>Travel Pictures


Ajanta Caves

February 2008

The Ajanta caves - located about 2 hours outside of Aurangabad - are a fabulous series of Buddhist monasteries that are fascinating because of the paintings inside.

Rediscovered in the early 1800s by a British hunting party, these caves retain some of the fabulous artwork that probably adorned all such rock abodes (and are given absolutely NO credit by the lousy pictures that we have posted here).

The artwork represents different stories from the Buddha's life, and since we were so happy to run, climb, look, and explore, we didn't hire a guide and thus missed out on the 'deeper meanings' behind the art.

We had been warned that we'd need to have a flashlight in order to see anything, but lighting has been installed all up and down the caves, so we were able to walk and enjoy the artwork (although taking pictures was a whole different level of difficulty).

As things turned out, we got quite a kick making up our own stores for what we thought was going on in the various scenes. The caves, while solemn (and even the scene of serious pilgrimage), were cool (in a temperature sense) places for the kids to get out of the scorching February sun and enjoy the sights.

Carved in a U-shaped ridgeline that follows the bend of a river below, these caves were used for hundreds of years by Buddhist monks and then forgotten.

Unlike the caves at Ellora, these are all strictly Buddhist, and run the gamut from gorgeous carvings of a serene Buddha to energy-filled scenes in colossal paintings.

But we had a blast looking at and appreciating the detail that was on display, and that was enough for us.

The spring flowers greeted us as we took our shuttle bus up into the complex, but the parched brown hillsides reminded us that spring has a very different meaning here.

One mode of transport that we did not utilize for ourselves was the four person seater carrier thingie. I think those are called coolies carrying her (although there was a newspaper article just the other day about that term going out of vogue).

The earliest stupas and chapels were simple affairs, decorated with the barest of ornamentation and only a stylized representation of Buddha - notice the paint still on the columns and walls?

Visitors leave their shoes off when entering a cave (or other holy place), and Breck's troubles in getting one off provided a moment of amusement for another guest.

Later chapels were much more ornately engraved, including reliefwork on both the columns and the stupa itself, as well as fake wooden beams carved right into the wall. Since many other caves, like those at Karla, used arched wooden supports in the ceilings, the caves here emulated the work even though they weren't needed. Here, a monk from Vietnam examines the carvings. There was a whole busload of Asian Asians at the caves to explore this fine Buddhist treasure.

And families will be families everywhere. This Indian foursome dutifully lines up so dad can take a picture of them in front of a Buddha (with the oldest son goofing around), while our kids enjoy the unfinished gallery at the end of the caverns. In fact, they spent more time here, hopping from rock to rock and racing around the openings that they said reminded them of the cisterns in Istanbul.

They also enjoyed checking out the restorers' chairs and tools, while some other kids weren't quite sure what to make of all the hoopla.

Our kids seemed interested enough in the stories about the Buddha

and listened to mom explain the significance of all the carvings. 

and, beyond the watchful eyes, even agreed to having a family picture taken: a rare enough occasion!!

And then, like the very last Buddha in the cave complex, we were tired and ready for a break.

To the main India page
To the Stutz's Welcome Page