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March 12, 2020

Reflections on Our Travel to the Motherland - Aurangabad Caves, Part One

Almost 770 miles southwest of New Delhi is a place called Aurangabad. Have you ever heard of this city? If you haven't, you should add it to your list of places to visit, next time you are planning a trip to India.

Besides visiting the Taj Mahal and the palaces in Rajasthan, my husband and I were curious about other gems in India. We came across the Ajanta / Ellora caves (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Aurangabad.

The Ajanta caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE.

Below are some pictures from our recent visit:

Panoramic view of the Ajanta Caves from outside

A warm welcome from local residents (Langur monkeys) at the Ajanta caves



Close up view of the caves from outside as we are walking along the path

Take care when walking along the path to all the caves.
It is a steep fall to the ground. Be aware of your surroundings.


There are porters and palki (carrying structure)
for older tourists to be carried up to the caves (as shown above)


The caves are comprised of paintings of Buddhist legends and carvings.

Flash photography was not allowed in many of the caves with paintings on the walls. Also, limited number of tourists were allowed inside of the caves at a time to help preserve the condition. Humidifiers were placed in all the caves for continuous air circulation and to control humidity.


Can you make out the bull painting on the ceiling? Our guide told us that it seems as though the bull's eyes are looking at you regardless of where you are standing in the cave? It was remarkable. 

Below are the pictures from inside Cave 1. This was one of the last caves to have been excavated. You can see the Buddha statue through the hallway of the cave. It is truly amazing that even after all this time, most of the paintings are still intact and clearly visible. 

Cave 1, interior; Buddha statue visible from inside room
 The paintings inside this cave are in pretty good shape considering how old these caves are. The scenes depicted are mostly devotional and ornamental, with scenes from the Jataka stories of Buddha's former lives as a bodhisattva.

Cave 1 - Buddha statue


Cave 1 - Padmapani Bodhisattva Painting


Bull painting on the ceiling


At Cave 19, a 5th-century Chaitya Hall 
 This exterior of Cave 19 loosely resembled the caves in Petra, Jordan for me. My husband and I were both in awe of the intricacies of this site. We were happy that these caves were not vandalized and history was preserved.


Cave 26 - Interior of Chaitya Hall (house of the stupa)
The Ajanta caves follow the Cathedral -style architecture.

Some takeaways from our visit:

  • Tourists are shuttled by buses to these caves and you have to pay a small fee for the shuttle service; about 40 rupees per person. Make sure to have exact change. 
  • It may be better to hire a guide before you arrive at the caves. It was difficult to find an English speaking guide who we could understand. 
  • Wear comfortable and well-circulated clothing as well as sturdy shoes. 
  • Carry bottled water with you as it is a long walk because there are a lot of caves and we suggest one day for each set of caves (meaning one day for Ajanta caves, and one day for Ellora caves). 
  • Also, carry or wear a hat and sunglasses with you. It can get hot depending on which part of the year you are visiting these caves. 


***All the pictures in this post are my own and shot with my Samsung phone. Please send a request if you would like to use the pictures. More in-depth information about each of the caves is available on Wikipedia.

Stay tuned for more posts on our trip to India, coming up next - Ellora Caves...

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