Caves Conservation Project

Ajanta Caves
10 AM to 5 PM
Ellora Caves
10 AM to 5 PM

Ajanta Ellora conservation and tourism development project

Please click on the phase to view detailed Information about the project.

Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation – an undertaking of the Government of Maharashtra State conceived the Ajanta Ellora Conservation and Tourism Development Project and got prepared in 1991, a Master Plan from M/s. Tata Consultancy Services, on the basis of which the Government of India requested the Government of Japan to consider grant of Financial Assistance for the Project. The Government of Japan got the Master Plan assessed by the Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund (OECF) now Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC) and offered Loan assistance to Government of India for implementation of a part of the Master Plan as Phase I of the Project. The two Governments entered into an agreement for the Loan in January 1992. A Joint Venture of Pacific Consultants International (PCI) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) were appointed in November 1993 as Consultants for planning and overseeing the implementation of the works under the Loan.


  • To conserve and preserve monuments and natural resources in the Ajanta-Ellora Region
  • To improve the infrastructure in order to accommodate the increasing number of tourists to the region and enhance their experience by providing improved facilities and services.

The present Phase of the project consists mainly of building up essential infrastructure facilities and it is completed. As stipulated in the Terms of References the Consultants have reviewed the original Master Plan and have formulated proposals for Phase 2. The proposals were presented by the Ministry of Tourism for consideration of OECF at an Inter-ministerial Meeting. The proposals were reviewed by the fact-finding Mission of OECF in February 1998. The OECF requested the Government of India to submit the proposals next year for consideration. The OECF also asked for provision of certain more details and completion of expert panel review before forwarding the proposals.

The Total project cost was estimated at Yen 4,406 million, which was equal to Rs. 817.1 Million at the exchange rate of Rs.1 equals Yen 5.39. The support from JBIC was Yen 3,745 million (Rs. 494-8 Million) and this is around 85% of the total project cost.
  • Monument Conservation
  • Airport
  • Afforestation
  • Roads
  • Water Supply
  • Electricity
  • Visitor Management System (VMS)

The above works were undertaken during Phase-I. In the meanwhile there was a balance of approximately Rs.380 million from the loan amount due to the depreciation of Rupee, after the signing of the loan agreement. The Government of India requested the Government of Japan for extending the loan agreement, which was agreed. The loan agreement has now been extended to 31st March 2002 and further works are being undertaken based on the recommendations of 5th Steering Committee meeting.

The Sub projects to be executed in extension Phase are shown below and summary of Additional Work Package for the extended period is given as enclosure. The proposed works are completed before February 2002.

The second phase of the Ajanta-Ellora conservation and tourism development project with the Japanese Bank of International Co-operation (JBIC) sanctioning a soft loan of Rs.300 crores has become effective from July 31, 2003.

The loan clearance was announced after the JBIC held a series of talks with the central department of Tourism and Culture and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in Delhi. The first phase of the Ajanta - Ellora heritage circuit up gradation scheme has won appreciation not only from the Japanese but also from UNESCO. The second phase envisages taking forward the conservation and a development scheme initiated in the first phase, and is estimated to Rs.360 crores. The remaining Rs.60 crores will be brought in by various agencies like the Archaeological Survey of India, Airport Authority of India and five state government agencies.

The second phase will be completed in five year time and will generate additional employment in the Aurangabad Ajanta area. This time, the funds are being utilize for not only the restoration of the Ajanta and Ellora caves but for the entire cave circuit of Maharashtra, which streches from Mumbai to Aurangabad. The plan envisages development and repair in the Elephanta caves, Nasik Ghat, Malshej Ghat, the Shivneri fort as well as forts around Bhaja and Bedsa. Aurangabad's fabulous but long-neglected heritage monuments will also be spruced up. These include the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Soneri Mahal, Delhi Gate, Makai Gate, Bhadkal Gate, in the Aurangabad. Pitalkhora caves, Daulatabad Fort and the Patnadevi temple. The work to be carried out at these places includes structural reinforcement, chemical conservation of the paintings and artifacts, preservation of percolation within the caves, upgrading the environment, training conservation staff and improving visitor management system.

Another major area of development will be the Lonar Crater, one of the oldest meteorite impact crater in the world (in Buldhana District). Last year, the MTDC built a resort near the crater to attract tourists. Now it plans to clean up the ancient temples on the beach of the lake in the crater and create heritage walks while simultaneously protecting the lake and wooded environs of the crater. Another important project that will be completed in the second phase is upgrading Aurangabad airport into an international airport.
The brief description of work being undertaken by each implementing agency is given below:

  1. MONUMENT CONSERVATION (Executing Agency: Archaeological Survey of India)
  2. AURANGABAD AIRPORT (Executing Agency Airport Authority of India)
  3. AFFORESTATION (Forest Department, Maharashtra)
  4. ROAD (Executing Agency: Public Works Department, Maharashtra State)
  5. WATER SUPPLY (Executing Agency: Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran)
  • Development of Ajanta Tourist Complex
  • Development of Ellora Tourist Complex
  • Public Awareness Activities
  • Human Resource Development
  • Computerization of Tourist Information
  • Conservation of State Archaeological Monuments
  • Development of Lonar Crater
  • Additional sub projects in the vicinity of the Caves

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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.

There is a Giant Statue of Buddha in the abhayamudra, or teaching gesture, in the inner shrine.
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.
On another wall is the Buddha with a begging bowl
Still another painting shows Prince Siddharth Stretching the bow
The Descent of Buddha from the Tushita heaven is another masterly panel
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.

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.
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.
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.
There is another version of the Shaddanta jataka, which also appears in cave 10.
Prince simhala, who conquered Lanka, rides on a white elephant at head of the army.
The Buddha returns as a beggar and meets the wife and child in a poignant mood.

Cave 18:
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.

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.
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.
There is a Standing Buddha on the tall stupa. The stupa itself is crowned with an umbrella that nearly touches the roof.
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.

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.
On the left wall, by the verandah, is the large statue of dead Buddha. The Buddhist calls this sleeping figure the Buddha in parinirvana.
On the same wall, further ahead is a relief sculpture of Temptation of Buddha by the demon mara.

Cave 24:

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.
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.
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:
The Chaitya Horseshoe arch of this 5th century cave is imposing. There are various fine images of the Buddha sculpted with rare skill.
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.
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.
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
There is a vital Buddha head with curly hair and large ear lobes in this cave.
There is a family group with profuse floral decoration around it, which shows the ideal human family of that time.

Cave 27:

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.
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