. Some women are looking at them through the window.
SHAD-DANTA JATAKA:
There is another version of the Shaddanta jataka, which also appears in cave 10.
PRINCE SIMHALA:
Prince simhala, who conquered Lanka, rides on a white elephant at head of the army.
THE BUDDHA RETURNS:
The Buddha returns as a beggar and meets the wife and child in a poignant mood.

Cave 18:
PRINCESS LOOKING AT HER MIRROR:
The Ajanta masters have shown human life in all its varied colors. One of the scenes, always preferred in Indian painting, has been of sringar, showing the decoration by the women of her body. In one of the most exquisite paintings in this cave, a Princess is looking at her mirror, after she has done her srinagar. One of her female attendants holds a tray of toilet utensils. The other holds a flywhisk in her hand. A little child is looking on from below.

Cave 19:
Cave 19 is a chaitya gathering hall, with many paintings and sculptures. They are mostly disfigured.

CHAITYA HALL:
The same donor as cave 17 patronized this cave. It was scooped at the same time. It is the chaitya gathering hall for worship. The carving is intricate. The faced is elaborate, with pilasters, which were to be copied in other caves later. There are heavy bodied, strong, somewhat squat yaksha guardians, flanking the right and the left side of the main arch. The rinkles of their hair fall like fountains while they are profusely garlanded and bejeweled. On the base of the big stupa at the center of the chaitya hall are dancing dwarfs.
BUDDHA:
The solemn Buddha standing above is contrasted with the moving urchins below.
Under the arched Chaitya window are sculptured Images of the Buddha in the niches.
The forecourt has fallen.
There is a second aisle towards the nave.
The columns have square bases, round shafts, and rich bands of carvings on bracket capitals.
STANDING BUDDHA:
There is a Standing Buddha on the tall stupa. The stupa itself is crowned with an umbrella that nearly touches the roof.
NAGA KING:
There is a Naga King with his queen and attendants, which highly finishing carving.
The aboriginals and the lower caste people, who became Buddhist, brought snake worship with them. The nagas, or snakes, were given human from, except for the hood of snakeheads, which was put round their heads. There was a superstition that the worship of nagas brings rain. Even nowadays peasants consider snakes auspicious.

Cave 21:
The interior view towards left aisle shows mature sense of the use of space. The pillars are well carved and the remains of plaster show that there were paintings on the ceiling. Equally interesting is the view from the right front corner.

CHAITYA HALL:
This is also a Chaitya gathering hall of the 5th-6th century A.D. The verandh opens in to a court. There is a colonnade inside, composed of 26 pillars. This forms the aisles. One can go round the cylindrical stupa in circumambulation. The walls have relief carvings. Also, the round stupa is decorated.
BUDDHA IN PARINIRVANA:
On the left wall, by the verandah, is the large statue of dead Buddha. The Buddhist calls this sleeping figure the Buddha in parinirvana.
TEMPATION OF BUDDHA:
On the same wall, further ahead is a relief sculpture of Temptation of Buddha by the demon mara.

Cave 24:
PILLAR STYLE:

Unfinished pillars of the front aisle are worth nothing for the evolution of the pillar style. The earliest pillars are simple, roughly shaped on four sides. Later the Mahayana period they were tapered into octagonal form.
PILASTER:
The pilaster at right end of porch elaborate piece of work, even though the cave 24 remained unfinished. There are small groups in the medallion.
PORCHED DOORWAY UPPER RIGHT CORNER:
The splendid T-shaped doorway came very late in the 7th century. The interior of the cave was left unfinished because patronage at Ajanta had ceased by that time.

Cave 26:
CHAITYA HORSESHOE ARCH:
The Chaitya Horseshoe arch of this 5th century cave is imposing. There are various fine images of the Buddha sculpted with rare skill.
SRAVASTI MIRACLE:
The circumambulatory passage is full of them. Mostly they represent the sravasti miracle. This miracle was based on the legend when the Buddha revealed himself in all his various forms on the skies above the village of sravasti.
NAGAS, NANDA, ANUPANANDA:
At the bottom of the relief, the Nagas, nanda, and anupananda are shown holding the stem of the lotus. This lotus is the cosmic axis on which the Buddha is seated.
GODDESS:
There is a goddess on the bracket of the first pillar on left in the interior. She is standing under a fully blossomed tree. Underneath is a lunette of a family group
BUDDHA HEAD WITH CURLY HAIR:
There is a vital Buddha head with curly hair and large ear lobes in this cave.
FAMILY GROUP:
There is a family group with profuse floral decoration around it, which shows the ideal human family of that time.

Cave 27:
NAGA DWARPALA:

There is a Naga Dwarpala on the outer flank of the shrine. This cave follows many elements from cave 20. For instance, the Naga here is similar to a Naga Dwarpala in cave 20.
In the late 6th century work, the carving is not as firm as in cave 20.
PORCHED DOORWAY:
The porched doorway of cave 27also derived from the shrine doorway of cave 2. the decorations show the new fashion for splendor of the later centuries