Retroblog – Ellora and Ajanta

Worth a return visit!

Two of the most stunning historic sites I’ve visited, anywhere in the world, are Ellora and Ajanta. About two thousand years ago, ancient Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu cultures carved and painted elaborate caves and entire temples from the basalt cliffs in western India. The results, preserved as UNESCO World Heritage sites, are nothing short of stunning. Take a return visit with me to that blog post, Ellora photo album, and Ajanta photos album.

Ellora: from the back looking forward; temple at left, rock face and gallery at right.

Ellora and Ajanta

Incredible hillsides carved from bedrock, two thousand years ago.

Step back two thousand years, and find yourself a mountainside of solid volcanic rock: black basalt, solidified lava.  Working top down and outside in, carve yourself a freestanding three-story temple using only hand tools.  As you go, include exquisite carvings, rooms, pillars, and life-size elephants. Coat the sculpture with plaster and paint detailed scenes from Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain mythology.  Really?  Read on.

Ellora: WOW! an entire Hindu temple carved out of the mountainside, top down and outside in.
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Eight hours to cross Maharashtra.

We spent Republic Day weekend touring from Mumbai to Aurangabad, Ellora, and Ajanta.  On Friday I met Pam and the kids at the Mumbai airport– I had spent Thursday visiting IIT Bombay– and then we drove about 8 hours east up through the Western Ghats and across the high plains of Maharashtra to Aurangabad [location].  We stayed there three nights.  [The kids were happy because the “Lemon Tree” hotel had both a swimming pool and a pool table. And a big buffet.]  Anyway, on Saturday we drove to Ellora Caves, and on Sunday we drove to Ajanta Caves; more on those amazing sites later.  On Monday, Republic Day, we drove again 8 hours across Maharashtra back to the Mumbai airport and thence home.

Ancient Daulatabad, main fortress at top.

It was a lot of driving, but I love to pass the time by taking photos of people and places as they go by.  This is the dry season, with the monsoons not expected to come again until June… the plains seemed like a desert, with scrubby brush and grasses dominating the landscape.  It was agricultural and rural, with few dwellings and scattered villages. I saw many places where people lived in huts or even teepees made of sticks, or of mud, or scraps of corrugated metal.  It is clearly a tough place to make a living.

See the photos.  Watch for the cow that makes sugar-cane juice!

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.