Exploring the Wonders of the Ajanta Ellora Caves: A Complete Guide for Your 2023 Adventure

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The Ajanta Ellora Caves have always been revered as precious treasures that embody the rich history and exquisite artistry of ancient India. These captivating tourist destinations encompass a total of 64 caves carved out of rock, conveniently located near the city of Aurangabad.

In the present day, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves hold the esteemed distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are high on the wish list of countless travelers. To spare you the trouble of extensive research, we have compiled a comprehensive guide that provides all the essential information you need before planning your visit to the Ajanta Ellora Caves.

This complete tour guide to the Ajanta Ellora Caves covers their historical significance, the ideal time to visit, operating hours and admission fees, transportation options, a map of the area, the main attractions within the caves, activities to engage in, as well as recommended accommodations.

Below, you will find a collection of pertinent links that offer detailed information about the surreal Ajanta Ellora Caves. We highly recommend reviewing these resources before embarking on your Ajanta Ellora journey.

Ellora Caves speak of a legendary past

Historical Background of the Ajanta Ellora Caves

The Ajanta Caves trace their origins back to a period between the 2nd century BCE and 480 or 650 CE. Renowned historical scholar Walter M. Spink has posited that the caves were constructed in two distinct phases: the Satavahana Period and the Vākāṭaka Period. It is worth noting that some of the caves were left incomplete, while others were abandoned after only brief construction efforts.

On the other hand, the Ellora Caves are relatively younger, with their history dating back to the 5th and 10th centuries CE. These caves are categorized into three sections: Hindu Caves, Jain Caves, and Buddhist Caves.

Initially, the Ajanta Caves site fell into disuse and became engulfed by dense forests. However, in 1819, the diligent efforts of a British officer led to its rediscovery. In contrast, the Ellora Caves have always commanded the attention they rightfully deserve. Today, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, officially designated as such in 1983.

Entrance to Jain Caves

Optimal Time to Visit the Ajanta Ellora Caves

Given the pleasant weather conditions, the period between June and March is considered the best time to visit the Ajanta Ellora Caves. During the monsoon season (June to September), the region receives moderate to abundant rainfall, enhancing the experience of exploring the caves. From November to February, the temperature drops slightly, providing comfortable conditions for exploration. It is advised to avoid the summer months (March to May) as they can be scorching hot, especially during the daytime.

Ornate pillars in Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Ellora Caves Operating Hours and Admission Fees

The Ajanta Ellora Caves follow the following schedule:

Ajanta Caves Operating Hours: 9 am to 9:30 pm (Closed on Mondays).

Entry Fee: INR 40 per person for Indian nationals, INR 600 per person for foreign tourists, INR 25 per camera, and no fee for children below 15 years of age.

Ellora Caves Information:

Visiting Hours: From sunrise to sunset

Admission Fee: INR 40 per person (Indians) | INR 600 per person (foreign tourists) | INR 25 per camera

Ellora Caves Carving

Difference Between Ajanta And Ellora Caves

Although Ajanta and Ellora Caves are often grouped together, they have distinct differences:

1. Distance: The caves are 100 km apart. Ajanta Caves are located 104 km from Aurangabad, while Ellora Caves are 29 km away from Aurangabad.

2. Shape: Ajanta Caves are carved in a horse-shoe shaped rock, whereas Ellora Caves are scattered randomly.

3. Construction Period: Ajanta Caves were built between 200 BCE and 680 CE, while Ellora Caves were constructed between the 5th and 10th century.

4. Purpose of Creation: Ajanta Caves served as viharas and Buddhist monasteries, while Ellora Caves encompass religious centers for Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

5. Sponsorship: Ajanta Caves were funded by various rulers, primarily the Vakataka Dynasty and Satvahana Dynasty. In contrast, Ellora Caves were primarily built under the rule of the Chalukya, Kalachuri, and Rashtrakuta rulers.

Key Highlights of Ajanta and Ellora Caves

The Ajanta and Ellora Caves are awe-inspiring architectural wonders that hold great historical significance. These caves are must-visit destinations and rank among the most renowned historical sites in India. Here are the main attractions at the Ajanta and Ellora Caves:

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves feature 30 rock-cut caves, showcasing extraordinary paintings and sculptures from Indian history. When exploring this archaeological gem, make sure to visit Caves 1, 2, 4, and 17.

Buddha Statue in Ajanta Caves

Cave 1: This cave is highly popular, as it showcases authentic paintings. The grand doorway is adorned with murals depicting Bodhisattvas, and the sidewalls depict significant phases of Buddha’s life, including moments before his enlightenment and his transformation into multiple images.

Cave 2: The mesmerizing ceiling of this cave displays intricate abstract designs featuring devils, birds, fruits, and flowers.

Cave 4: Despite being unfinished, this cave is one of the largest monasteries in Ajanta and remains a captivating sight.

Ellora Caves

The Ellora Caves offer a distinct experience with their unique architectural style. These caves are an integration of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious centers, showcasing the religious harmony of ancient India.

Remember to take your time to explore and admire the stunning artwork and structural marvels of these caves.

In the ancient times, an atmosphere of harmony prevailed among the Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains due to the close proximity of their sacred structures. The Ellora Caves exhibit the uniqueness of each of its 34 caves. If time is limited, it is highly recommended to visit the remarkable Cave 1, Cave 2, and Cave 16.

Top view of Ellora Caves

Cave 1: This cave is a modest vihara that consists of 8 monastic cells.

Cave 2: Cave 2 boasts 12 intricately designed square pillars. One of the main attractions is a depiction of Lord Buddha seated on a lion. Additionally, the entrance showcases an impressive carving of Maitreya Buddha, accompanied by Padmapani holding a lotus.

Cave 16: Cave 16, also known as the Kailash Temple, is one of the highlights of the Ellora Caves. It holds great significance for the followers of Lord Shiva and is considered an important pilgrimage site. The gopurams, or monumental gateways, of this architectural marvel symbolize Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva’s divine abode.

Exciting Activities at Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Discover the following captivating experiences at Ajanta and Ellora Caves:

1. Ajanta Ellora Festival – Join in October

Hema Malini performing on stage with her daughters in Ajanta Ellora Festival

The annual Ajanta and Ellora Festival, hosted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, mesmerizes travelers from around the globe. This dance and music festival adds to the allure of the Sonehri Mahal, a magnificent palace constructed in the 17th century.

The Ajanta Ellora Dance Festival showcases the talents of young folk and classical artists, while also highlighting the splendid craftsmanship and architectural magnificence of the monuments in Aurangabad.

Festival Highlights: Folk and cultural performances, Kalagram shopping arcade featuring handicrafts, and rangoli Mehendi competitions.

Buddha sculpture made of brass

2. Shopping – Indulge in Cave Paintings

After marveling at the paintings in the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, take the opportunity to explore the lively open-air markets.

Shopping is an absolute delight in Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Here, you will discover exquisite handcrafted Buddha sculptures, stunning semi-precious stones, silver jewelry, traditional attire, as well as Buddhist and Jain paintings. Consequently, this destination is renowned as one of the finest shopping destinations in India.

A Must-Buy: Handcrafted Buddha sculptures and unique paintings.

3. Enjoy Quality Time With Your Family on a Staycation

Garden in Hotel Kailas in Ajanta Ellora Caves area

When it comes to finding accommodation in the Ajanta and Ellora Caves region, there are numerous options available to suit different budgets. We highly recommend considering Ajanta T Junction Guest House, Hotel Kailas, and Ajanta Tourist Resort.

Please be aware that most of the accommodation options provide the basic necessities and their prices range from INR 2000 to INR 4000 per night.

For more information about the region and other interesting places to visit, you can check out our suggested article: “18 Best Places To Visit In Ratnagiri: Discover the Enchanting Beauty of Maharashtra!”.

Intriguing Facts About Ajanta And Ellora Caves

  • The Ellora Caves were meticulously carved into the volcanic basaltic formation, also known as Deccan Trap.
  • Cave 15 (Dashavatara) in Ellora stunningly displays the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu.
  • Cave 29 (Dhumar Lena) shares a similar design with the Elephanta Caves.
  • The painting style found in Ajanta Caves is believed to have influenced the art in Tibet and Sri Lanka.
  • The cave carvings skillfully mimic the appearance of wooden structures.
  • The paintings in the caves primarily depict Jataka tales and scenes from the life of Lord Buddha.
  • Ajanta Caves were carefully excavated on a rock surface that slightly resembles a horseshoe shape.
  • Although the caves are over two thousand years old, the statues added later are about 600 years younger.
  • Ajanta Caves were abandoned after the reign of Harisena, and the site was eventually covered by dense forest.
  • It is worth noting that Buddha was against the creation of sculptures or paintings of himself, as he preached the need to transcend materialistic desires. However, his followers realized the importance of these artistic representations after his passing.

Kailas Temple facade in Ellora Caves

For more historical destinations to explore, check out our suggested article: “43 Famous Historical Places in India That Are a Must-Visit”.

How to Reach Ajanta Ellora Caves

As one of the most popular attractions in India and a top choice among places to visit in Aurangabad, reaching the Ajanta Ellora Caves is convenient via various modes of transportation.

By air: The caves are approximately 100 km away from Aurangabad Airport, which has excellent connectivity to major cities in India.

Buddhist sculptures in Ajanta Caves

By train: The nearest railway station is Jalgaon Railway Station, located 60 km away. If you’re wondering how to reach Ajanta Ellora Caves from Mumbai or any other city in the country, you’ll find that connectivity is readily available.

By road: Aurangabad is easily accessible by road from neighboring places such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, and Ahmedabad.

For a luxurious travel experience, check out our article: “7 Super Luxury Trains in India That Offer Unmatched Experiences”.

Now that you possess this knowledge, with whom will you embark on a captivating journey to the Ajanta Ellora Caves? We eagerly await your response! Why not explore these caves in a manner befitting royalty? Step aboard the luxurious trains of India and indulge in sheer opulence, delight, and the warmest of hospitality as you unravel the legends of this gem, alongside other renowned tourist destinations in India.

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Frequently Asked Questions About the Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Is it safe to visit the Ajanta and Ellora Caves during the COVID-19 pandemic?

You must adhere to all the mandatory guidelines set by the government, such as maintaining social distance, wearing masks in public places, and sanitizing hands upon entry and exit, among others.

Who were the builders of the Ajanta and Ellora Caves?

The Ajanta and Ellora Caves were constructed over several years. Various dynasties, including the Satavahana Dynasty, the Mauryan Empire, the Rashtrakuta Dynasty, and the Yadava Dynasty, contributed to the construction of different sections of the caves.

Which caves are preferable, Ellora or Ajanta?

Both the Ajanta and Ellora Caves possess their own unique charm, architectural style, and historical significance. The Ajanta Caves, dedicated to Buddhism, are located closer together and are renowned for their exquisite paintings. Conversely, the Ellora Caves, which are dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, are more spread out and are celebrated for their mythological sculptures.

How far apart are the Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves?

The Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves are approximately 100 kilometers apart, with a travel time of around 3 hours between the two locations.

Is it possible to visit both the Ajanta and Ellora Caves in a single day?

Although it is technically feasible to explore both the Ajanta and Ellora Caves in a day, doing so would require rushing through the sites. Each group of caves takes 2 to 3 hours to tour, and there is also a 3-hour distance between the two locations. Therefore, it is advisable to allocate one day for Ajanta Caves and another day for Ellora Caves.

Are the Ajanta and Ellora Caves identical?

No, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves are two distinct cave complexes situated approximately 100 kilometers apart from each other.

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