India is a land where impressive ancient art and sculpture are almost common; and, in certain places, their sheer number can amaze you. The Ajanta & Ellora caves are built on a grander scale and contain more incredible art than most of the monuments and other sights India has to offer.
In a land where monuments a few hundred years old are fairly commonplace, these amazing achievements are also more ancient than most of the other destinations. Carved into the hard basalt of remote hillsides in Maharashtra, these caves have remained miraculously undamaged over two millenniums.
You begin by being awed by their sheer size. Buddhist monks and other craftsmen began excavating, sculpting and painting at Ajanta in the 2nd century BC. The incredible variety of paintings and sculpture were created in hard rock by using elaborate and ingenious lighting, tools, and materials. These 28 caves are a testament to the devotion of the Buddhists, as well as the talents of their skilled craftsmen. Ajanta's incredible paintings are even more amazing considering that the color and texture you're admiring was created by artists about two thousand years ago. Ajanta was known only to the hill tribes till the early 19th century, when a group of British army soldiers were led to it by one of these locals.
During the 7th century, the Buddhists seemed to forget about Ajanta, and shifted to working about 80 km (50 miles) away on the magnificently sculptured caves of Ellora. The next two centuries saw a resurgence of Hinduism, reflected by the creation of the next 17 caves with Hindu themes, sculpture, and art; including Cave 16, the awe-inspiring "Kailash Temple". Like all the other cave Temples, this one was created out of one rock. However, the significance of that fact changes when you put it in the perspective of this enormous structure.
The remaining four caves were created during Jainism's heyday in this region, and are built to a slightly smaller scale. The Ellora caves did see destruction under the Moghul Emperors; many shrines, and other art, were either destroyed or damaged. Fortunately, most of the monuments survived, and can be experienced by us today.
As in the case of the Taj Mahal, the scale and splendor of these monuments has to be experienced, to be even partially understood. Easy Tours of India allows for ample time at Ajanta and Ellora on all our scheduled visits to Aurangabad.