Ajanta Ellora Caves have always been recognized as the gems that represent Indian history and the impressive artistry that existed in the foregone era. These tourist attractions consist of 64 rock-cut caves, located in close proximity from the city of Aurangabad.
Today, Ajanta and Ellora Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and exist in the wishlist of many travelers. Since we didn’t want your research to be exhausting, we decided to jot down all you need to know before you plan a trip to Ajanta Ellora Caves.
This is your complete Ajanta Ellora Caves Tour Guide that covers history, the best time to visit, timings and fee, how to reach, map, main attractions of the caves, things to do, and places to stay.
A Little History
Ajanta Caves date back to the time between 2nd century BCE to 480 or 650 CE. Walter M. Spink, the famous history scholar, have stated that the caves were built in two phases (Satavahana Period and Vākāṭaka Period). Some of the caves were not completed and some only had their construction begun for a short time.
On the other hand, Ellora Caves happen to be younger and have its history dating back to 5th and 10 century CE. The Ellora caves are divided into three parts – Hindu Caves, Jain Caves, and Buddhist Caves.
The site of Ajanta Caves was later abandoned and got covered in thick forest, until 1819 when a British officer rediscovered it. However, Ellora Caves have always had the attention it deserves. Today, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves combine to form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as announced on 1983.
Best time to visit Ajanta Ellora Caves
June to March is the best time to visit Ajanta Ellora Caves due to pleasant weather. From June to September (monsoon) the region receives average to plenty of rain showers, which make the exploration experience a delight. While during months of November to February the temperature drops moderately.
Summer months (March to May) can actually get hot especially in the daytime. So, try to avoid this season if you’re planning a visit.
Timings and fee
Ajanta and Ellora caves timings are as follows:
Timings: 9 am to 9:30 pm (Mondays closed)
Entry fee: INR 10 per head (Indians) | INR 250 per head (foreign tourists) | INR 25 per camera | INR 0 for children below 15 years old
Timings: From sunrise to sunset
Entry fee: INR 10 per head (Indians) | INR 250 per head (foreign tourists) | INR 25 per camera
How to reach
Being a popular attraction of India, Ajanta Ellora Caves are easily accessible through various modes of transportation.
By air: The caves are about 100 km away from Aurangabad Airport, which is well-connected with major cities in India.
By train: Jalgaon Railway Station is the nearest railway station, located at a distance of 60 km. If you’re wondering how to reach Ajanta Ellora Caves from Mumbai, and other cities of the country then you’ve found your answer, owing to easy connectivity.
By road: Aurangabad is easily reachable via road from different neighboring places like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, and Ahmedabad.
Why not explore the caves like royalty? Board the luxury trains in India and indulge in sheer opulence, delight, and warmest of hospitality while unfolding the legends of this gem, along with the other popular tourist destinations of India.
Map of Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Differences between Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, though are often addressed as one, have some differences:
1. Distance: Both the caves are 100 km away from each other. Ajanta Caves is 104 km from Aurangabad, while Ellora Caves is 29 km away from Aurangabad
2. Shape: Ajanta Caves are carved in a horse-shoe shaped rock. Ellora Caves are scattered randomly
3. Construction period: Ajanta Caves were built in the period between 200 BCE and 680 CE. On the other hand, Ellora Caves are way younger and were built between 5th and 10th century
4. Purpose of creation: Ajanta Caves has viharas and Buddhist monasteries. Ellora Caves consists of religious centers for Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain
5. Sponsored by: Funds for the construction of Ajanta Caves were provided by various rulers, mainly Vakataka Dynasty and Satvahana Dynasty. Ellora Caves were majorly built under the rule of Chalukya, Kalachuri and Rashtrakuta rulers.
Attractions of Ajanta Ellora Caves
Ajanta Caves consist of 30 rock-cut caves, showcasing some of the finest paintings and sculptures ever recorded in the Indian history. When exploring this archeological gemstone, don’t miss to visit Cave 1, Cave 2, Cave 4 and Cave 17.
The vantage point across the river allows a lovely view of the surrounding, along with this horse-shaped historical region.
Cave 1: This is one of the most popular caves in Ajanta, as all the paintings are authentic. The grand doorway is adorned with Bodhisattva murals and the sidewalls depict two important phases of Buddha’s life (moment before his enlightenment and when he turned himself into many images)
Cave 2: This cave’s main highlight is its ceiling, which has intricate abstract designs of devils, birds, fruits, and flowers.
Cave 4: This is one of the largest monasteries in Ajanta and still sparks the magic, in spite of being an incomplete creation.
It is apparent that back in the past, there was harmony between Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, considering close proximity of their religious buildings. Ellora Caves has 34 caves, each of which has its own specialty. If time is a constraint, then you must make it a point to visit at least Cave 1, Cave 2 and Cave 16.
Cave 1: The cave is a simple vihara and features 8 monastic cells
Cave 2: Cave 2 has 12 ornate square pillars. Lord Buddha seated on a lion is yet another attraction. The doorway features an impressive carving of Maitreya Buddha, along with Padmapani holding a lotus.
Cave 16: One of the highlights of Ellora Caves, Cave 16 or Kailash Temple also happens to be an important pilgrimage spot for the followers of Lord Shiva. The gopurams of this architectural marvel signify Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.
Interesting facts about Ajanta and Ellora Caves
- Ellora Caves were carved on the volcanic basaltic formation, which is also known as Deccan Trap.
- Cave 15 (Dashavatara) in Ellora depicts the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu
- Cave 29 (Dhumar Lena) has similar design as Elephanta Caves
- The painting style found in Ajanta Caves is believed to have inspired painting style in Tibet and Sri Lanka
- The carvings of the caves are done in such a way that they somehow look like wooden construction
- The main subjects of the paintings found in the caves are Jataka tales and incidences from the life of Lord Buddha
- Ajanta Caves were excavated in a rock surface that looks like horse-shoe shape
- The caves are more than two-thousand-year-old, but the statues are about 600 years younger, as they were added later
- Ajanta Caves were abandoned post the end of Harisena’s reign. The sign was later covered in dense forest.
- Buddha has always been against painting or carving his images, as he preached the lesson to rise above materialistic wishes. But after he died, his followers realized the need of his sculptures and paintings, so that they had something to look up to.
Things to do in Ajanta and Ellora caves
1. Attend the Ajanta Ellora Festival in October
The Ajanta and Ellora Festival (by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) is organized annually in November and attracts travelers from across the world. The dance and music festival escalates the charm of Sonehri Mahal, which was built back in the 17th century.
Ajanta Ellora Dance Festival showcases the talent of young folk and classical artists, along with the craftsmanship and architectural brilliance of the monuments in Aurangabad.
Highlights of Ajanta and Ellora Festival: Folk and cultural performances, handicrafts in Kalagram (shopping arcade) and competitions for rangoli Mehendi.
Next Ellora Ajanta Festival is scheduled for 14th to 16th October. For details, see here.
2. Go shopping in Ajanta and Ellora caves
There are many open-air markets where you’d love to shop to your heart’s desire after glancing at Ajanta and Ellora Caves paintings.
Shopping is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Here, you’ll come across some beautiful Buddha sculptures handcrafted by the local artisans, along with semi-precious stones and silver ornaments, footwear, clothing, Buddhist and Jain paintings; all of which combine to make this one of the best shopping destinations in India.
Must-pick: Handcrafted sculpture of Buddha and paintings
3. Spend time with loved ones at any of lovely places to stay in Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ajanta Ellora Caves offers plenty of options in terms of accommodation as well, that too for different budgets.
Please note most of the accommodation options come with basic necessities and range between INR 2000 to INR 4000 per night.
Now that you know it all, who will you be taking Ajanta Ellora Caves tour with? We’d love to know!