Ajanta Caves are the rock-cut caves which mainly belong to the supporters of Buddha. There are many paintings, symbols, and other structures that were built in 2nd century BCE and the development was done till 480CE or 650CE. There are stories depicted in pictures which are related to the rebirth of the Buddha. This study notes will tell you about the history of the caves along with the structures present inside. You will also get the information about the ideal time to visit it along with how to reach the caves.
This study notes is designed for the people who would like to know about the history of Ajanta Caves along with the interiors and design of the caves. The caves are visited by many tourist from India and abroad.
This is a brief study notes designed only for informational purpose. There are no prerequisites as such. All that you should have is a keen interest to explore new places and experience their appeal.
Ajanta Caves are situated in Aurangabad city in Maharashtra state of India. The caves were built in two stages. The first phase started from around second BCE and the second phase started from around 480 or 650 AD. The caves mainly belonged to Buddhists as there are many photos, icons, and pictorial stories that tell about Buddha and his rebirth.
Aurangabad city is situated in Maharashtra state and was named after the Mughal emperor Aurungzeb. There are many monuments in and around the city which the tourists can visit. Malik Amber was the founder of the city in 1610. Malik Amber was the Prime Minister of Shah Nizam who made Khadki as his capital.
After the death of Shah Nizam in 1626, Fateh Khan succeeded him and changed the name of the place to Fatehnagar. In 1633, Mughals captured Fatehnagar and Daulatabad and Aurungzeb was selected as the viceroy of Deccan. Aurungzeb made Fatehnagar his capital and renamed it as Aurangabad.
Ajanta Caves are opened for the Travelers from 9:00am to 5:30pm. Travelers can visit the caves on all days except Mondays. It takes around two to three hours to visit the caves as there are many things to see inside.
Travelers have to pay an entry fee in order to visit the caves. Indian travelers need to pay Rs. 10 while the foreign travelers have to pay Rs. 250. If tourists want to carry still camera or video camera, they need to pay Rs. 25 extra. There is no charge for the children who are under 15 years.
The time of June to March is the ideal time to visit the caves as the climate is wonderful. In the remaining months of April and May, the temperature is exceptionally hot and the atmosphere is unsatisfactory for visiting the caves.
The city nearest to Ajanta Caves is Aurangabad which is around 99km away. There are more than 200 hotels in Aurangabad that extend from economical hotels to expensive five-star hotels. Some of these hotels are as per the following −
VITS Hotel located at Station Road
Welcom Hotel Rama International located at Chikhalthana
Ambassador Ajanta located at Cidco
Vivanta by Taj Aurangabad located at Rauza Bagh
Lemon Tree Hotel located at Chikhalthana
Keys Hotel The Aures located at Kranti Chowk
Hotel Windsor Castle located at Cidco
The Meadows located at Mitmita
Hotel Gurjas located at Vinayak Patil’s Chowk
Hotel JP International located at Narailbag
Hotel Green Olive located at Bhagya Nagar
The Manor Hotel located at Osmanapura Kranti Chowk
The Sky Court located opposite Railway Station
Hotel Avon International located at Jalna Road
Budget or Two-Star Hotels
Hotel regal Plaza located at Bansilal Nagar
Vijay Residency located at Cidco
Hotel Admiral Suites located at Osmanapura
Hotel Manmandir Executive located at Adalat Road
Hotel Pearl located at Samarthnagar
Cheap or One-Star Hotels
Hotel Sparkling Pearl located at Cidco
Hotel Venkateshwar located at Rokadia Hanuman Colony
Hotel Deepali Executive located at Cidco
Hotel Indradeep Executive located at Station Road
Hotel Sahara located at Jalna Road
Ajanta Caves were worked in two phases and they have around 29 caves to be seen. The caves are numbered in order to distinguish them but that doesn't mean that they are built in the chronological order.
The caves 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A were developed during this period and are considered as the earliest caves. These caves belong to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. Out of these caves, cave 9 and cave 10 have Buddhist Stupas which have worship halls and caves 12, 13, and 15A have viharas.
According to the historians and various studies, it has been discovered that second phase of the development of Ajanta caves began during the reign of Harisena, a king of Vataka dynasty. The caves constructed during this period belonged to the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.
The caves that were built during this period are 1 to 8, 11, and 14 to 29. Out of these caves, 19, 26, and 29 are chaitya grihas and rest are viharas. After the death of Harisena, construction of the caves came to a halt however were in use. Though some historians state that Buddhist utilized the caves but no stable community was available there.
John Smith founded the caves in 1819 during his hunting campaign. While moving around, he came to cave 10 and then asked the villagers to remove the jungle that grew around the cave. Within a few decade, the caves became popular due to the paintings present inside. Nizam of Hyderabad changed over the place into a museum.
Roads were also worked during his reign and tourists were allowed to see the site by paying a small sum of money. This led to deterioration of the site but after independence, the caves came under government of Maharashtra which took measures to stop crumbling.
There are few paintings that can be found in the Ajanta caves. People can mostly discover Mural paintings that were made during both the phases. Ancient paintings show that they were made during the Satvahana period. A portion of the caves have the paintings of Gupta period and later.
Ajanta frescos are classical paintings made on dry plaster surface. The paintings were elaborately made with distinguishing features. The ceilings of the caves were also elaborately decorated. Cave 1 has the paintings of Jataka tales which is identified to previous lives of Buddha.
Ajanta Caves were worked from the Basalt aggregated in the form of igneous stones. These stones were amassed because the volcanic eruptions occurred long back. The laborers cut the rock with appropriate arranging as splits also occurred during the process.
The laborers carved pillars, rooftops, and symbols out of the stones. Alongside this, painting work was also done. Travelers can enter the site through a gateway worked between cave 15 and cave 16. The gateway is decorated with elephant and snake.
Most of the caves are in the form of Viharas having dormitories appended to them. At the back side of the caves, a sanctuary was assembled and each sanctuary has a statue of Lord Buddha in the center. Many other deities are also carved on the pillars and close to the large statue of Buddha.
These caves were worked during the second phase and were moved from Hinayana sect to Mahayana sect. Due to all these highlights, they came to be known as monasteries. The center of the viharas are in the form of a square having rectangular passageways on each side. There are number of little cells which can be entered through the doors made up of wood.
The worship halls, also known as Chaitya Grihas, was worked in the structure a square shape. The halls are divided into a naïve and two aisles. The hall consists of a stupa and an aspe. A stupa is a hemispherical structure having the remains of Buddhist monks and nuns while apse is a semi-circular structure having a vault or semi-dome.
People performed circumambulation around the stupa which is encircled by pillars. Some caves have large entrances having windows through which light entered the caves. The development of the worship halls depicted the architecture of Christian church but they didn’t have any house of prayer.
There are around 29 caves on the site and the description of each one is as per the following −
Cave 1 is a religious community having a corridor with 14 cells. The corridor also have sanctuary and a verandah whose dimension is 10.5 x 2.82 x 4.1m. There is a courtyard with two cells, one on each side. There is a statue of Buddha that is seated in the mudra of dharma chakra parivartana
Cave 2 has the dimensions of 35.7 x 21.6. The cave includes cells, sanctuary, and subshrines. There is a statue of Buddha who is seated in the mudra of dharma chakra parivartan. Each sub-shrine has a painting of Yaksha known as Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi. Alongside it, the figures of Panchika and Hariti can also be found. The ceiling is painted with Jataka tales.
Cave 3 has the dimensions of 10.08 x 8.78. The cave is an incomplete monastery and only a pillared verandah can be found here. Cave 4 is a monastery in square shape and has a hall, a sanctuary, and a pillared verandah. The components of the monastery is 35.08 x 27.65m.
The edge of the door is carved with Bodhisatva and eight incredible perils. Cave five is an incomplete monastery whose dimensions is 10.32 x 16.8m. The edge of the door is carved in a sophisticated manner. Female figures can also be found in the cave.
Cave 6 is a monastery having double storey and has the dimension of 16.85 x 18.07m. A sanctuary and a corridor can be found on the first floor. The second floor has a corridor with cells, sub-cells and sanctuary.
Alongside these, there is a statue of Buddha introduced in both sanctuaries. The statue shows that Buddha is showing his disciples and followers. Paintings of Sravasti and Mara’s Temptation can likewise be found here.
Cave 7 has the dimensions of 15.55 x 31.25m. The cave has a sanctuary along with a hall with two small verandahs. The ceiling of the hall is supported by pillars having octagonal shape and has eight cells. The sanctuary has a statue of Buddha preaching to his supporters. Paintings of Buddha under the presence and assurance of Nagamuchanda is additionally there.
Cave 8 has the dimensions of 15.24 x 24.64m. It is an incomplete monastery and is considered as one of the earliest caves. A few parts of the cave were ruined due to a landslide.
Cave 9 is a chaitya griha having the dimensions of 18.24 x 8.04m and belongs to Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The cave has a door with two side windows, and a central corridor. The passageways in the passageways are separated by 23 pillars. The lobby also has a stupa for worshipping.
Cave 10 has the dimensions of 30.5 x 12.2m having two aisles on each side which are separated by 39 octagonal pillars. There is also a stupa where the followers used to revere. The paintings in the caves depict the stories of Sama Jataka and Chhaddanta Jataka. One of the paintings belong to second century BC while the other belongs to fourth to eighth century.
Cave 11 is a religious community having the dimensions of 19.87 x 1735m. The cave has a lobby with long bench and six cells. The verandah in the cave is pillared and has four cells. The statue of Buddha can be found in the sanctuary. An inadequate stupa can also be found in the cave.
Cave 12 is a Hinayana monastery having the dimensions of 14.9 x 17.82m. The corridor has twelve cells arranged on its side. The first wall of the hall has collapsed. An inscription on the wall tells that a merchant named Ghanamadada gifted this cave during the period of second century BC to first century BC.
Cave 13 is a Hinayana monastery having a collapsed façade and a square corridor. Rock-cut beds can be found in the three cells. These cells are situated on each side of the corridor. Cave 13 is one of the earliest caves that was found during unearthing.
Cave 14 can be found above cave 13 and is a monastery whose dimensions is 13.43 x 19.28m. It is an early Mahayana Vihara which has sala bhanjikas on the corners of the doorway.
Cave 15 is a monastery that belongs to Hinayana group of Buddhism and was worked in fifth century AD. The dimensions of the cave is 19.62 x 15.98m. The cave has a verandah, a hall and a shrine having many pictures of Buddha.
Cave 15A is the smallest cave in Ajanta. It has a central corridor with three cells, one on each side. There was an inscription on the front wall. The chaitya window in the hall is built according to vedica pattern.
Cave 16 is a monastery of Mahayana sect of Buddhism. There is a painting in which it is indicated that Princess Sundari is glad when she came to realize that her husband, Nanda, is going to become a monk. Nanda was the half-brother of Buddha.
Cave 17 is a monastery that belongs to Mahayana sect. The caves has many paintings on the doors, walls, and ceiling. The ceiling has the paintings of musicians and maidens while paintings of Buddha, lotus petals, goddesses and different paintings were made on the door.
One painting shows King Simhala battling with ogresses who ate humans. Another painting shows the flying gods with their apsaras. There are seven statues of Buddha seating with the future Buddha. Each statue is situated under a Bodhi tree.
Cave 18 is rectangular in shape having the dimensions of 3.88 x 11.66m. The lobby has two pillars having shaped bases and octagonal shaft. Cave 19 is a chaitya griha whose dimensions is 16.05 x 7.09m.
The stupa in the cave has a enormous statue of Buddha. There are two pictures of Yakshas that and each lies on either side of the arch. The walls in the hall are painted with the images of Buddha sitting in various postures.
Cave 20 is a religious community that belongs to Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The verandah of the cave has carved columns and bracket figures. There is a lobby in the cave having no pillars. People can go to the shrine through an waiting room attached to the hall. The waiting room has two chambers one on each side.
Cave 21 is a religious community whose dimensions is 28.56 x 28.3m. There is a lobby with twelve cells out of which four cells have pillared yards. Another element in the hall is the twelve pillars. Along with this, the cave has sanctuary and a pillared verandah. The sanctuary has a statue of Buddha which depicts that he is lecturing to his disciples.
Cave 22 is situated on the left side of cave 21. The cave is a vihara having a collapsed verandah and a lobby. The lobby has two incomplete cells on left and right side. A Buddha figure can be found inside the shrine.
Cave 23 is a religious community having the dimensions of 28.32 x 22.52m. The monastery has a hall with cells on its sides. Other structures found in the cave are a sanctuary, waiting rooms and a verandah.
The development of the cave could not be done yet but still the pillars inside are well decorated. The cave additionally has pictures of naga depicted as doorkeepers. Alongside this, pilasters or rectangular columns can also be found in the cave.
Cave 24 is a monastery having the dimensions of 29.3 x 29.3m. The cave has a lobby with a pillared verandah and a sanctuary. There is a house of prayer outside the verandah which is also pillared. There is a statue of Buddha having the posture of pralamba-padasana.
Cave 25 is a monastery having the dimensions of 11.37 x 12.24m. The cave has a courtyard, a corridor, and a pillared verandah. There are two cells on the left of the verandah but no cells are there in the hall. Another feature of the cave is that there is no shrine in the cave.
Cave 26 is a prayer hall of Mahayana sect. in which a enormous statue of Buddha is introduced. The statue shows the death of Buddha and below it are the statues of followers who are grieving for him. Above the statue of Buddha are statues of heavenly beings who are cheering as Buddha is coming back. There is also a stupa in the cave having a statue of Buddha.
Cave 27 has two stories out of which one is partially collapsed. The cave is a religious community having a hall with four cells. Different structures in the cave are a sanctuary and an vestibule. There is a statue of Buddha in the sanctuary. The statue depicts that Buddha is showing his disciples.
Cave 28 is a religious community and has only a pillared verandah. Nothing much is excavated in this cave and furthermore it is not fully constructed. Cave 29 is a chaitya griha having the dimensions of 22.8 x 12.84m. The cave is situated between cave 20 and cave 21.
Ajanta caves can be easily reached from Aurangabad and Jalgaon cities. Aurangabad is 99km away from Ajanta caves while Jalgaon is just 59km away. Aurangabad is well connected to Indian urban communities by air, rail, and road transport.
The approximate distance of Aurangabad from various cities is as per the following −
Aurangabad to Mumbai
By air – 265km
By rail – 253km
By road – 327km
Aurangabad to Jalgaon
By rail – 273km
By road – 161km
Aurangabad to Hyderabad
By air – 433km
By rail – 508km
By road – 540km
Aurangabad to Bhusaval
By rail – 272km
By road – 164km
Aurangabad to Nagpur
By air – 426km
By rail – 621km
By road – 487km
Aurangabad to Pune
By air – 212km
By rail – 426km
By road – 230km
Aurangabad to Manmad
By rail – 52km
By road – 114km
Aurangabad has an airport which is 10km from the city and its name is Chikkalthana airport. The airport is all around connected to Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur and Delhi. Tourists can reach Aurangabad through flights and hire a taxi or take a bus to Ajanta caves.
Aurangabad is well-connected to significant cities of India through railway network. Many trains of long and short routes have stoppage here and tourist from various cities can come to Aurangabad via train and then take a bus or taxi to visit Ajanta caves.
Aurangabad bus station provides buses to many major cities. The bus stand is situated on Jalgaon road in front of Lemon Tree hotel. The buses associates Aurangabad to Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and other major cities.
Travelers can move around Aurangabad through auto rickshaws and local buses. Other than these, there are different agencies in the city from where travelers can book cabs for a fixed period of time and move in and around the city.
Ajanta caves is very popular among the travelers and many of them come from different places in India and abroad to visit the caves and explore about their history. Other than these, there are many other places which the tourists can visit nearby Ajanta caves. Some of these places are as per the following −
Kailasanatha Temple is a Hindu temple located in cave 16 of Ellora caves. The temple was worked from a single stone and depicts the Kailash parvat or Kailash hill where Lord Shiva resides.
The temple has a pyramidal structure and has pictures of many gods. The temple also has an picture in which Lord Vishnu has taken an incarnation in the form of a man-lion and battling with a demon.
Bibi ka Maqbara is also called as Taj of Deccan. It was constucted by Aurangzeb in the memory of his wife Rabia ul Daurani also known as Dilras Banu Begum. The mausoleum was built with white marble on a square stage.
There are four minarets, one each at its four corners. A museum is also there on the rear side of the monument which has things used in Mughal period.
Aurangabad Caves are situated between Satara and Sihyachal mountain ranges. These caves have the temples which were built in between sixth and eighth centuries. The temples in the caves were based on Buddhist design. There is a popular shrine that is based on Sutosama Jataka.
Daulatabad Fort is situated on a 600 feet high hill. The development of the fort is based on the forts constructed on ground and hills. Three walls, known as kots, surround the fort so the fort is considered as one of the most power forts.
Bhadra Maruti Temple is located in a town called Khuldabad. It is a Hindu temple where tourists assemble especially during the festival of Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami. The idol of Hanuman is installed here in sleeping posture. On Saturdays, people come from Aurangabad come here by walking to perform puja.