Our trip to Aurangabad was an alternative since we had originally planned to go to Matheran for the weekend. But I'm glad we made it there. I had read about the beauty and importance of the Ajanta and Ellora caves in my text books way back in school(these are one among the World Heritage sites), so we decided to check it out. To reach Aurangabad, it took us a five hour drive from Pune. We checked into our hotel ( Lemon Tree) and after a couple of hours of rest and lunching, we went to see the Ellora caves which are just 35 kms from the city. I suggest you get directions before driving as the directions on the road are not clear, and you are often left to wonder whether you are on the right road or not. On reaching the Ellora caves, we hired a government guide who first led us to the Jain caves.
Here let me brief you about the Ellora caves. There are a total of 35 caves here out of which some are Jain caves, some Buddhist and the rest Hindu caves. The largest and most beautiful of all the caves is the Kailasa cave( Hindu Cave). Since the Jain caves are the farthest, we were suggested to go there first. Our guide led us from one cave to another and I was impressed by the marvel of the people way back then who made these beautiful caves by hand and without any help of the equipments that we have today. You gotto see it to believe it! I was already thrilled by the first cave that I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me as we moved further. After the Jain caves, we drove to the Buddhist caves. The 10th cave here is the only “Chaityagraha” which has a Stupa standing in the middle of the cave. This was primarily made for the monks to chant mantras and when the guide demonstrated by chanting “Om” , the cave was filled with his echoing voice. If one person could make this effect, imagine what numerous monks could do! And finally we reached the biggest and the most important cave of them all. Kailasa cave. You cannot and shouldn't miss this one. And boy, was it crowded!! All the photos that you see describing Ellora are form this cave. It took us one hour to cover just this one cave. Now this particular cave is not carved from the inside of a rock, but looks something like a rock temple. There is a Shiva lingam in side this temple ( hence the name), which is sadly being misused by our very own people. It was not a pleasant sight to see instant “pujaris” appearing and performing pujas and collecting money, when this is an important world heritage site which doesn't deserves to be contaminated with agarbattis and kumkum! Anyways, that was the end of Ellora.
Since we still had time on our hands we went to see the “Bibi ka Maqbara” built by Aurangazeb which is a sad replica of the Taj mahal. Now anyone who has seen the Taj cannot bear the look of this structure. It is not maintained well and looks so dirty. I just hope that people visiting this maqbara don't assume that the Taj would be something remotely similar!!! No people, Taj is something out of this world and something to visit before you die!! After taking a couple of snaps and purposefully wandering ( for the heck of it) we headed back to our hotel. We had our dinner and relaxed by lazing by the pool at night. Ah, superior bliss!!!
On our second day we couldn't visit the Ajanta because it is closed on Mondays. So, we drove around the city and had some fun in the hotel. We were supposed to leave on the third day, but before that we decided we just had to check out the Ajanta. And we drove off. It took us 2 hours and a couple of wrong turns(thanks to the road instructions!!!) to finally get there. By the look of it Ajanta seemed much bigger than Ellora. To reach the caves you have to take a bus and ride up to the caves. No private vehicles are allowed to the top. We reached there, bought a copy of the Ajanta caves from the Archaeological Survey of India counter and headed straight above. There is a little climbing to do before you actually get to the caves. Some info about Ajanta. There are a total of 28 caves here, some finished some half-finished. The Ajanta caves were re-discovered unlike Ellora. Meaning, the Ajanta were there all along but since huge trees had grown and surrounded the caves, none of it was visible unless it was accidentally stumbled upon in the early 19th century. These caves, in all, form a horseshoe shape and down below runs the Wagholi river. Since we had a time constraint ( as we had to get back to Pune the same day) we decided to visit only the important caves. These caves are all Buddhist caves, similar to Ellora, but you can see fragments of paintings too. Paintings done with natural colors which are wearing off, due to age and more importantly negligence. Nevertheless, if I had returned home without visiting Ajanta, I would have missed it big time! I am glad I made it. By the time we finished our little trip on the top and returned to out car, it was noon. And from there we headed straight to Pune and reached home by night.
Frankly, I never imagined our trip would go so well. Not only was it a nice change but it also helped me reunite with my old love, something that I had forgotten and let go during my busy life. Archeology, historical art and architecture. It reminded me what getting in touch with our past meant. This trip was wonderful and has left me wanting for more.