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Ajanta /Ellora - Maharashtra
Located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the Ajanta-Ellora Caves are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ajanta and Ellora Caves are two different tourist destinations, which are often mentioned together. The reason behind this is that both are rock-cut cave monuments, which feature beautiful paintings and sculptures.

The Ajanta Caves are located 107 km away from Aurangabad city, just outside the village of Ajanta. This complex comprises 29 rock-cut cave monuments, which date back to around 2nd century BC. Construction of the caves was done in two phases, the first group of caves was built around 200 BC, while the second group was built in 600 AD.

Nestled in the semi-arid Sahayadri Hills above the Waghur River, the caves at Ajanta are famous for beautiful paintings and sculptures that depict tales of Jatakas. Built using only hammer and chisel, these caves served as secluded retreats for Buddhist monks, who performed their rituals in the chaityas and viharas of these caves.

The artwork in the caves comprises well preserved wall paintings of Boddhisattva, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvar. On 28th April 1819, these caves were rediscovered by a British officer, John Smith. His name along with the date is still faintly visible on the wall of Cave 9.

Located 30 km from the city of Aurangabad, the Ellora cave complex is an archaeological site, which was built by the Rashtrakuta rulers. The cave complex comprises of 34 caves that were hewn out of solid rocks of the Charanandri Hills. Built between the 5th and 10th centuries, these caves are monasteries for Buddhists as well as temples for Hindus and Jains.

A symbol of religious harmony of that time, the Ellora complex includes 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves. Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist monasteries, chaityas and viharas, while caves 13 to 29 are the Hindu temples. Dating back to the 9th and 10th century, caves 30 to 34 are the Jain temples.

Every year in Aurangabad, the Ajanta-Ellora Festival is organised for paying tribute to the legendary caves of Ellora, Ajanta and other historical possessions of India. This grand ceremony is attended by the greatest artists of Indian art and culture. The cultural event includes performances in classical and folk dancing, singing and instrumental music. Earlier the venue for this festival was Kailash Temple of Ellora Caves; however, it has now been shifted to Soneri Mahal, which is a historical palace in the city.

From the weather point of view, the best time to visit the Ajanta Caves is during monsoon season, when the sound of the Waghur River can be heard in the caves. Tourists can also visit these caves during the winter season. On the other hand, the ideal time to visit Ellora Caves is after the end of the monsoon. June through February is also considered good for planning a trip to the Ellora Caves.

Carved in the hillside rock, the Ajanta and Ellora caves are beautiful. Tourists visiting this destination can explore the 34 caves at Ellora and 29 caves at Ajanta. The Ellora caves were carved between 6th and 11th centuries AD, while the Ajanta caves dates back to 2nd century BC to 6th century AD.

Counted amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta Caves comprise Buddhist caves. Of all the 29 caves, cave numbers 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 feature Chaitya grihas, while the others comprise monasteries. Inside the caves, tourists can find paintings and sculptures that revolve around Buddhism.

Paintings in the caves depict scenes from the life of Lord Buddha, Bodhisattva as well as Jatakas. Some of the paintings are also based on Greek and Roman compositions and proportions. Basically, the Ajanta Caves are divided into two parts, on the basis of the time period when they were constructed.

The older ones were constructed centuries before the birth of Christ, while the newer ones were carved around the later part of the 2nd century AD. Caves that were carved before the birth of Christ belong to the period when the Hinayana sect of Buddhism was growing in India. Other caves belong to the time when the fourth General Council was held, under the rule of King Kanishka.

Cradled in the Charanadari hill in the Deccan, Ellora Caves are a series of ancient temples and monasteries, carved out of the mountainside. These caves were carved in the beginning of the 7th century, when the Chalukyas ruled over the Deccan. The excavation began with the carving of Buddhist chaityas and viharas. In the subsequent five centuries, several Hindu and Jain temples were also hewn out of solid stones.

Excavated out in a linear arrangement, the 34 Ellora caves comprise Buddhist chaityas, viharas and monasteries, along with Hindu and Jain temples. Of all the ancient temples at Ellora, the Kailash Temple in cave 16 is most popular. Built by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is named after his mountain home in the Himalayas.
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Attractions in Ajanta/Ellora
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