Like everyone else we learned about the Ajanta-Ellora caves through our history books, back in our school days. To be honest I was never interested in History as such and same is the case with Paresh. We will any day prefer swimming on beach or hiking mountains over visiting monuments. Then why am I wasting your time and mine too with this post?? Well, Our recent visit to Aurangabad left us pleasantly surprised and has changed the li’l misconception or rather notion we had about us. We realized that we are not specifically adventurous kind as we like to call ourselves, rather we appreciate every kind of art, be it the painting made by nature or sculptures carved by our fellow humans.
Last month, my family was around, and like every year we were planning a customary family trip. The options were limited for a family outing in June and finally after much research, we settled for a weekend family trip to Aurangabad.
Aurangabad is also known as tourism capital of Maharashtra and rightly so. It has seen several dynasties and rulers of different cultures and communities, each of one has left its mark on the city. It was around 2 B.C. that the stunning cave paintings were made in stone carved monasteries which is now known as Ajanta. The carvings in the Ellora caves dates back between the 5th and the 10th century (Source: Wikitravel).
The last Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, made the city his capital for more than 50 years. It is during this period of his reign, the city witnessed the construction of some beautiful monuments, including Bibi-qa-Maqbara, a Taj Mahal replica. Buddhist caves and Mughal monuments make Aurangabad apt for a weekend outing from Mumbai. The town serves as a base for exploring the World Heritage Sites of Ellora and Ajanta caves.
The best time to visit Aurangabad is in Winters and Monsoon. Between October to March, the city remains pleasant and green. Monsoon is also a nice time to visit the city of Aurangabad (July to September). In Summer (March – June) it is hot and humid and hence visiting is not advised.
To get there:
Aurangabad is well connected by air, rail and road to other parts of country. The city has direct rail links to important Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, etc. From Mumbai, many trains departs from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus / Dadar Railway Station. We luckily got tatkal tickets in Devagiri express, boarded in night and reached Aurangabad at 7 A.M in morning.
We had booked a family suite in MTDC resort, which was on walkable distance from railway station. Although the room was clean, the resort is not well maintained. We booked a car in INR 1000/- for full day which will take us to different points. The other option is to board a MSRTC bus but we wanted more flexibility hence chose the former. After freshening up and breakfast we left the resort for our first destination, Daulatabad fort. With onset of monsoon in Mumbai, we were expecting pleasant weather in Aurangabad too, which was not the case. However, cloudy skies surely saved us from Sun.
This fort which is just 14K.M. away from Aurangabad city is a must visit. It is a rock fortress, proudly standing on a stranded hill clearly dominating the otherwise flat terrain. Daulatabad Fort was built by Raja Bhillamraj in 12th century. Once known as ‘Devgiri’, the ‘Daulatabad’ (city of fortune) name was give by the Delhi Sultan, Muhamad Tughlaq.(Source: Wikipedia)
The fort boasts a series of secret, puzzled, endless passages as the famous features. It is said to be only occupied by cheating as per local stories. For photographers, this fort is a delight. So much so that Paresh was walking less and clicking more. He was making me stand anywhere and everywhere for that ‘perfect click’. And mind you results are amazing 🙂 You can check more pictures on our Instagram handle 🙂
The way to the top view point involved going through bhool bhulaiya(maze) and climbing hundereds of steps. The only problem we faced that there were no pit stops for drinking water, neither food stalls, which made the way up a li’l difficult. My mother and sister were ahead of us, thanks to our photography spree.
There was a an old Ganesh temple on top, and we reached there last, my mum was already sitting there smiling. She talked to the pujari (Godman), and arranged drinking water for all of us (mothers I tell you!). The view point was still some 50 steps away, and once we reached there everyone grabbed corners for relaxing. The view from top was amazing, and we spent good time clicking pictures there.
After spending one and half hours in Daulatabad fort, we left for our next destination , Ellora Caves!
We had our lunch midway in a hotel suggested by our cab driver. TBH, the food was very spicy and not upto the mark. One of the problem we faced that very rarely you will get decent food, once you left the city. Our advice is to have a heavy breakfast in city before hitting roads and keep some snacks handy.
One of the largest rock-cut temple cave complexes in the world (IKR! ), Ellora caves are around 29 k.m away from city center. It is UNESCO world heritage site, featuring Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments dating back to 600-1000 CE period( Source:Wikipedia).There are about 100 carved caves out of which 34 caves are open for tourists.The caves are marked with number on pavements.
The moment you enter the site , the first cave which you see is Cave no. 16 (Kailash temple), the most famous of all. A chariot shaped temple made of a single rock is one of its kind, and is largest rock excavation the world. Jaw-dropping right??We were awestruck by the fact and how beautifully it was carved, that too from one single rock! The intricate carvings of God,Goddesses, animals were straight out of Hindu mythologies.
We then left to see other caves, all were beautifully carved with Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist epics. But as the show-stopper was obviously Cave no.16, the major crowd left early which made our excursion more peaceful (Mean ehh!). We pondered over the carvings and the beauty of rustic art around us.
We were hopping from one cave to other, carefully looking at each walls only to find more beautiful carvings. Each of us were shouting to call others to see what they found, yea we are a bunch of crazy people. My mother, who is youngest of all, would literally run through caves and ask Paresh to click pictures of each and every sculpture she will find and Paresh had to comply(Poor lad!).
Finally when we sat after cave marathon, we realized that our legs have started hurting, and we left the place after exploring around 20 caves. We skipped going to Grishneshwar temple, one of the 12 jyotirlingas, as we were all sweaty.We decided to spend our rest of the evening in mini Taj-mahal, Bibi ka Maqbara.
Bibi ka Maqbara
Also called as “Taj of Deccan”, due to its striking resemblance with the legendary Taj Mahal. Bibi ka Maqbara (Tomb of the lady) is an important monument in Aurangabad, commisioned by none other than Aurangjeb, for her most beloved wife, Dilras Banu Begum. The largest structure to his credit, Aurangjeb was himself buried few kilometers away in Khuldabad. (Source)
It is a peaceful place to visit in evening, certainly not as grand as the Taj mahal. Watching Sun go down, illuminating the beautiful structures with warm light, has calming effects if you ask me 🙂
By the time we reached the main monument, each one of us was tired, and hence no running after each other. Everyone picked corners for themselves and got busy in lone time with the architecture marvel.
We left for our hotel as it started getting dark, which was hardly 6k.m. from the monument. In dinner, We choose to hog on Domino’s pizza and called off the night.
The next day we woke up early to leave for Ajanta Caves, which was around 104 k.M away from the city. Initially I was skeptical visiting Ajanta caves as it was quite far from the city. The Internet was also suggesting that out of two, Ellora is better , as Ajanta is just repetition of what you saw in the former plus some paintings. But As our train departure was in night and we had full day we went ahead with the plan. We hired the same cab, this time it charged 1700/- for a return trip.
The journey from Aurangabad to Ajanta took three and half hours including time for breakfast. As the monsoon has still not arrived in central India, the weather was humid. With barren lands running behind my car window, I was still thinking was it a right move to travel for three hours to see rocks?
We reached by 12 p.m. and took bus to reach the cave entrance, what followed is two hours full of amusement and proud.
The Ajanta caves are rock cut caves, total 30 in number, which dates back to 2nd century (whaaat!). The caves boasts painting and sculptures which are proof of rich Indian art and cultural history. A UNESCO world heritage site, the caves were build in two phases, constituting Buddhist monasteries and worship halls. (Source: Wikipedia)
The inner walls, ceilings and pillars of caves are beautifully carved and display paintings related to Buddiest tales. The expressive poses, bold colours and intricate carvings make Ajanta caves the largest surviving examples of ancient Indian wall-painting art.
We were in Awe! How they were able to make such elaborate paintings! In a cave! Carved out of rocks! Well, this was art in art( Inception you see ;)). Flabbergasted is the right word to explain our state of mind.
We went through each and every cave patiently pondering over each wall like we do in a painting exhibition!The Ajanta caves are better in terms of maintenance, there is drinking water available at many caves which is a big relief, also for elderly people palanquins were available, made out of chair (A classic example of Indian jugaad :)).
After spending almost two hours in caves we headed to have lunch in MTDC restaurant located at just entrance of the site. Luckily the food was delicious, and service was good, making happy ending of the the visit.
By the time we reached Aurangabad it was already dark, we had dinner in a hotel. We boarded our scheduled chartered bus in night to reach Mumbai in morning.
Overall it was eye-opening and enriching experience up-close with our rich heritage. We left the city with a smile on our face and immense respect for our ancestors. For they have created such marvels in past that have lasted for thousands of years and peoplefrom all over from world come to witness it in its full glory.