Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

The caves of Ajanta, located about 2.5 hours by car from Aurangabad in the state of Maharasthra, were discovered in 1819 by a British officer hunting party. The oldest caves date back to the 2nd century BC and were constructed until 6th century AD. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, while they are called caves, it is hard to think of them as such....the word cave makes me think of a rough and rudimentary shelter for animals or humans, a temporary place. But, these caves are nothing of the sort. They were laboriously carved, shaped, manipulated and then painted for Buddhist monks as temples and living spaces during the monsoon season. The landscape leading up to the caves (at least at this time of year) was dry and desert-like, but the caves form a horseshoe-shape following the curve of the Waghora river which lies below them. There are about 30 caves in total and while some may seem similar it is worth visiting all that are open to the public to truly appreciate the extraordinary work that went into creating these magnificent stone temples. My mom and I were lucky to have the weekend to ourselves (sans the boys) to amble through these impressive structures.

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