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AJANTA AND ELLORA CAVES

The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves are located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The cave shrines were all cut out of rock, by hand, and rank amongst some of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, were remained shrouded in obscurity for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. The view point from where John Smith first glimpsed the caves, provides a magnificent sight of the U-Shaped gorge and its scenic surroundings.

Ajanta has been designated as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will come to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.

Ajanta Caves
It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, were discovered. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD.

The 29 caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and nerve - centers of the Buddhist cultural movement. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Exquisite wall - paintings and sculptures speak volumes of the India of yore. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.

Ellora Caves
The Ellora caves, 34 in number, are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill, 30 kms from Aurangabad. The finest specimens of cave - temple architecture, they house elaborate facades and exquisitely adorned interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD period. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain.

The sculpture in the Buddhist caves accurately convey the nobility, grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two - storied structure sports a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.

The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain - abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. What is amazing about it, is the fact that unlike other temple structures which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides. Gigantic, though it is, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which Cave 32, houses a beautiful shrine adorned with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof, and a yakshi on a lion under a mango - tree, while Caves 32 and 34 contain grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves sport the images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of Mahavira.

These cave shrines are memorable for their invaluable contribution to the enormous wealth of Indian heritage.

Other Places of Interest around Ajanta and Ellora
Bibi-Ka-Maqbara
Eight Kilometers from the town this mausoleum was built in 1679 AD by the last of the Great Mughals, Emperor Aurangazeb in the memory of his wife Rabia-ud-Durrani. It was modelled after the Taj Mahal in Delhi.

Aurangabad Caves
Nine kilometers from Aurangabad near Bibi-Ka-Maqbara are the cave temples if Aurangabad cut between the 6th and 8th century AD. The cave temples of Aurangabad make a worthy prelude to the far more celebrated Ellora and Ajanta.

Panchakki (WaterMill)
The Panchakki or the watermill dates back to the Mughal times. Deriving its name from a mill worked by water power for grinding corn for the poor and the military garrison. It was built in 1624 AD to commemorate a Muslim saint Baba Shah Muzaffar.


Your Itinerary for Ajanta and Ellora caves
(Mumbai - Aurangabad - Mumbai )
(5 Nights / 6 Days)

Day 01: Arrive Mumbai

Arrive at Mumbai airport or station. Transfer to hotel.
Check in and relax for the evening.

Mumbai's skyline is recognisable in advertisements and pictorial depictions stating the country's technological and financial hub. It's an imposing skyline. The contours are hazy but the residents don't seem to mind. They love this place and this all-encompassing love is infectious.

What are the few nail-on-the-head characteristics of the city? A walk on marine drive, the gateway of India, warden road, university buildings, fort, townhall, Mumbai high court to name a few. The waves splashing against the embankment establish an essence of Mumbai too, much in the same genre as the skyline. The pub and bar scenario here is quite state of the art and ranges from the sophisticated ones in the five stars to the hip and trendy ones in colaba and the suburbs. Mumbai is also known as the Hollywood of India or Bollywood (from the names Bombay and Hollywood) and is the biggest film industry of the world.
Overnight will be at Mumbai.


Day 02: Mumbai – Aurangabad

Breakfast will be at hotel or onboard the aircraft.
Relax in the morning or visit the local market. Transfer to airport for flight to Aurangabad.
Reach and check in at hotel.
The city of Aurangabad was founded in 1610, on the site of a village, Khirki by Malik Ambar - the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam Shah II. When Fateh Khan, Malik Ambar's son turned successor in 1626, he gave the city the name 'Fatehpur'. Later in 1653, when Prince Aurangzeb became Viceroy of the Deccan, he made the city his capital and called it Aurangabad. Aurangzeb added the walls that enclose the central part of the city in 1686 in order to withstand attacks from the Marathas. There are four principle gateways to the city - the Delhi Darwaza, the Jalna Darwaza, the Paithan Darwaza and the Mecca Darwaza. Nine secondary gateways also formed a part of the defensive system of this city.
Aurangabad district has always been a prominent region on the Deccan plateau. Having been inhabited since the Stone Age, it has a long artistic and cultural history - to which several dynasties have made major contributions over the years. Maurya rule marked the arrival of Buddhism in Maharashtra.

Aurangabad today is a bustling city of Maharashtra with diverse big and small industries, fine silken textiles, and exquisite hand woven brocades of silver and gold fabrics, Himroo of world frame. To scholars and lovers of art and culture the city is more familiar as the gateway to the ancient caves of Ajanta and Ellora, both famous as treasure houses of Indian Art and Sculpture.
Overnight will be at Aurangabad.


Day 03: Aurangabad

Breakfast will be served at the hotel.
Proceed for a full day sightseeing with excursion to Ajanta Caves.

Ajanta caves: Nestling in an inner fold of the Sahyardi hills, 100 km from Aurangabad in the shape of a mammoth horse- shoe, are the 30 rock-hewn caves of Ajanta. The Caves date from the 2nd century BC. Discovered in 1819 by a group of British army officers, these startling achievements took around 600 years to create. Carved with little more than a hammer and chisel, Ajanta, once the retreat of Buddhist monastic orders features several 'chaityas' (chapels) and 'viharas' (monasteries). The exquisite wall and ceiling paintings, panels and sculptures of Buddha's life are famous throughout the world as the earliest and finest examples of Buddhist pictorial art. Return to Aurangabad and overnight will be at Aurangabad.


Day 04: Aurangabad

Breakfast will be at the hotel.
Proceed for a visit to the Ellora Caves, Daulatabad Fort and Aurangabad Caves.

Ellora Caves: Impressive in their own right is the rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora that lie just 30 km away from Aurangabad city. In all, there are 34 cave temples, 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves (550-750 AD), 17 Hindu caves (600-875 AD) and 5 caves of the Jain faith (800-1000 AD) 22 more caves, dedicated to Lord Shiva, were recently discovered. Kailas Temple (cave16), the central attraction at Ellora, is the most remarkable. Chiseled by hand from a single massive rock, it includes a gateway, pavilion, courtyard, vestibule, sanctum, sanctorum and tower which bear testimony to the excellence of Dravidian art. It is believed to have taken 7000 laborers, working in continuous shifts and 150 years to build. Ever since the first European visitors in 18th Century, Ellora has attracted chroniclers, antiquarians, scholars and in more recent years, ever- increasing number of tourists.

Aurangabad Caves: The almost forgotten caves of Aurangabad lie just outside the city. Excavated between the 2nd and 6th century AD, they reflect TANTRIC influences in their iconography and architectural designs. In all there are nine caves which are mainly viharas (monasteries).

The most interesting among these are Caves 3 and 7. The former is supported on 12 highly ornate columns and has sculptures depicting scenes from the legendary 'Jakata' tales. Cave 7 with its detailed figures of bejeweled women also has a dominating sculpture of a 'Bodhisattva' praying for deliverance. Daulatabad Fort: Once known as 'Devgiri', this magnificent 12th century fortress stands on a hill just 13 km. from Aurangabad. It was given the name Daulatabad, the 'city of fortune', by Muhammad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi. Initially a Yadav stronghold, it passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan. One of the world's best preserved fort of medieval times, surviving virtually unaltered, Daulatabad yet displays the character that made it invincible.

This is a Fortress that was conquered only by treachery. A series of secret, quizzical, subterranean passages lie coiled like a python amidst the fort. Here flaring torches were thrust upon an unwary enemy. Or hot oil poured down his path, as he deliberated in the labyrinth. Also the heat from a brazier was blown into the passage by a process of suction suffocating the entire garrison within. The Fort itself lies in the body of an isolated hill; the steep hill - sides at the base falling so sharply to the moat that no hostile troops could scale the height.

The moat, 40 ft. deep with mechanical drawbridges teemed with crocodiles. A 5-kilometer sturdy wall, artificial scarping and a complicated series of defenses made Daulatabad impregnable. The 30-meter high Chand Minar (Tower) built much later with 3 circular galleries had a defensive and religious role in the fortress.
0vernight will be at Aurangabad.


Day 05: Aurangabad – Mumbai

Breakfast will be at hotel or onboard the aircraft.
Reach Mumbai and transfer to hotel. Proceed for an excursion to the ELEPHANTA CAVES.
On your way back, proceed to see the interesting sites of Mumbai.
Overnight will be in Mumbai.

Day 06: Mumbai – Home

Breakfast will be at hotel.
Transfer in time to international airport for flight home.

Tour Ends.


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