Ellora caves, Aurangabad

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Ajanta Caves

Top choice in Maharashtra

Ajanta’s caves line a steep face of a horseshoe-shaped gorge bordering the Waghore River. Five of the caves are chaityas (assembly or prayer halls) while others are viharas (monasteries with attached residential cells). Caves 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and part of 15 are early Buddhist caves, while the others date from around the 5th century AD (Mahayana period). In the austere early Buddhist school, the Buddha was never represented directly but always alluded to by a symbol such as the footprint or wheel of law.

During busy periods, viewers are allotted 15 minutes within the caves, which have to be entered without shoes (flip-flops will make your life a lot easier). Caves 3, 8, 22, 28, 29 and 30 remain either closed or inaccessible. Keep in mind, there is a fairly steep uphill walk from the ticket counter to the beginning of the caves – porters (₹400) and chair dolis (₹1500; porters who carry people on chairs) are available.

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1. Cave 19

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Cave 19, a magnificent chaitya, has a remarkably detailed facade; its dominant feature is an impressive horseshoe-shaped window. Two fine, standing Buddha…

2. Cave 24

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Had it been finished, cave 24 would be the largest vihara at Ajanta. Here you can see how the caves were constructed – long galleries were cut into the…

3. Cave 17

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With carved dwarfs supporting the pillars, cave 17 has Ajanta’s best-preserved and most varied paintings. Famous images include a princess applying make…

4. Cave 26

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A largely ruined chaitya, cave 26 is now dramatically lit and contains some fine sculptures that shouldn’t be missed. On the left wall is a huge figure of…

5. Cave 16

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Cave 16, a vihara, contains some of Ajanta’s finest paintings and is thought to have been the original entrance to the entire complex. The best known of…

6. Cave 27

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Cave 27 is virtually a vihara connected to the cave 26 chaitya, though it is not accessible.

7. Cave 10

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Cave 10 is thought to be the oldest cave (200 BC) and was the first one to be spotted by the British hunting party. Similar in design to Cave 9, it is the…

8. Cave 9

0.12 MILES

Cave 9 is one of the earliest chaityas at Ajanta. Although it dates from the early Buddhist period, the two figures flanking the entrance door were…