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Ancient Ellora and Ajanta Caves, India

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Just over a year ago, right before leaving India, my family took a trip to the Ellora and Ajanta Caves outside of Aurangabad. I had heard amazing things about the caves, and it definitely lived up it. The picture above is from the Ellora cave system. It shows the Kailasha, a monolithic rock cut temple. It was excavated from top to bottom and scooped out all through from outside to in. Signs at the site said it took 10 generations and 200 years to finish! It was started to the mid 700s AD.

Shiva is the patron deity of the temple. It is a complex and has a number of shrines throughout.

I looked back on my journal from India and here is what I wrote in preparation for the trip:

“We are flying to Aurangabad in Maharashtra, a state in the central part of India. It is fairly near Mumbai.  Maharashtra is India’s third largest state and has 110 million inhabitants! Its capital is Mumbai with 18 million people. It is fairly wealthy and well-developed by Indian standards. Agriculture and industries (particularly chemical products, machinery, textiles and petroleum) play major economic roles. For more about the state, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharashtra

Aurangabad was founded by Malik Ambar. It started as a town of Khadke in 1610 and then was renamed Aurangabad to honor the last Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, in 1653. It is the closest city to the Ellora Caves and Ajanta Caves and is also home to a mauseoleum called Bibi Ka Maqbara. For more on Aurangabad, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurangabad,_Maharashtra.

Our two stops outside of Aurangabad are the Ellora Caves and the Ajanta Caves. The Ajanta caves are about 2.5 hours away by car and date to the 2nd century BC! They were rediscovered in 1819 by British officers hunting tigers. They had been abandoned since the late 7th century. The caves are covered in Buddhist sculptures and frescoes and tells of the life of Buddha and the lifestyle of Buddhist monks. They are particularly well preserved, probably as they were hidden by the jungle for hundreds of years. For more about the caves, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajanta_Caves.

The Ellora Caves are about 1 hour from Aurangabad and are newer than the Ajanta ones (but still really old). They have 17 Hindu, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain caves dating from the 4th to 9th centuries AD. There are volcanic stone carvings and it is a fine example of rock-cut architecture. These caves were never “lost” like the Ajanta ones were and written records include mention of them since their creation. For more information, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellora_Caves.”

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