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On my way to Mumbai, I decided to spend few days in Ajanta and Ellora. From Kolkata I took Gitanjali Express to Jalgaon. Ajanta caves are approximately 63 Km from Jalgaon. There are over 30 caves which were developed during Satvahana period and Vakataka period. The caves are located near horse-shoe shaped bend build by Buddhist monks during monsoon season. Nobody knows how did the artists paint so well, with such precise use of colour, in the dark recesses of these rock-carved prayer halls and monasteries.
I stayed in MTDC Ajanta T junction resort which is very close to the caves. Buses take tourists to the caves which is around 4Km from T junction . All caves were basically designed to use for three purposes: Living, Education and Worship. So, out of these 30 caves, Cave 9, Cave 10, Cave 19, Cave 26 and Cave 29 are the chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries.
The most famous caves in Ajanta are Cave 1, Cave 2, Cave 16, Cave 17, Cave 19 and Cave 26. Cave 1 has the most famous paintings of Ajanta. Cave 1 is basically a monastery (vihara) filled with wall murals, sculptures and ceiling paintings dated back to 5th century. The most renowned murals of this cave as well as whole of Ajanta are paintings of two Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Vajrapani) and Bodhisattva Padmapani. To the right of main door is painting of Vajrapani and to the left is the painting of Padmapani.
Cave 2 is also impressive with pained murals ceilings and carvings . There are murals depicting the birth of Budhha emerging from under his mother’s arm, 1000 Buddhas, Dancing girls before the king etc. Cave 16 is another spectacular 5th century vihara. Cave 17 is a beautiful caves containing best preserved paintings and murals in Ajanta.
Cave 19’s entrance has a huge chandrasala depicting the ordaining of successors by Buddha. There is a standing Buddha in the interior cave covered with drapery, topped by a majestic three tiered umbrella in front of a stupa.
Cave 26 is is now dramatically lit and contains some fine sculptures. On the left wall is a huge figure of the reclining Buddha, lying back in preparation for nirvana. Other scenes include a lengthy depiction of the Buddha’s temptation by Maya.