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Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad, India

Aurangabad - one of the important cities of India during the last leg of the Mughal Empire – is the home to several early Buddhist caves, forts belonging to the Delhi Sultanate period, and a mausoleum built as a replica of the Taj Mahal. This write-up is dedicated to familiarizing you with one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites created approximately 3rd to 6th century BC– the Ajanta Caves, India. Consisting of approximately 30-something rock-cut caves, filled with painting and sculptures describing the life and works of Gautama Buddha, this place is one of the prime examples of India’s artistic abilities back in the day.

Discovered at a secluded Waghore River valley, around 105 km (65mi) away from the main city, the places were once forgotten and completely wiped out of the human memory until 1819 when a British officer, John Smith, accidentally discovered the forgotten gem.

If you are planning on visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site, then this page could help you in planning the trip better.

Let’s discover the India Ajanta Caves.    

Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves with Buddhist Sculptures

Keynote on Ajanta Caves in India

Address Ajanta Caves Road, Soyagon Taluka, Lenapur Village, Maharashtra 431117

Opening time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (closed on Mondays)

Entry Fee: 600 INR (extra for camera and guide)

Famous for: Cave paintings and detailed sculpting 

Visit Duration: Half a day

Best time to visit: October to March is suitable for the trip  

How to Reach: The Ajanta Caves in India are 102 km (63mi) away from the Aurangabad city. You can take Aurangabad - Ajanta - Jalgaon Highway to reach the destination. Most tourists hire a local taxi to reach the destination.   


Overview of the Ajanta Caves

The India Ajanta Caves comprise of ancient Buddhist monasteries and praying-halls carved out of a 75-meter wall of rock. These ancient caves contain paintings portraying the Buddha’s past lives and reincarnations, rock-cut sculptures of several deities belonging to Buddhism, and tales from Jatakamala by Aryasura.

According to several historical records, these caves served as a monsoon retreat for the wandering monks, as well as the traders and pilgrims. Among the thirty caves within the horseshoe-shaped gorge, close to five caves were used as assembly halls or chaityas. Apart from that, few of the grottoes were used as monasteries (viharas) and had attached residential chambers.

One of the most popular tourist attractions of the region, each year close to a million visitors come to Ajanta Caves to have a look at these interesting and delicate paintings. Tourism, human interference, and prolonged decay have contributed towards the erosion of few of the murals in the caves. However, restoration work has helped in managing the situation.   

Detailed information Ajanta Caves, India

The India Ajanta Caves is spread in a huge area and comprises of close to 30 rock-cut caves. The early Buddhist Caves 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and part of 15, contains murals showcasing the society and culture of India in the 4th century BC. Here are some of the must-visit caves of this interesting river valley:

1. Cave 1

Located on the eastern side of the ridge, the cave is decorated with murals inspired by the Jataka Tales. Architecture-wise, the cave has an open courtyard and spellbinding carved facade that adorns the relief sculptures. The detailed friezes, over the cave entrance and the interiors, contain images of animals, monks, and celestial nymphs. However, the murals inspired by the Jataka Tales are one of the most striking features of this cave. The stunning detailing and delicate handiwork inside the Cave 1 leave almost everyone speechless. According to many scholars, this cave was commissioned by Emperor Harishena, and as homage to the king, most of the wall paintings of the Cave 1 emphasized the imagery of royalty.  

2. Cave 2

As a stark contrast to Cave 1, this cave focuses on society and women’s role in the 5th century. According to many scholars, the cave was commissioned by an unknown female aide of Harishena. And probably, that is the reason why the walls of the cave are adorned with female figures. Similar to the cave 1, the pillars, ceilings, and walls are covered in paintings depicting children attending their school. There are numerous carvings dedicated to Hariti, the goddess of fertility in Buddhism.

3. Cave 16

According to scholars, the Cave 16 is a ‘crucial cave’ in terms of architecture. This cave is a Vihara, with the usual arrangement of the main entrance, two additional doorways on the aisle, and two large windows allowing sunlight to enter the dark interiors during the day. The walls are adorned with different tales from the Jataka and some important events in the life of Buddha. These events are arranged in left to right order, with one incident making way to another.   

4. Cave 17

Just like the Cave 16, this cave was commissioned by the Prime Minister Varahadeva of Vatika, along with the generous donations made by the local ruler named Upendragupta. Cave 17 contains one of the most sophisticated interiors among the structures of Ajanta Caves, India. The murals here emphasize on human morals and values, a core concept of the Jataka Tales. Some of the important murals of the cave present Buddha in different postures alongside societal themes.        
Apart from these caverns, Caves 21 to 26 contains different statues and sculptures showcasing Buddha in a meditative position. These structures are stunning beyond words.

Important Things to Remember

1.  Few of the caverns, including Caves 3, 8, 22, 28, 29 and 30 are not open to the public.
2.  During peak tourist seasons, visitors are not allowed more than 15 minutes inside the cave.
3.  Visitors have to enter bare feet.
4.  There are several steep uphill walks from the ticket counter to the caves, so it is recommended to wear comfortable footwear.
5.  Porters and guides are available near the ticket counter.          

See More Caves in Aurangabad:

Aurangabad Caves

Ellora Caves