Along with the Ellora Caves, Agra Fort and Taj Mahal; the Ajanta Caves were the first set of of historical sites to attain UNESCO world heritage status in 1983. A visit to these other-worldly caves, carved right out of the surrounding ravine, will explain why and leave you nothing but spellbound.
Witness the very birth of Indian art
We have all heard about the rich and vibrant culture of India dating back to thousands of years, but this is one of the few places one can see it firsthand. One of the only such sites in the world, .
Forgotten by man, preserved by nature
Ajanta Leni, as the Ajanta caves are known locally, were built by Buddhist monks from the 2nd century BC to around 600 AD. However, unlike the ones at Ellora, they were abandoned and forgotten for over a thousand years until a British hunting party accidentally stumbled upon it in 1819. Them and many of the subsequent visitors caused irreparable damage to the paintings, due to the use of fire to light up the caves. Today, the caves are well preserved, however flash photography, which is illegal, is causing further damage to this invaluable gift from antiquity.
Naturally, there's more to this place
This area surrounding the caves is protected and is host a lot of interesting local flora and fauna. This dramatic setting of the gorge can be further appreciated by crossing any of the three bridges and then climbing the hill opposite to the caves.
At the end of the horseshoe shaped gorge, there lies a picturesque seven tiered waterfall called Saptakunda (English: seven ponds) that truly comes into life during the monsoons. All of its tiers and mini cascades can be seen from the view point across the caves.
20°33' N, 75°42' E
Distance from Aurangabad
Even though it is prohibited, many visitors indulge in flash photography, causing further damage to the delicate murals. Although there are fences to ward off desecrators, security is sometimes woefully inadequate.
Caves map and places of interest
Note: The arrows represent Swadesee’s suggested route if one wishes to go up to the several panoramic viewpoints. The estimated times do not take into account time taken visiting each cave. An entire day could easily be spent at the Ajanta Caves.
1 – Bus drop off point
2 – Ticket counter
3 – Climb up (5 mins from entrance)
4 – Entrance (10 mins from entrance)
5 – Caves 1 to 15 (15-20 mins from entrance)
6 – Caves 15 to 31 (25-35 mins from entrance)
7 – Waterfall lower viewpoint (40 mins from entrance)
8 – Panaromic cave viewpoint (Up the stairs. 60 mins from entrance)
9 – Way back without having to climb again (80 mins from entrance)
“This site needs to be better promoted by the government. The caves were selected by UNESCO along with the Taj Mahal for a reason.”
– Rahul Dev Nikam, Official Guide
“It isn’t easy to guard these caves. I’ve been here two months and people tend to jump barriers to touch the paintings, or even take a piece back home with them. I’ve even had cases where people have spat gutka or urinated inside the caves.”
– Vikas Jadhav, Watchman at cave 20
“We live in a nearby village above the caves. Water tables have depleted so much that we can now only grow crops in the rainy season.”
– Vendors of fresh and juicy cucumbers near the waterfalls