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Ajanta

Monasteries and Mausoleums

sunny 36 °C
View Indian Caves and Temples Tour 2011 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The Ajanta Caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments that date back to the 2nd century BC. Pretty old. They contain paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of Buddhist religious art and are well worth the two hour drive from Aurangabad.

The caves and their temples were abandoned in the 6th century AD for the nearby Ellora (which we are visiting tomorrow) and lay undiscovered until a British officer and his hunting party stumbled upon the entrance to cave number nine in 1819. You can still see the name of the officer (John Smith) inscribed in pencil on the walls, complete with the date he found the caves.

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The 30 caves contain temples and monasteries and are thought to have been occupied by 200 monks in their heyday. They really are like something out of an Indiana Jones film – mysterious and exceptionally impressive. After yesterday's overload of religious deities, we decided not to take a guide today, but we did hire a 'facilitator', a man who was there to carry our bags up the many steps, look after our shoes when we entered the caves and give us a brief description of each of the monuments. He was well worth the money especially as he managed to help us bypass the 'Exit through the Shop'! I found the carvings and frescoes absolutely overwhelming, and quite humbling. The workmanship involved in such details is even more impressive when you consider they are over 2000 years old and have been carved our of the solid rock without the use of any modern equipment!

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Rural India is in stark contrast to Mumbai and I was eager to photograph an ox cart on the road back to Aurangabad. Every time we saw one David would should “bullocks” and I would lean out of the window and try to capture it with the camera on the move. Eventually I asked the driver to stop, and I got out to do the job properly! One of the more interesting sights along the road was a huge boiler drum being transported – unfortunately it was higher than the telegraph wires, so every time the lines crossed the road, the pole wallah had to get off and hold up the wires with a long stick. Health and safety? I think not.

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Bibi Ka Maqbara is known as the 'Poor Man's Taj' because it was originally planned to rival the Taj Mahal, but the funds didn't quite stretch to the same grandeur as the Taj. The name literally translates as 'Tomb of the Lady' and it was built by Aurangzeb's son Prince Azam Shah in the late 17th century as a loving tribute to his mother, Rabia Durrani.

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It seemed that this was THE place to come in the afternoon for local, and not so local, people. As the only westerners in the complex, we soon became popular photographic subjects. Every few minutes, groups of young lads or families with children would approach us and ask to have their photo taken with the two of us making it slow progress through the mausoleum.

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This afternoon we took an hour out of our busy sightseeing schedule to frolic in the enormous swimming pool, complete with a swim-through waterfall. The best part was that we had the pool entirely to ourselves.

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Posted by Grete Howard 04:27 Archived in India

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Sounds divine! Especially the swim to end off your day - what bliss :)

by Jenniflower

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