Ajanta & Ellora – Ancient Religious Stone Caves


After participating in a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, I went by night bus to Aurangabad. I had decided to go there last minute. Thus, I only got a seat right in the front next to the driver’s cabin. Initially, I thought this is good, because I can see more of the landscape and have more leg space. I was right about only one thing: I saw more. However, driving up to the Deccan plateau at night one absolutely does not want to see as much as I did! I saw real maniacs overtaking in impossible situations. More than a dozen times I already felt a car crashing into our bus during an overtaking maneuver. Our bus driver was crazy, too and to top it all up he was constantly horning the entire ten hours. As you can imagine I have not slept at all during that bus ride.

It’s Fun to stay at the YMCA

It might have been the lack of sleep, but I thought Aurangabad is a city as dirty and ugly as I have only seen one in India. It came very close to Siliguri, the city I visited three years ago on my way to the Himalaya. It seemed like god had left that place a long time ago. After spoiling myself by staying in the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, I looked for a cheaper option in Aurangabad. Like in Shimla a couple of years ago, I ended up in a YMCA, which was almost empty at the time. I did not understand why, because the place was clean, the breakfast was ok and I slept very well. However, as you can imagine I did not go to Aurangabad only to stay in another YMCA. Aurangabad is close to two UNESCO world heritage sites and they are well-worth to visit.

Ancient Caves cut into Rocks in Ajanta

The first site I visited were the Ajanta caves. The Ajanta caves are around 30 rock cut caves from two ancient Buddhist periods. I did not notice which caves belonged to the first and which two the second period. They are all beautiful with astonishing ancient cave paintings and sculptures inside. The caves were cut into the rocks along a u-shape gorge of the Waghora river more than 2000 years ago. Close by are several pretty waterfalls with natural swimming pools. The whole place is very beautiful and relaxing. I totally understood, why the monks had chosen this place a long time ago.

Monuments cut out of Rocks in Ellora

The second site I visited near Aurangabad were the Ellora caves. Opposed to the Ajanta caves, which were cut into rocks, most of the Ellora monuments were cut out of the rocks. The guide said, the largest temple at Ellora is the largest monument excavated from stone in the entire world. The monastery and temple caves are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments. It appears that more than 1.000 years ago, when the caves were created, the three religions co-existed next to each other in harmony. The monuments, especially the Kailash temple are very impressive. It seems surreal how people created such temples more than a thousand years ago.

Entrance Fees for Foreigners

Both cave sites, Ajanta and Ellora, appear absolutely mystical and are a must-see in the region. I loved wandering around there. I definitely recommend these two places. This does not apply to Aurangabad! If possible, avoid Aurangabad. One thing which already annoyed me during my first stay in India is the discrimination of foreigners when it comes to entrance fees. Almost everywhere foreigners have to pay about 30 to 50 times the entrance fee for Indians. This time I have no residential permit and cannot argue my way like I did once in Agra. I think this is absolutely unfair! Perhaps the same should be done with Indians once they are abroad.

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