Tourist’s guide to Ajanta caves, India – Secrets of Cave Monasteries

Ajanta Caves – one of the most mysterious and interesting sights of India. Found by chance in the 19th century, they still have not revealed to the world all their secrets. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come here every year to talk about the incredibly strong energy of this place.

Ajanta Caves

General information

Ajanta is an ancient Buddhist monastery complex located in the state of Maharashtra. The uniqueness of this place lies in the fact that religious buildings (and there are 29 of them) are knocked out right in the rock. The first caves appeared here in the 1st century BC, and the last – in the 17th century.

The ancient complex is located in a very picturesque, but inaccessible place. The nearest town, Kuldabad, is 36 km away.

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Interestingly, next to the caves of Ajanta is Ellora – another underground monastery complex.

Historical reference

The first mention of the monastery complex dates back to the 1st century BC. At that time there lived monks who built new temples. However, this lasted only until the 10-11th century – at that time Muslims came to the territory of modern India, and Indian Buddhism ceased to be popular with local residents (even today less than 2% of the population profess it). The unique cave temple was abandoned, and it was forgotten for a long 800 years.

Entrance to Ajanta Caves

This landmark found a second wind only in the middle of the 19th century – ordinary English soldiers hunting for a tiger accidentally discovered this amazing structure. Inside the caves, they discovered an amazing picture: frescoes on the walls and columns, stone stupas and statues of Buddha.

From that moment, regular pilgrimages of scientists and tourists to Ajanta began. The most serious study is the expedition of James Ferguson, who described all the frescoes and explained to the whole world the cultural value of this place.

After that, artists visited the village more than once to redraw some murals. Their efforts ended in failure – all the paintings burned during the exhibitions. Locals believe that this is the revenge of the gods for interfering in their world.

Most of the mysteries associated with caves have not yet been solved. For example, scientists cannot understand how underground structures were illuminated. Many believe that the monks “caught” the sun with the help of mirrors, but this version has not yet been confirmed.

Frescoes in Ajanta Cave

The paint with which the monks painted the walls also raises questions – it glows in the dark, and even after 800 years it did not fade. Modern scientists have not been able to determine its exact composition.

Complex structure

The Ajanta complex in India consists of 29 caves, each of which has something to see.

Caves №1,2,3

This is one of the newest (12-13th century) and well-preserved caves in Ajanta. Their almost perfect condition is explained by the fact that only monks had access here, and ordinary people had the right to enter only neighboring buildings.

Cave number 1 in Ajanta

The uniqueness of this part of the temple lies in the surprisingly clear cave paintings. For example, on one of the walls, an image of children at school was found, and on neighboring walls, silhouettes of women. Here you can see bright frescoes on a religious theme and high carved columns, giving the temple a solemn appearance. The most famous images:

  • fresco of the ascetic king;
  • King Sibi Jataka;
  • Vajrapani
Cave number 4

It is the largest (970 sq. M.) And the least deep cave in Ajanta. Consists of a sanctuary, a porch and a main hall. In the center of the room is a stone Buddha, and on the sides are heavenly nymphs.

Interestingly, the cave used to be deeper, but after an earthquake that occurred in the 6th century, Indian craftsmen were forced to raise the ceiling to hide a large crack in the rock.

Caves number 5
Cave number 5 in Ajanta

One of the unfinished caves of Ajanta. It began to be erected in the 3rd century, but was soon abandoned. Murals and sculptures are missing here, but there is a double frame decorated with elaborate carvings.

Caves number 6, 7

This is a two-story monastery, on the walls and ceilings of which you can find numerous images of Buddha. One of the main sanctuaries of the whole complex where believers came to pray.

Cave number 8

According to historians, this is the oldest cave, which, at the same time, is perfectly preserved. Located at a greater depth than neighboring ones. Here, tourists can see the statue “Belated thought” and several cave paintings. Interestingly, historians believe that earlier this part of the temple was completely painted in red.

Caves number 9, 10
Cave number 9 in Ajanta

Caves No. 9 and 10 are small prayer halls on the walls of which a unique painting has been preserved: frescoes with Buddha, images of nymphs. The main decoration of the rooms are tall columns and carved arches.

Caves number 11, 12

These are 2 small monasteries built around the 5-6th century. Indoors there is a long stone bench, and on the walls you can see frescoes with the image of Buddha and monks. A small part of the temple is damaged, which is why it is not very popular with tourists.

Caves number 13, 14, 15

These are 3 small monasteries which, due to natural factors, were not completed. Historians say that earlier there were definitely pictures, but now you can see only bare walls.

Caves number 16, 17

These are the two most studied caves of Ajanta. Historians have spent more than one year here, and they say that these are central, which means the main parts of the complex. There are really a lot of paintings and frescoes in these rooms: the miracle of Shravasti, the dream of Maya, the history of Trapusha and Bhallika, the feast of plowing. On the right wall you can see images of scenes from the life of Buddha.

Cave number 16 in Ajanta
Cave number 18

This is a very small, but very beautiful cave with columns and an arch. Its function is not yet fully understood.

Cave number 19

The main attraction of the hall – the figure of Naga, which protects the Buddha. Earlier, according to scientists, here you could also see mandalas and images of Yaksha. The entrance to this part of the temple is richly decorated with floral patterns and carved figures of the gods.

Caves number 20-25

These are small caves built by some of the last. Monks lived and worked in this part of the complex, periodically the premises served as sanctuaries. Some rooms had an attic and cells.

Cave number 22 in Ajanta

The dungeons were decorated as follows:

  • Images of flowers on the walls:
  • frescoes with Buddha;
  • Sanskrit inscriptions;
  • carved ornaments on the walls and ceiling.
Cave number 26

Cave number 26 is a place for worshiping Buddha and long prayers. The sculptures in this part of the complex are the most complex and sophisticated. So, here you can see the Mahaparinirirvana (reclining Buddha), and at the foot of it – the silhouettes of the daughters of Mary. In the center of the apse is a stupa carved into the rock. On the walls of the temple – a lot of inscriptions in Sanskrit.

Caves №27-2929

Caves Nos. 27, 28 and 29 together were a small, but frequently visited monastery. There are not a lot of jewelry here, so tourists do not often look into this part of the Ajanta complex.

How to get there

By bus

Buses from the city of Aurangabad (distance – 90 km) regularly go to the village of Ajanta. Travel time will be a little less than 3 hours. Ticket price – 30 rupees.

Indian bus

You can get to Aurangabad from any big city in India by train or bus.

By taxi

A taxi ride in India will be much more comfortable and faster. The main thing is that the taxi driver knows the road for sure. Cost from Aurangabad – 600-800 rupees.

Practical information

Location: Ajanta Caves Road, Ajanta 431001, India.

Opening hours: 08.00 – 19.00, Monday – day off.

The cost of visiting: 250 rupees – for foreigners, 10 – for local. You can also purchase a single ticket to visit Ajanta and Ellora in India for 350 rupees.

Prices on the page are for October 2019.

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Useful Tips

  1. Faucets are installed in different parts of the Ajanta complex, from which tap water flows.
  2. Dark Caves of Ajanta
  3. In the underground temples with the most beautiful frescoes, there is rather poor lighting, so tourists recommend taking a flashlight with them to see all the details.
  4. Plan a trip to warm but not hot weather – the place is very interesting, but with the scorching sun you are unlikely to be able to get around everything. Also, do not come here in the evening – during the day the stones become very hot.
  5. Before entering the cave temples of Ajanta, you must remove your shoes.
  6. In temples it is forbidden to take pictures with flash.
  7. Since the road to Ajanta is quite long, tourists are advised to either travel with a travel agency or hire a guide in India on their own (many know several languages).

Ajanta Caves are one of the most energetically powerful places in India.

Ajanta Caves – the eighth wonder of the world:

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