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Heritage Of India Ajanta Ellora Caves

Nestling in an inner fold of the Sahyadri hills, 100 kms. from Aurangabad in the shape of a mammoth horse-shoe, are the 30 rockhewn caves of Ajanta, dating from the 2nd century B.C. Discovered in 1819, by a group of British oficers, these startling achievements took around 600 years to create. Carved with little more than a hammer and chisel, Ajanta was once the retreat of Buddhist monastic orders and features several 'chaityas' and 'vibavas'. The exquisite paintings and sculptures of Buddha's life belong to the Mahayana period.

The 29 caves have been chiselled into rocky sides of a dramatic crescent-shaped gorge, at the head of which is a waterfall that feeds a natural pool,the Sapta Kunda.

Two Chaityas and three Vibavas are Hinayana in origin carved under the rule of the Satvahanas. Caves 8,9,10,12,13 date back to the second and first centuries B.C. during the Satvahanas period. The rest are generally alligned to the fifth and sixth centuries during which the site was under the control of the Ashmakas and Rishikas. Today Ajanta attracts a steady stream of visitors. The caves are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Of all the beautiful things to see at Ajanta a few of them deserve special mention.

Cave 1 : This large vihara is not just the latest excavated one but also the most beautifully decorated one. It belongs to the Mahayana era and has two great masterpieces of Ajanta paintings-'Avolokitesvara' and 'Padmapani'.

Cave 2: Also a late Mahayana Vihara, it has a beautifully painted ceiling with floral drawings and geometric patterns. It also depicts scenes surrounding Lord Buddha's birth and the mirade of 1000 Buddhas.

Cave 16 & 17 : They are covered with frescoes illustrating the 12 takes of Buddha's program towards enlightenment.

Cave 19 : Has a mural that shows Buddha begging at his own palace.

Anwa : This village is situated ten kilometers east of Golegaon on the main road leading from Aurangabad to Ajanta, some 20 kms. south of the latter. The temple at Anwa is one of the most ambitious projects of the 12th century Yadava period. The monument, locally known as Madha consists of a sanctuary, a closed columned Mandapa, and an open mandapa with a sculpture of Nandi, the bull mount of Shiva.

Ghatotkacha : The two cave-temples at this remote site can only be reached by jeep. The distance from Ajanta is about 40 kms. These monuments are of interest since they are related to those at Ajanta. Varaha Deva, donor of Cave 16 at Ajanta, was also responsible for the two monasterises at this site.

Ellora : Impressive in their own right are the rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora that lie just 30 kms. away from Aurangabad city. In all, there are 34^ave temple, 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves (556-150 A.D), 17 Hindu Caves (600-875A.D) and 5 caves of the Jain faith (800-1000 A.D) 22 more caves, dedicated to Shiva, were recently discovered.

Kailas Temple : The central attraction at Ellora, ' is the7most remarkable Kailash Temple. Chiselled by hand from a single stone, it is the world's largest monolithic structure. Of particular interest is cave 10 also known as the Carpenter's or Vishwakarma's Cave.

Ghirishneshwar Temple : Ellora enjoys the reputation of a tirtha, or holy spot, Verul. Worshippers of Shiva flock to the Ghrishneshwara Temple which stands only a short distance to the west of Kailash. The temple is of particular importance since it enshrines a Jyotirlinga. This particular aspect of the God's luminous energy is maniltested in only twelve temples, including Kedarnath in the Himalayas, Somanath on the Arabian Sea Coast, Ujjain in Central India, and Varanasi on the Ganga.The Temple is built with spotted red sandstone in a revivalist Yadava style. It dates from the 18th century Maratha period. The Holkar Temple nearby with its pyramid tower, six floors of miniature spires, the mandapa, the sanctuary and the additional structures within the temple compound like the Ganesha Shrine on the north and a Nandi shrine on the west are worth visiting.