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India Day 2 - Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Added: November 30, 2008

Tags: India cave photos temple
Sunday 2nd of November, 5:15 in the morning. Alarm clock does not make any compromises. We decided to wake up early to accomplish everything we planned for this long day. I cannot say I am well rested as it was hot during whole night.

We take shower (Zuzka found that warm water is available, you just need to wait longer). Quick breakfast from our supplies, moving stuff between big and small backpack, apply sun screen and DEET (stuff to avoid mosquitoes) and we are nearly ready to go. We are locking big backpacks that will stay in room and then attaching them to window handle (that is only unmovable part here IMHO).

Ajanta and Ellora Caves are our plan for today. And they are only reason we arrived through Mumbai. All of other places we are going to visit are closer to New Delhi.

We decided to rent a car instead of using taxi or bus that would be cheaper (in case of bus much cheaper) because Ajanta is 110km from Aurangabad and Ellora about 30-40 I am not sure how much exactly. Then you need to spend 3-4 hours at both places, so we were afraid we would not be able to visit both of them in one day. Everybody suggests to visit them in two days, but we thought both of them are closed on Monday (in reality only one is closed on Monday, other is closed on Tuesday).

Ellora Caves

Ellora is located closer to Aurangabad, but more to west. So we went considerable part of road back then turned to west. It was not far from that place. We have enjoyed air conditioning as it helped us to rest. I usually do not like air conditioning, but it was fine.

Ellora caves are younger than Ajanta caves. Another huge difference is that Ajanta was lost for 1500 years while Ellora was used all the time. There are no preserved paintings in Ellora.

As we got to Ellora we have bought tickets (again 250 Rs for foreigners and about 10 for Indians) local guide asked us if "we want to pay him" ;-) Having good experience with the guide in Ajanta we agreed (still 600 seems a lot...). This one had a bit worse English, but still we understood important parts. This one told us immediately that we will see a few caves from each group (Hindi, Buddhist, Jain).

Hindu caves

We started our exploration of Ellora by seeing Hindu part. We went to Kailasanatha Temple (Kailash Temple). It is the biggest one and basically it is not cave at all. It is excavated in slope from top to bottom. It measures about 84x47x32m! It took 100 years to build. As with all other caves in Ellora and Ajanta it is monolithic as it does not have any element that was added later, everything was carved from rock on place. It is daunting just to imagine how much work was needed to remove unnecessary material before builders got to the point of carving relief and sculptures.

It is very hard to describe this impressive place. You need to see it!

Overall view of Temple.

In the courtyard of temple.

Main temple inside of courtyard.
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Outer part of courtyard.


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I believe I did not pay much attention to our guide here. It takes a few attempts to achieve sharp hand-held exposure of 2s! (photo on the left)
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Buddhist caves

We went to Buddhist caves after seeing Kailash Temple (as only representative of Hindu caves).

They are on the right (to the south) from Kailash Temple and they are older. We went into more of them, of course not all as we paid only for half day tour. Still our guide was tolerant so we had enough time to take a lot of photos. Due to their openness they are easier to photograph than caves in Ajanta.

We did not come during season so waterfall was nearly without water (but at least there was some so we could locate it). Try google some photos to see how nice it can be.

Ceiling had murals that did not survive till present times due to constant usage of cave.

I really like how much more are these caves exposed compared to caves in Ajanta.





Our guide told us that this cave was used as hostel. It has also small courtyard and it is enclosed with rock wall. A room for janitor was there. This cave (12) together with cave 11 are only caves with 3 stories.

Big disadvantage of monolithic constructions is that you are not allowed to replace "faulty parts".


Jain Caves

When we finished visit of Buddhist caves we went back to entrance. Our guide asked us to wait in shade and left us there. We were not sure what is going on. A bit later he returned with our taxi. We got in and we went to see Jain caves that are about 2km to the north. We passed around a few Hindu caves, but I presume they are not as attractive as Kailash Temple.

According our original plan I did not want to go to Jain caves because they are far away and I had expected we will not have enough time for them. And that would be big mistake because they are very nice. Carving of columns and walls is intricate and really beautiful.

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As we went out of Jain caves sun got quite low and light was beautiful.

Another faulty material...
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Road to Aurangabad

So our visit to Ellora was concluded. We were sitting in car again. We ate rest of our sweets we had with us and relaxed.

As we passed sellers of fruit staying along the road I asked driver to stop and went to buy couple of custard apples (sitaphal - note for me).

Later on, driver motivated by my "shopping raid" asked if we want to go to shopping centre. Of course, we were warned that taxi drivers do that to collect commission so we were reluctant. But "shopping centre" sounded well. So we agreed. To our surprise he stopped at Silk shop (and only shop in wide neighbourhood). OK, Zuzka needs something to cover her head to avoid sun, so we went inside. She bought very nice but expensive silk scarf and I bought silk shirt that I wore for several following days. We have no illusions that it was good buy as that place exists only for tourists (what can you think about shop where all items have attached prices? It is so non-indian :-) ).

As we got to Aurangabad we were forced to stop for 20 minutes as road was closed. Something wanted to pass by. Driver told us, but our Hindi is much worse than his English so we did not understand. It could be some big wheel or parade we have seen later (but it was probably too far to make any impact on traffic.). Those 20 minutes were not nice at all. A lot of fumes and other smells around, a lot of cars honking, much more people around. Only thing we wanted at that time was to be at hotel!

Our wish was eventually fulfilled and we arrived to hotel. Whole trip took us more than 12 hours. Because we were completely satisfied we gave a tip to our driver - 100 Rs. He was so happy for that! I guess it was a lot. But it was for 12 hours! About an hour later we have received call from Saibaba Travel. They wanted to know if we were satisfied. Yes, I did not lie to them :-)