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Maharajas' Express Train Ajanta Tour

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Ajanta is the pride of Maharashtra. The rock-cut caves of the site illustrate the degree of skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen had achieved several hundred years ago.

The village of Ajanta is in the Sahyadri hills, about 99 kms, from Aurangabad; a few miles away in a mammoth horseshoe rock, are 30 caves overlooking a gorge, `each forming a room in the hill and some with inner rooms. All these have been carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer and chisel and the faith and inspiration of Buddhism. Here, for the Buddhist monks, the artisans excavated Chaityas (chapels) for prayer and Viharas (monasteries) where they lived and taught. Many of the caves have the most exquisite detailed carvings on the walls, pillars and entrances as well as magnificent wall paintings.

The 30 caves of Ajanta were created over a span of some 600 years.

These caves were discovered by an Army Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819 during one of his hunting expeditions. Instantly the discovery became very famous and Ajanta attained a very important tourist destination in the world. The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting. "

These caves are excavated in horse-shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora. The location of this valley provided a calm and serene environment for the Buddhist monks who retreated at these secluded places during the rainy seasons. This retreat also provided them with enough time for furthering their religious pursuits through intellectual discourses for a considerably longer period.

Listing Of Caves

Phase I

Caves 9 & 10 : Chaitya Halls or shrines
Caves 12 & 13 : Viharas or monasteries

Phase II: 5 th century AD to 6 th century AD

Caves 19,26 & 29 : Chaitya Halls or shrines
Caves 1-7, 11, 14-18, 20-25, 27 & 28 : Viharas or monasteries

Unfinished Caves:

3, 5, 8, 23-25, 28 & 2


In all, total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also include an unfinished one. Out of these, five (cave no. 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29) are chaityagrihas and the rest are viharas. In date and style also, these caves can be divided into two broad groups. The earliest excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism . These caves are datable to the pre-Christian era, the earliest among them being Cave 10 dating from the second century B.C. The object of worship is a stupa here and these caves exhibit the imitation of wooden construction to the extent that the rafters and beams are also sculpted even though they are non-functional.

The world famous paintings at Ajanta also fall into two broad phases. The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C.

The 30 caves of Ajanta were created over a span of some 600 years.

The second phase of paintings started around 5th - 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. The specimen of these exemplary paintings of Vakataka period could be noticed in cave nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17. The variation in style and execution in these paintings also are noticed, mainly due to different authors of different time periods.

It is worth walking away from the caves in order to look back on to the horseshoe gorge. The ingenuous water cistern system can be seen which must have provided water for the monks and their visitors. Ajanta was on the ancient trade route leading to the coast so there must have been considerable activity and many visitors. Nobody really knows what life was like in those times and visitors can interpret the past as they wish, which is perhaps yet another secret charm of Ajanta.

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