From the great Daultabad we headed towards the Aurangabad Caves. Enroute we passed Bibi Ka Makbara and went further ahead towards a hill, the next destination being Aurangabad Caves which were just 2.5 kms from Bibi Ka Makbara. It was 12.15 pm and the sun was radiating with all its power. Our driver said that we could finish the caves within half an hour which seemed a bit impossible to me.
Aurangabad Caves are 12 Buddhist Caves which are spread over the hills past the Bibi Ka Makbara into 3 different groups. These groupings are done as per the location of these caves. At the western side there are 5 different caves – Cave 1-5. To the eastern side caves 6-9 are located in the second group which is almost a kilometer apart from the first group. The third group – consisting of caves 10-12 – is at the close proximity of the second group, only 100 meters or so apart. The caves are datable from circa 2nd – 3rd century AD to 7th century AD.
Our car first came to the western side of the hills. This is the main entrance of the caves and you have to buy the tickets from here. So always start from this side.
We bought the tickets (5 Rs per head again) and entered into the complex. To our utter frustration, we saw a number of stairs which we needed to climb to reach the level where the caves resided. We knew how the climb was going to be under the sun – steep and arduous and so it was.
After much gasping and panting we reached the top and started visiting the caves. There was some repair work going on.
Cave 1 was an unfinished vihara. It is amongst the oldest of this series of the caves. This belonged to the 2nd-3rd century AD.
Cave 2 was also a vihara. There was shrine of Buddha at the rear.
Cave 3 was a chaitya hall which dated back to the Hinayana age, again built around 2nd-3rd century AD. This cave was in a state of so badly preserved that the whole stupa and the pillars were being reconstructed by concrete and cement.
Cave 4 was a very simple chaitya which was excavated around 4th century AD.
Cave 5 used to be a small temple but the whole front collapsed.
We visited these caves in quick succession, in one of the caves (Cave 1 or 2) there were great carvings and sculptures, some equally comparable to the great Ajanta & Ellora in regards to the skill with which they were carved.
We came back to the main entrance, got in the car and then headed towards the eastern side of the hills. After 5 mins we reached the parking and we were thankful that there were no stairs this time.
Cave 6 looked like it had the features of a vihara and a chaitya both which was unique. It had carvings of Buddha in a teaching gesture and with many other carvings like dwarfs, worshippers etc.
Cave 7 was the most important of all these caves and bore a lot of carvings of great elegance. It had famous carvings of the Boddhisattva Padmapani delivering from the 8 great fears of the Buddhas, Tara the start Goddess, avalokitesvara etc. One of the most famous sculptures was a group of six female musicians. As per ASI board at the entrance, some of the sculptures here are more elaborate than the same examples in Ajanta and Ellora. This statement itself justified the splendor and majesty of the carvings of this cave.
Cave 8 was an unfinished one, and it looked as if the excavation work just commenced.
Cave 9 is in ruins and nothing much is left to see here, other than a sitting Buddha statue.
The last group of caves can be reached by flight of stairs (not again!!). But Caves 10, 11 and 12 are perfectly plain and did not bear anything significance. Cave 10 is almost buried up while cave 11 and 12 were unfinished.
To our surprise, we completed the 12 caves within half an hour as predicted by our driver. Perhaps we did not do justice to these caves but to be very frank, we did not have much strength left within us to carry on.
We then proceeded towards Bibi Ka Makbara.
Snaps are here -