Ancient sites are my thing. I may not know every single historical detail but am always in awe of incredible craft and skill that went into creating stupendous pieces of art. Ancient sites typically have mural paintings, sculptures, stone, marble or sandstone carvings – I just love the intricacies of every curve and detail. I also can’t help but wonder about the greatness of mankind that even in early civilisation, human beings could be as talented and already appreciative of fine art then.
During my trip to the state of Maharashtra at the end of Sept, I had purposely made a trip to the city of Aurangabad to see the Ajanta & Ellora cave temples. These caves are UNESCO heritage sites: Ajanta Caves known for Buddhist fresco paintings while Ellora Caves have magnificent Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sculptures.
Just like Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves were cut out from a deep rock gorge. Tonnes of rock were dug out from a mountain side, leaving behind temple structures. There are 34 caves: Caves No. 1 to 12 are the Buddhist caves excavated between 600 AD to 700 AD; Caves No. 13 to 29 are Hindu caves excavated between 700 AD to 800 AD; and the last group of caves No. 30 to 34 excavated between 800 AD to 1000 AD are the Jain caves.
Instead of exploring the caves from number 1 to 34 in sequence, my driver had suggested that I explored the caves, starting from the Jain caves and ending at the Buddhist caves. In other words, from back to front. Why? Oh, because it was easier for him to drop me off, I didn’t have to walk too far, closer to the carpark when I finish, etc, etc…actually, I forget the reason 🙂
I didn’t hire a guide to Ellora Caves. I bought a book on Ajanta & Ellora Caves the evening before, and the book has a map and lots of descriptions on the caves, as such, I referred to the book during my exploration of Ellora that day. Below are the selected few photos I took of each cave group:
This cave was so excavated that sunlight comes into it. The cave has 26 large and beautifully carved pillars.
Further to the end is a cliff edge where you can see a waterfall. There wasn’t much water as monsoon had already ended but I bet the waterfall would have shown its thunderous effect during the monsoon.
The entire Kailash Temple was carved out of 85,000 cubic metres of rock. Numbers don’t mean much to me but sounds like A LOT OF ROCK to carve this massive rock-cut temple.
(My photos of the Buddhist caves didn’t turn out clear, so I’m unable to share but they are very similar to the ones in Ajanta Caves).
How do I get to Ellora Caves:
Ellora Caves are located about 28 kilometres from Aurangabad city. Estimated time from Aurangabad to the caves is about 45 minutes’ drive.
I hired the same private car and driver who took me to Ajanta Caves the day before. The cost was INR1,500 for a day. This is inclusive of the return-trip transportation and fuel. The driver would also wait for you while you explore the caves.
Opening hours of Ellora Caves heritage site:
It’s open daily (9.00am-5.00pm) except TUESDAY.
Entrance fee is INR 250 (foreigner).
A gentle reminder..
The weather is hot at the site, so it’s a good idea to bring a water bottle with you.
Word of Advice
The guide who I hired at Ajanta Caves advised that there would be auto rickshaw drivers touting for rides to transport you from one cave group site to another. I reckon this is fine if you go to Ellora Caves without a private car and driver. As long as you remember to bargain with the rickshaw driver on the price, you should be fine.
However, there are some private car drivers who may be in cahoots with the rickshaw drivers. So if you are hiring a private car driver, please ensure that your driver drive you to the various cave group sites. If he says that he cannot drive in and recommends that you hire a rickshaw driver, please say no and insist that he drives you there.
Just before I arrived at Ellora Caves, I had mentioned to my driver that I didn’t want to take the auto rickshaw rides at the cave site. Thankfully, he drove me to the various cave group sites, though it was from back to front sequence, but it’s OK 🙂