Ellora & Ajanta Temples

Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ellora and Ajanta were one of the highlights of my 2006 trip to India. These Temple Caves were originally built as temples and monasteries and were meticulously carved into the basalt rock formations of the Deccan Plateau by Hindu, Buddist and Jain monks. The highlight of these temples is Cave 16 at Ellora – also known as the Kailasa Temple – which is the largest single monolithic excavation in the world. It was carved from the top down from one solid piece of rock and is shaped like a chariot, dedicated to Shiva.

They are still a little bit unknown to most travelers, as India has many beautiful attractions that steal the spotlight. The caves are located north of Aurangabad, carved into the basalt rock that was formed millions of years ago during a volcanic eruption. It is one of the most important historical sites in the area. Maharashtra Province is India’s 3rd largest by size and 2nd most populous with 112 million people living here. The state is home to Mumbai (Bombay) which is a cultural capital of India, home to Bollywood and many great historical buildings that make it easy to learn about the long and varied history of the country.

The best place to begin exploring the temple caves is in Aurangabad, which is about 45-km from Ellora. It is located along an escarpment and stretches over 2-km in length, the caves are built side by side. This site was built primarily during the between the 6th and 11th centuries, and features over 100 caves, and includes 34 that you can visit. What is most impressive about this location is the religious harmony that existed, as there are temples constructed for Hindu, Buddist and Jain monks.

The most impressive of these structures is Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa Temple. It is close to twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens and is carved out of a single rock. There are life-sized carvings of elephants and a 7-meter tall shrine dedicated to Shiva.

The second site is Ajanta, which has a history that dates back over 2000 years, was constructed from the 2nd Century BCE and the 6th Century AD. The biggest difference between Ellora and Ajanta is that the former contains only Buddist monasteries. It is located in a river canyon, which is shaped in a horseshoe, with the temples carved into the 75-meter high rock face.

Ajanta was re-discovered in 1819 when John Smith, leading a British Hunting party in search of Tigers, cut through the jungle to discover it by accident. Ajanta is located just over 100-km from Aurangabad (or 60-km south of Jalgaon), we traveled here by bus after visiting Ellora. The two sites are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and are both classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Travel in India is always a little bit challenging. Trying to coordinate trains and buses to reach your destination isn’t always easy, but the reward is always worth it. A trip to both the Ellora and Ajanta Temples will be worth any amount of effort to get there and will end up being one of your favourite destinations in India.

Ellora Temples:

 

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Ellora Waterfall, as viewed from Cave 29. 2006.

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Carved Temples. 2006.

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Ellora Temples. 2006.

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Shadows. 2006.

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Ellora Temples. 2006.

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Waterfall. 2006.

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Kailasa Temple. 2006.

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Ellora Temples. 2006.

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Ellora Temple. 2006.

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Massive Elephant Statue. 2006.

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Carved Temples. 2006.

 

Ajanta Temples:

 

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Temples carved into the Cliffs. 2006.

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Buddist Carvings. 2006.

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Waterfall. 2006.

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Buddist Carvings. 2006.

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Temple Entrance. 2006.

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Temples carved into the cliffs. 2006.

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Monkeys. 2006.

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Carved Temples. 2006.

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The River Canyon. 2006.

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Buddist Carvings. 2006.

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Temple Entrance. 2006.

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Buddist Carvings. 2006.

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