A memorable trip to Ajanta & Ellora Caves

Before our visit to Aurangabad (the capital of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb during his long sojourn in Deccan), Maharashtra during the first week of August 2011, the very name of Ajanta & Ellora caves would conjure an image of grand statues of Lord Buddha and his disciples, cut into gigantic hills. A google search before the visit informed me that Ajanta Caves are among 15 sites in India which are included in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites (Ellora being another).

 

The Ajanta Caves

From Aurangabad where we based ourselves, Ajanta is a two-hour comfortable journey by road. Spread around a horse-shoe shaped mountain range, there are 29 caves in all, carved from 2nd century BC onwards upto 7th century AD . While few of them are chaitya-grihas (meditation halls), the rest are monasteries (resting places for the monks).

These caves remained hidden from human eyes for some 1100 years and were accidentally discovered in AD 1819 during an expedition by British soldiers in nearby mountains. On 28 April 1819, a British officer for the Madras Presidency, John Smith, while hunting tiger, accidentally discovered the entrance to one of the cave temples (Cave No. 9) deep within the tangled undergrowth. Shortly after this discovery, the Ajanta Caves became renowned for their exotic setting, impressive architecture, historic artwork, and long-forgotten history. All paintings show heavy religious influence and centre around Buddha , Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings), incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas (Buddhist literature).

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The Ellora Caves

The Ellora caves are located at a distance of 30 km from Aurangabad. There are 34 caves here and unlike Ajanta where only Buddhist caves are carved, at Ellora, three major religions i.e. Buddhism , Jainism and Hinduism are represented- starting with the Buddhist caves, you move on to the Hindu caves and finally to Jain caves. These caves were carved from 6th century AD to 12th century AD . Ellora is justly world-famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa (Cave 16).

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The Best Time

The visit to these caves is enjoyed maximum during monsoon , when every stream is filled with rainwater and the entire surroundings are lush green. We were indeed lucky to be there during height of monsoon this year and the monsoons surely made the environment very pleasant throughout our stay.

 

Shirdi

PS. While at Aurangabad, also take-out time to visit Shirdi which is some 100 km away. It is a two-hour drive from Aurangabad. If you are pressed for time, avoid the festival days and the weekends when crowds are much larger. We were lucky to be there on a Friday and it took just about 30 minutes of waiting before we were ushered into the sanctum sanctorum.

 

About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/rajinder-goel.jpg[/author_image] Rajinder Goel is based in Delhi Graduate from Pant Nagar University in Civil Engineering, presently working with Steel Authority of India as Deputy General Manager – Projects and he has a keen interest in travelling and study of old architectures.
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‘Leh’ Jayenge ‘Leh’ Jayenge – Let’s go to Leh!

Frozen lake along Chang La [pass]

Pangong Tso Panorama

When friend Anil Rajput knew that I was planning on two options for this summer holiday, Conoor in Tamil Nadu and Leh, his shocking expression was ….”What comparison! You must go only to Leh!”.
I was desperate for a date with Leh for the last four years, but my travel team was giving me the most impossible rates and dates. Anil came to my rescue and made our dream-plan, a reality!
Our Delhi friend Anjali quickly decided to join us and more the merrier it was!
With a lot of anticipation spiced up, wife Jayashree, daughter Nishkamya and I set off from Chennai by the evening SpiceJet to Delhi. Night halt was at Anjali’s place and catching up with years and years of talk, we then hit the Delhi airport at 4am for the Go Air check-in. Prompt to take off, we had a very comfortable touchdown at the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport at Leh, on the dot at 8.15 am. I am sure you are aware that it is the highest altitude commercial airport in India at some 3500 metres. Jayashree rightly quipped, “There is no great height for the plane to descend here at Leh!” Continue reading…

India’s first five star river cruise

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India’s first five star 29-cabin luxury river cruise ship to set sail on the Brahmaputra in Assam  this year  M V Mahabaahu becomes India’s first  luxury river cruise ship to set sail in the Indian waters. It is in the final stages of completion, the cruise ship will embark on its maiden voyage . The ship will set sail on the 29th November on river Brahmaputra  between Guwahati and Jorhat a weak long journey both up and down stream  The 55-meter long luxury river cruise ship will boast of 29 cabins across 4 different categories, 3 bars, swimming pool, spa, satellite communication and entertainment, a boutique shop and much more.

 

Shanti Stupa, A Beautiful White Buddhist Chorten in Leh, India

History

A white dome Stupa (Chorten) built on a Changspa, a steep  hill, opposite the Leh Palace different in architecture  from the Ladhakhi style gives a magnificent view at sunrise and sunset, it looks more beautiful at night illuminated in the white light. It was built by the Ladakh and Japanese Buddhists, Ladakhis offered voluntary labor, construction started in 1983 and it was inaugurated in August 1991 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. It was built to promote world peace and prosperty and to commemorate the 2500 years of Buddhism.
The Bright Shanti Stupa at Leh
[quote]The Bright Shanti Stupa at Leh[/quote]

 

Structure

It is built as a two level structure, a flight of stairs leads to the first level where a Dharmchakra (as in white strip of Indian national flag) with two deer on each side, features a central image of Lord Buddha in golden colour sitting on a platform turning the Dharmchakra wheel, the second level depicting  the birth of Buddha, defeating of devils in meditation and death of Buddha along with many small images of meditating Buddha, all embossed in vibrant colours.
Various depictions of Lord Buddha's life
[quote]Various depictions of Lord Buddha’s life[/quote]

 

Location

Shanti Stupa is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh city, it gives a panaoromic view of surrounding snow capped mountains and the Leh city.
Shanti Stupa under the BIG bright cloudy Sky
[quote]Shanti Stupa under the BIG bright cloudy Sky[/quote]