Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The Ajanta and Ellora caves are UNESCO World Heritage sites that were cut out of single mountains with a hammer and chisel. There are a total of 64 caves in this complex, with some in Ellora and the rest in Ajanta. Though Ellora has always gotten a lot of attention, the Ajanta caves were overlooked for a long time until they were rediscovered by a British officer in 1819.
Ellora is about an hour’s drive from Aurangabad city, while Ajanta is 3-4 hours, depending on your mode of transportation. The city itself has a plethora of options near Kranti Chowk, where you can stay in a backpacker hostel or a hotel with a pool, such as the Taj Vivanta.
How do you get to Aurangabad?
Flying into Aurangabad airport, which is connected to major Indian cities, is the quickest choice. The other choice is to travel by car or bus, which takes about 8 hours. If you are low on time, I would recommend traveling at night, so you can start touring the next day.
Aurangabad also has a railway station, but train services might be disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so it would be right to check before you leave. The stations are 10 minutes from the city center, regardless of whether you take the bus or train.
When is the best time to visit Ajanta and Ellora?
From mid-June to February, the perfect time to visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves is when the weather is normally cool in the mornings and evenings. It gets unbearably hot in the afternoons, so bring plenty of water to keep cool. Regardless of your plans, allow at least 4-5 days to explore the caves as well as the other attractions Aurangabad has to offer. To have the best experience, plan it out like this:
Ellora Caves: 1 Full day
Ajanta Caves: 1 Full day90[ ‘
One break day
One day for local sightseeing/ food tours
The Ellora is located about an hour or 29 kilometers from Aurangabad city. At the time of construction, between the 5th and 10th centuries, there was unity between Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, as depicted in the caves.
While the caves in Ajanta are arranged in a sequence, the caves in Ellora are dispersed at random. Some caves are accessible directly from the ground, while others need a short hike up a hill. It is well worth it! There are 34 caves here, each with its own unique feature.
If you have the time, do visit all of the caves; if not, make a point of visiting cave numbers 1, 24, 16, and 2, which cover caves from all three religions.
For Indian and international visitors, the new fees for Ellora Caves are 25 and 400Rs, respectively. Getting to Ellora Caves is easy, whether you drive yourself or hire a taxi or rickshaw. Government buses still run there, but they take longer and are not recommended unless you are on a tight budget.
Ajanta is about 104 kilometers from the city and takes 3-4 hours to reach. Although Ellora is open from sunrise to sunset, Ajanta is only open from 9 a.m. to sunset following the new Covid rules. The caves here are all Buddhist structures and make for a long walk. It has a perfect vantage point for landscape photography with a great view of the river from the moment you enter.
After the ticket checkpoint, the caves begin at number 34 and continue all the way to number 1, which is the grandest of the caves and is primarily Buddhist. The whole tour takes a few hours, but if you are short on time, caves 1, 2, and 4 are the most popular caves to see. Since the Ajanta caves are in such a fragile state, no flash photography is permitted. Caves 1 and 4 are ideal for meditation because of the surreal silence they provide. Carry water, but be considerate of the wildlife; the heat irritates the monkeys here.
Tickets cost 25 Rs for Indians and 600 Rs for foreign tourists, respectively. After purchasing a ticket, you must board a bus (30 Rs one way), which will take you another 4 kilometers inside. The buses are every half an hour, so if you do not find a bus, you must wait a little time for the next bus.
If you get hungry, the Ajanta Caves complex has an MTDC Restaurant that serves delectable vegetarian cuisine at reasonable prices.
There are many ways to get to Ajanta, but keep in mind that you will be absolutely exhausted by the end of the tour, so it is better to have your own transportation or hire a rickshaw or taxi to return; buses are not recommended unless you are on a tight budget.
Things to do in Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The government normally organizes the Ajanta Ellora festival in November, but due to the pandemic, they have had to stop it temporarily. Folk singers, folk dances, cultural performances, and rangoli competitions are among the festival’s highlights, which draw visitors from all over the world.
Both locations have a shopping complex where visitors can purchase hand-crafted Buddha sculptures created by local artisans, as well as stone handicrafts, semi-precious jewelry, and other pieces.
Both Ajanta and Ellora caves are architectural marvels that must not be overlooked. When one is in the middle of magnificent caves, one feels a sense of wonder and silence. They are certainly a treat and should be visited because they are well-known and historical not only in India but throughout the world.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Have you ever considered that India has two Taj Mahal? Bibi Ka Maqbara is commonly referred to as a poor man’s Taj Mahal or a miniature Taj Mahal. This is Aurangzeb’s wife’s tomb, which was designed by her son Azam Khan in 1679. Azam intended to build the entire mausoleum out of white marble, but his frugal father, Aurangzeb, forbade him from spending too much money on his dream. Bibi Ka Maqbara was primarily coated in lime to give it the appearance of stone, but some of it shanked off over time.
While the structure of Bibi ka Maqbara is very impressive, it is not quite as impressive as the Taj Mahal, but it is certainly worth seeing if you are in Aurangabad. This structure has its own appeal, and it is a perfect get-away, only half an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Differences between Taj Mahal and Bibi ka Maqbara
The height gap is the most obvious. This structure is roughly one-third the size of the Taj Mahal. You almost get the impression that someone squeezed the Taj and held it here.
The Taj Mahal is entirely made of pure white marble that gleams, with only a small portion of the monument made of marble. The remainder is lime plaster with stucco work. Both monuments used Rajasthan marble, and Agra is obviously much closer to the source than Aurangabad.
The Taj’s minarets are round and taper at the tip, while these monuments’ are octagonal and nearly straight. The real tombs are below ground in both, but the one in Aurangabad is visible to tourists and has been lavishly decorated with a lot of money offerings made.
The Taj was designed by a husband in memory of his wife, while Prince Azam Shah built it in memory of his mother, Dilras Banu Begum, who also happened to be Aurangzeb’s wife. The sheer similarity between the two is the same Char-bagh style gardens surrounding the monument. Of course, the same family designed both memorials for the family’s women in the mid-seventeenth century, almost one after the other. The Jali work is as intricate as that found in most Mughal monuments and is possibly their most recognizable feature.
The Jaali work around the tomb in Aurangabad adds an exquisite charm to the plain green-clothed grave. The inlay work is minimal, but one ceiling with a geometric pattern is very interesting. This is most likely the largest and possibly the only Mughal-built monument in the South or Deccan. Perhaps they were attempting to replicate Agra in Aurangabad. Perhaps the grandson attempted to outdo his grandfather by constructing something identical to, or even better than, his grandfather’s development. Maybe they were just trying to carry on a family tradition. They definitely left a lot for us to wonder about.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Bibi ka Maqbara are wonderful places to visit when the weather is not too hot. There are many sights to take in and many dishes to eat. It is a place I would highly recommend.
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