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Famous India > Editorials > Ajanta and Ellora
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Ajanta and Ellora Carvings on the Rocks

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Virinda Bhardwaj

The Ajanta and Ellora Caves are the great tourists attraction located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known for their exquisite carvings and structures presenting the fabulous creation of mankind. These caves are the India's most visited ancient monuments. They were built by Buddhists, Hindu and Jain monks who lived, worked and worshiped in the caves and slowly carved out the massive statues and pillars depicting the story of Buddhism, spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD. They aren't natural but man made cave shrines cut out of rock and rated amongst some of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage.

There are total of 29 caves at Ajanta, nestling in the inner folds of Sahyadri Hills in the shape of a gigantichorseshoe. These caves remain hidden from the eyes of the world for 13 centuries, till, a British Cavalry officer by the name of John Smith rediscovered them in 1819. Ajanta's excavations are embellished with a swirling extravagance of murals, depicting everything from battle fields to sailing ships, city streets and teeming animal filled forests to snow capped mountains. Many of the caves exhibit panels demonstrating interesting stories from Jatakas - tales of several incarnations of Buddha. One can witness the images of nymphs and even the princesses. In one vihara, Bodhisatva Padmapani holds the delicate blue lotus, symbolic of the Buddha aspiration to rise above one's condition. Than one can see the Flying Apsara, a beautiful women's face in a turban that was used as the emblem of the 1996 World Beauty Pageant in Bangalore.

Apart from the magnificent Ajanta caves, there are 34 odd caves of Ellora which include Mahayana Buddhist, Hindu and Jain works. These caves were carved during the 350 AD to 700 AD and houses the elaborate facades and exquisitely adorned interiors. The 12 caves located on the southern side are dedicated to Buddhism, 17 in the center to Hinduism and 5 in the north to Jainism. 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 a must see for the tourists that presents the impressive piece of artistry. The Kailash mountain was conceived as the mounatin home of Lord Shiva and Parvati and is probably the world's largest monolith. It took 150 years to build and three million cubic meters of rock was displaced.

The Ajanta and Ellora caves are truly an architectural marvel, that makes them must see among the tourists coming to bask in the glory of incredible India. .....

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