I recently came back from another adventure in Sri Lanka and India.
I am not sure how it happened, but the whole month in Asia was about temples, caves and Buddhism. Last year I could not make it to Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharasthra, so I decided to get there at the first opportunity. And this opportunity finally arrived.
I flew from Delhi to Aurangabag as it’s the closest town to the caves. At the hotel they suggested to use a tourist bus from the Central Bus stop to get to either place. And I was really happy with their advice.
The most spectacular view was awaiting for me in Ajanta. There were 30 caves cut in the curved rock of the Waghora river gorge. Those caves were built as temples and shrines or monasteries. The first few cave monuments were built in 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. Later on in 5-6 centuries A.D. there were more caves added to the original site. The whole complex is far away from the roads, so it was not easy to get access there in the past.
The temples were built inside natural caves. This is a view from inside out. The most spectacular sight.
The walls and entrances have been straightened up, covered in plaster and painted or carved. But the ceilings still look like before – curved and uneven.
The craftsmanship was simply amazing. How could anybody create this beautiful design without modern tools and proper lighting?
Majority of sculptures and paintings have deteriorated significantly, but considering the age of the temples it’s totally understandable.
Many of those sculptures and paintings have sexual content. A long time ago India was much more open regarding sexual relationships – let’s just remember who created the complete book of sex – Kama Sutra.
I have been to erotic temples of Khajuraho before, and they are breathtaking. In Ajanta and Ellora caves were also many erotic carvings, but not as explicit as in Khajuraho.
Sometimes the most amazing most amazing stone carvings were just on top of the pillars. And they were done in-situ.
The guide told us that majority (or maybe even all) of the carvings were also painted. Unfortunately, the the colours have faded and the plaster dislodged, so visitors have to use all their imagination to visualise the existing beauty.
Below are a few examples of the carvings on the pillars.
This is a section of very intricate panel near the temple’s door.
Basically, every surface is skilfully decorated. Even in the difficult to reach places like the corners, for example.
Every sculpture tells the story. Many of them those stories are about Buddha and his teachings.
Some reflect life as it was at the time: wars, harvest, festivals.
In one of the caves a very large panel somehow survived past millenniums in a pretty good condition.
I wish I could see all those temples in their original condition.
This is a close up of the ceiling. I am amazed at how well my iPhone coped with lack of light.
The most prominent objects like painting, sculptures and carvings were lit by electric light. I wonder how the craftsmen work in the total darkness with little help from the candles.
I realise, that this following photo is pretty dark and bad quality, but I wanted specifically to show the fine details of the painting.
To provide some light inside, the large windows were cut in the rocks. The Architectural Society of India decided to install some protection in attempt to preserve the temples. In some places it was glass, more often some rugs.
The most famous Buddhist stupa in Ajanta complex. Old Japanese tourist pays his respect.
No words can describe the beauty of this place.
By midday more and more tourist started to fill the temples. A small group of young Indian schoolgirls flew in like a flock of colourful birds.
Despite being mid-winter, the heat in the middle of the day was quite intense. These two men were suppose to do some restorations, but instead they decided to take a nap.
Just to prove that I was there.
This is the last glimpse of the whole Ajanta caves complex. Exhausted from the heat and filled with positive emotions and awe, I made my way to the base. Tomorrow is another day, another visit to the Ellora monument! India has never failed to impress and surprise me.
Music: Sambhal – maharashtra cultural music instrument