Ajanta, Ellora & Daulatabad in Rains
I must have visited Ajanta, Ellora & Daulatabad countless times, when I schooled at Aurangabad briefly between 1979-1983, either as a guide to our guests coming to visit these wonders or as weekend trip with parents. Ellora was just about 30 kms from our home (less than 45 mins drive those days) while Daulatabad Fort was on the way (about 15 kms). This was often rounded off by a visit to the holy Grishneshwar Temple (one of the 12 Jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva) just a kilometer away from Ellora. Though we say Ajanta & Ellora in the same breath, both are about 100 kms apart and you require 2 full days to cover both these sites.
Though I have been talking about these marvels to my wife, since we got married, we never got a chance to visit these places until July 2017. For me it was a home-coming after almost 3 decades. I timed the visit to coincide with monsoon, since the beauty of all 3 monuments can be much admired during rains, when the landscape changes from dry and barren – brown to a pleasant to the eyes – green.
Nothing much had changed except for the fact, that both Ajanta and Ellora had been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1983. Since Ajanta is now a protected site, photography has been banned inside the caves and the last mile approach to the caves has been banned for private vehicles. I could also see paintings covered by glass or barricaded so as to avoid people from touching them. However the damage to the sensitive caves, had already been done by mindless people, who used the paintings to carve out their names, before these restrictions were put in place. To top the damage, the outer portion of Ajanta Caves was badly scarred after the Archaeological Survey of India dug a pit and hastily abandoned the construction of a cement portico, which was meant to be pleasing to the eyes. The same is true for Ellora caves as well. Except nature, no one has been kind to the sensitive caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
Though an article on Ajanta or Ellora may take pages to write, I am restricting this blog to just a brief summary of all the 3 “Archaeological Wonders of Bharat“.
Kailasa Temple at Ellora:
Will you believe that the Kailasa Temple at Ellora was carved out of a single rock, making it one of the biggest monolithic structures built on this planet and hold your breath… Yes it was constructed top-down. Some say it was built by aliens, since it’s impossible to build such a unique structure by human beings thousands of years ago using just chisels and hammers !!
The Kailasa Temple (Cave# 16) at Ellora, is considered as one of the most remarkable cave temples in India built almost 3,000 years ago.
Aurangzeb tried to vandalise this Temple but his soldiers gave up after 3 years. You can still see some statues, that are chopped off.
Yet Kailasa temple is not in the list of Wonders of the World and you may wonder why…..
The magnificent fort was built by the Yadavas of Deogiri (hill of Gods) in 11th Century AD and it was their capital until 1296 A.D when Ala-ud-din Khiliji conquered them. The story of Daulatabad’s abundant wealth had reached far and wide and hence it was the target of every King/Emperor.
The Khiljis renamed Deogiri as Daulatabad (abode of wealth) and got the capital shifted from Delhi to Daulatabad in A.D 1328, for a brief period. Daulatabad was later under the control of Bahamanis, Nizams, Marathas and the Mughals. The Bahamanis built “Chand Minar” – clone of Qutub Minar within the premises.
When Aurangazeb took control of the fort he installed a huge canon to improve its defence, called ”Mendha Tope.’’ (meaning Ram’s Head in Marathi), which is the 2nd biggest cannon in Bharat.
If only the cannons and the walls of the Fort could talk and narrate the story of Daulatabad’s glorious past….. Visit Daulatabad in the rains and enjoy the peacocks dancing within the ruins of the Fort.
Ajanta Caves are one of the most impressive Buddhist monuments, that are are rock-cut and built in 2nd century B.C. The caves are excavated in a horse shoe shaped rock surface.
It was accidentally discovered in 1819 by a British officer named John Smith while hunting a Tiger. He later vandalised the cave painting of a Bodhisattva by scratching his name and date over it.
Ajanta Caves were listed amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983. Of the total 30 caves, cave no. 10 is the oldest one dating back to 2nd century B.C., that has a vast prayer hall called Chaitya. Importantly it features a Sanskrit inscription in Brahmi script, that is archaeologically very important.
The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship halls of different Buddhist traditions. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Jataka Tales, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities.
The colors and shades used at Ajanta Caves were red and yellow ochre, terra verte, lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The main binding material used in the paintings was glue. Thus, the paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the help of a binding agent.
Do not forget to visit the View Point, 20 kms before you reach Ajanta Caves to get an exhilarating view of the Caves looking like a perfect horse-shoe.
To view the photos, please click on these links below:
- Kailash Temple at Ellora: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Hzh6CC2de1zh7yxw7
- Daulatabad Fort: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Z5nzgqZwxAQ3ufzp6
- Ajanta Caves: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Pa4m757QeBULeg8N9