Ajanta and Ellora are the pride of Maharashtra. Ellora is pronounced in the same breath with Ajanta, but is known for different reasons. If Ajanta is known for its paintings, Ellora’s claim to fame is the sculptures. The rock-cut caves of both these sites are world famous and illustrate the degree of skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen had achieved several hundred years ago. Ajanta dates from 100 B.C. while Ellora is younger by some 600 years. The village of Ajanta is in the Sahyadri hills, about 99 kms. From Aurangabad; a few miles away in a mammoth horseshoe-formed rock, are 30 caves overlooking a gorge, `each forming a room in the hill and some with inner rooms. Al these have been carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer and chisel and the faith and inspiration of Buddhism. Here, for the Buddhist monks, the artisans excavated Chaityas (chapels) for prayer and Viharas (monasteries) where they lived and taught. Many of the caves have the most exquisite detailed carvings on the walls, pillars and entrances as well as magnificent wall paintings.
The Ajanta Caves are situated at a distance of 107 km north of Aurangabad, the district headquarters. The caves attained the name from a nearby village named Ajanta located about 12 km. These caves are excavated in horse–shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora.
The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 29 km north of Aurangabad. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas or halls of worship, and Viharas, or monasteries, Hindu and Jain temples. Ellora has been designed as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Travel Tips:
The most incredible thing about these caves is that they were crafted by hand, with only a hammer and chisel. While the Ajanta caves are rich in paintings and sculpture, the Ellora caves are renowned for their extraordinary architecture. You can get an excellent view and perspective of inside the Kailasa temple by climbing up the hill around it. Its immense size covers twice the area of the Pantheon in Athens and is one and a half times as high. Bring a torch with you to the Ajanta caves as many of them are quite dark and lighting is poor. The best time to visit is from November to March when it’s cooler and dry.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Opening Hours:
9am until sunset (around 5.30 p.m.). The Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays, and the Ellora caves are closed on Tuesdays. Both caves are open on national holidays. However, try to avoid visiting then as the crowds can be maddening and you won’t have a peaceful experience.
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 10 per head.
Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head (children up to 15 years free)
How To Reach Ajanta:
The Ajanta Caves are not easily accessible to visitors but, of course, that was the point. The drive from the nearest major town, Aurangabad, takes between 2 and 3 hours.
By Air: Aurangabad, 100 kms away is the nearest airport. Direct flights available from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur etc.
By Rail: Aurangabad is nearest railhead, Jalgaon, 59 km away, is good for catching swanky trains.
By Road: Well-maintained roads link Ajanta to Mumbai, good buses are also available. Ajanta- 100 kms, Bombay- 390 kms, Ellora- 32 kms, Nanded- 275 kms, Nasik- 224 kms, Pune- 232 kms. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are widely available at Aurangabad airport and Jalgaon train station. A taxi from the airport into the city should cost about Rs 100. In the airport’s arrivals area is the MTDC Holiday Resort, which provides brochures and tour bookings for the caves. Also located there is Classic Travel Related Services, which will arrange any kind of transport for Aurangabad and surrounding areas, including the Ajanta and Ellora caves. A full day with car and driver costs about Rs 1,200 ($26).
The drive from Aurangabad to Ajanta takes 2 to 3 hours, so start early to beat the midday heat. Most visitors are dropped off in the Ajanta caves’ parking lot, where you’ll find plenty of tacky souvenirs for sale and eco-friendly buses waiting to take you the short way up to the Ajanta Caves ticket office.
Alternatively, you can be dropped off at the viewpoint across the river, reached via a turnoff slightly before the parking lot. If you’re in good shape and steady on your feet, this option is worth the trouble. From the viewing platform, make your way down the difficult footpath and across the footbridge spanning the Waghora River. Arrange to have your driver pick you up at the parking lot when you’re done.
How To Reach Ellora:
By Air: The nearest airport (which is a domestic airport) from these caves is situated in Aurangabad (15 kms) and can be reached directly from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur.
By Rail: Aurangabad is the nearest railway station on South Central Railway Line, about 30 kms from Ellora.
By Road: Ellora is 29km far from Aurangabad. Aurangabad is a major city of Maharashtra, therefore it is well connected by road. To reach Ellora Caves tourists should take a taxi from Aurangabad. There are State buses run from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Bijapur to Aurangabad.