Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Aurangabad Part V - Ajanta - Another Day in Paradise

Ajanta Caves are located at a distance of 110Kms from Aurangabad. It normally takes around 2.5 hours to reach the base of the caves. Naturally we were extravagant by the thought of seeing another masterpiece of art. So we got up early in the morning, got ready and had our breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The plan was to start around 8.30 am in the morning and reach there by 11 am.

We started on time and was progressing towards our much awaited destination. But a flat tyre again!! This time it took longer to replace the tyre than the previous day. I was cursing my fate like anything. Getting flat tyres – and that too on consecutive days – was simply unacceptable when you are on your way to Ajanta.

We reached the base of the caves around 11.40 am. Unlike Ellora, no car is allowed near the caves. One has to take the MSRTC buses from the base to reach the main entrance of the caves which is around 4 kms from the base. Before we enter the complex, we had to pay an ‘amenities charge’ and ‘parking fee’. After getting our car parked, through a series of shops, we proceeded towards the bus stand to find ourselves behind a long queue. The place was getting thronged too fast. There are 2 types of buses – AC and Non – AC. We were fortunate that we got the AC bus – the sun was even more scorching today. Here I would like to add that there is a lot of scope of improvement for the management in regards to how the queue is managed. it was absolute pandemonium. Here is the bus stand - the bus at the back was non-AC and the one in fron was the AC bus -

Anyway, we bought the ticket (only one way ticket is available) of the bus and suited ourselves. The bus started and within 10 minutes we reached the main entrance of the caves. Here again, we had to buy the entry tickets and started walking towards the caves. Here is the parking at the top -

Ajanta has 29 rock cut caves of fabulous grandeur. The caves are located in a series, in a horse–shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora. Not only sculptures, Ajanta caves are more famous and unique for its paintings on the walls and roof which appear as mesmerizing as ever. These caves are excavated much earlier than Ellora. The first phase were excavated in 6th century BC while the second phase dates back to 2nd century BC covering both the Hinayana and the Mahayana phases.

The discovery of Ajanta is quite accidental. On 28 April 1819, a British officer for the Madras Presidency, John Smith, while hunting tiger, accidentally discovered the entrance to one of the cave temples (Cave No. 9) deep within the tangled undergrowth. Captain Smith wrote his name in pencil on one of the walls. Still faintly visible, it records his name and the date, April 1819.

Shortly after this discovery, the Ajanta Caves became renowned for their exotic setting, impressive architecture, historic artwork, and long-forgotten history.

Nowadays these caves are globally renowned as one of the most astonishing architectures of the world. In 1983 UNESCO listed the site as a World Heritage one along with Ellora.

The paintings were executed after elaborate preparation of the rock surface initially. The rock surface was left with chisel marks and grooves so that the layer applied over it can be held in an effective manner. The ground layer consists of a rough layer of ferruginous earth mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material of organic origin on the rough surface of walls and ceilings. A second coat of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material was applied over the ground surface. Then the surface was finally finished with a thin coat of lime wash. Over this surface, outlines are drawn boldly, then the spaces are filled with requisite colours in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes. The colours and shades utilised also vary from red and yellow ochre, terra verte, to lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The chief binding material used here was glue. The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the aid of a binding agent, whereas in fresco the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet which, thereby acts as an intrinsic binding agent.

We bought the tickets and started climbing a flight of stairs towards the caves. There are 2 entrances here – entering through the main one you start from cave 1 and proceeded towards Cave 29 and then take exit. Entering through the other entrance, you’d follow the reverse process – starting from Cave 29 and exit after cave 1. Normally people enter through the main entrance only. We did too.

Ajanta has a loads of restrictions on photography – the flash is not allowed at all and the caves are covered in such a way that minimal sunlight can enter into the caves – to preserve the paintings. There are very little lighting in the caves. But you must have an advanced camera which should be capable of capturing the minute details in the dark. Unfortunately I didn’t have such a camera, so many of my photos became either blurred or dark.

A few Panoramic views of Ajanta -

Wild flowers on the way back -

The details of the Caves will be uploaded in the separate post.

Sources:For this post, I acknowledge -



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