Caves, more caves, and a fort

A white man standing in the entrance to a buddhist cave at Ellora

I hope you like caves, because the reason I'm in Aurangabad right now is to see the Ellora and Ajanta caves.

A buddhist cave at Ellora, with an immense vaulted roof.
We visited the Ellora caves on the 3rd of March. We booked a driver for this part of our holiday as the caves are so far away; to be honest I booked him for two days but on hearing we were here for four he made plans for the other two days, and having seen how much less 'walkable' Aurangabad is than Kolkata I'm just going along with it.
A sculpture of the buddha at Ellora
Ellora is about half an hour from Aurangabad. The caves are a UNESCO world heritage site. They're not natural caves - working from the top down, people carved the 34 caves from the rock. The first 12 are Buddhist (600-700AD), the next 17 are Hindu (700-800AD), and the final five are Jain (800-1000AD). We didn't manage to see them all because of a rock fall - we could've got a shuttle bus from the entrance to the final caves, but after walking all the way from cave 1 to cave 28, exploring as we went, then back to 16 (nearest the entrance) we were simply too hot and tired.
The central structures at cave 16 at Ellora, carved with life-size elephants
Anyhow we did see all the Buddhist ones - my trip to Burma/Myanmar has made me fond of Buddhism, somehow - and almost all the Hindu caves, including the incredible cave 16. The Kailasanatha Temple was busy, justifiably so, because it's so large and beautiful. It's the largest monolithic sculpture in the world.
A glimpse of the top of the buildings at cave 16, seen from the bottom
See these buildings? Not built up, but carved from the rock down!
Like some of the other caves it is still a holy place so you have to remove your shoes there.
Ellora caves seen from a distance, forming a semicircle in the landscape
Yesterday, the 4th, we went for a two-hour drive to another set of carved-out caves, the purely Buddhist ones at Ajanta. We started from a viewing point, then walked all the way down to the caves - they're that semicircle in the landscape. In the wetter months this whole area is lushly green, and there are waterfalls at the left side of the curve.
A stupa inside a cave at Ellora
Some of the caves still have 1500-year-old paintings on the walls. To protect them, those caves have dehumidifiers installed, and very low light, so they're hard to photograph. Obviously flash is absolutely forbidden.
A wall painting inside a cave at Ellora, showing an elephant
I preferred Ajanta to Ellora, though I'm not sure why - perhaps it was because the initial view was so striking, and the semicircular sweep so perfect.
A stupa inside a cave at Ellora, with carved columns to either side and a vaulted roof above.
This time we saw all the caves.
A tower and wall, with a fort high on a hill in the distance
And this morning we went to Daulatabad Fort. See that bit of the fort on the hilltop? We climbed ALL THE WAY UP.
A minaret viewed through an Indian arch
And we had to cross a very deep chasm with a moat at the bottom, and go through a tunnel filled with bats, and climb 750 steps to get there. You can call me Doctor Jones...
A tower with a small balcony.
If I don't come home half a stone lighter after all this walking, and only eating once most days because of the heat, I will be very surprised.

Tomorrow Mr Khan the driver is taking us on a city tour, and the day after we fly to Mumbai (we'd booked trains, but decided rather than spend eight hours on another one, we'd get the plane instead). So I'll probably waffle at you some more from the home of Bollywood in a few days.


  1. Cor! As you already know, I'm a massive fan of caves. I loved Elephanta but have yet to see Ellora and Ajanta - yet!
    Your photos are spectacular and I'm in awe of you climbing all the way to the top.
    Have a lovely day with Mr Khan!
    I'm so excited (and very envious) of you going to Mumbai - my favourite place in the world. xxx

    1. The caves are amazing. I don't know if you'd like Aurangabad - it's not a place where it's easy to holiday in foot, much less 'walkable' than Kolkata is. We're viewing this part of the trip as akin to our time at Inle Lake and Bagan in Myanmar; it's more conventionally touristy but we can live with that for a few days.

  2. Wow, those caves are absolutely stunning. Just thinking of people carving them from the rock is mind boggling! xxx

    1. Apparently they'd plan the locations of all the statues, pillars etc at the topfirst, then hack out the blocks for each, then put in the finer structure and detail. But still, an amazing feat. Ajanta is basalt - such a hard stone.

  3. A tunnel filled with bats?! You certainly have adopted a very adventurous spirit for this trip! You're seeing some amazing sights, it's hard to imagine carving buildings out of rock.

    Just don't leave your hat behind ;)

    1. I like an adventure every so often. Some holidays should startle. I'm only 11 years off qualifying for Saga holidays (erk!) and don't want to lapse into taking the safe option every time too soon. That way stagnation and mental ageing lie...

  4. Knowing I will never get there, I am enjoying your posts. I cannot wrap my brain around the caves being carved from rock. Image trying to pitch THAT idea at the time.

    1. Never say never!

      I don't know if they know how the earliest ones were pitched, but some were dedicated by local rulers, so I guess the pitch there was, 'Oi, peasants, build this!'

  5. Dr Jones,
    Your photos are amazing!I've never been to these caves but they look spectacular!

    1. They are truly amazing. Aurangabad is home to a number of muslim monuments - I donned a headscarf to see the grave of Aurangzeb - and it's really popular with Muslim tourists. The Bibi Ka Maqbara 'mini Taj' is very beautiful.

  6. I am astonished at the caves built from the rock; in fact it's quite mind blowing! The cave paintings look fascinating.

    You are most certainly getting lots of exercise - it's not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a holiday in India!

    1. I don't think I've walked so much in years! But it was good fun. I sit on my behind all day at work, holidays are the time to stretch my legs.

  7. These look amazing. What a fantastic place to visit.

    1. India's brilliant, I'd recommend it to anyone.


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