Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Explore Maharashtra: The Great Ellora Caves

When I decided to explore a bit of Maharashtra with my family, the first thing that came to my mind was to see the famous Ellora & Ajanta caves. Though both the caves are in Aurangabad, they are actually quite far away from each other - so visiting both the caves on the same day is not possible.

We decided to explore Ellora caves on the first day. I had learned about Ellora in school - as part of our history lessons, but I only had a vague idea how it look in real life. I guess I should have just hit Google or Wikipedia before visiting the caves. In a way, I am glad that I did not do my usual research before visiting Ellora. The sheer magnificence can only be appreciated once you stand in front of the amazing structures.

Cave 29 (Hindu Cave) - Click photo to view large size.
Ellora is a set of 34 different caves. The caves are neatly numbered based on who constructed the caves. More details of the numbering and the religious influence of each cave can be found here.

Visiting all the 34 caves on foot is not practical (especially with a family). The caves are spread far apart. The easiest way to see the most important caves is to hire a rickshaw that will drive you around for a nominal price of Rs. 200 (less than $5). The rickshaw driver also acts as a guide giving you important details of each cave that you are visiting.

Inside cave 29. Click photo to view large size.
Ellora caves is a monolithic structure (carved out of a single piece of rock). Everything you see inside the caves (pillars, carvings, intricate designs) are all created by carving the rock. Imagining the amount of work that was involved simply boggles the mind. Some of the caves took hundreds of years to complete.

Interior of Cave 29. Click photo to view large size.
Intricate designs inside the cave.
The vastness of the caves can only be experience when you stand on top of the mountain and look at a panoramic view of the caves. And this is just a few of the caves, not all of them.

Some of the Ellora caves. Click photo to view large size.
More interior views. Click on photo to view large size.
The Jain caves are equally impressive, with some of them having double-floored structure.

Cave 32 (Jain Caves). Click on photo to view large size.
 Some of the caves were abandoned before completion, and accessing these caves requires a little bit of climbing.

Climbing to see some of the unfinished caves.
The center-piece of Ellora caves has to be Cave 16, designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.

Cave 16. Click photo to view large size.
There is a track which allows you to climb on top of the hill overlooking cave 16 in all its magnificence.

Birds eye view of Cave 16. Click photo to view large size.
A very tiring day, but well worth the effort. I would definitely want to visit this place again to spend more time exploring all the caves in more detail.


Nicole said...

Looks like a very fascinating place!

Cajie said...

It most certainly is Nicole. I still need to post about Ajanta Caves - which are equally, if not more, fascinating.