The Ajanta Caves

Tues, Oct 6

After such a wondrous experience at Ellora I wondered if the wow factor at Ajanta might be a little less so in comparison, but that was nowhere near the case. Gigantic monasteries hand-carved into a mountainside could never be anything less than breath-taking.

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The setting at Ajanta is, in many ways, more stunning because of how it works in complete harmony with its natural surroundings. This is, of course, not surprising as the caves are all Buddhist in origin and I’m sure this location was chosen specifically for its harmonic beauty.

The caves curve around in a horseshoe shape that follow the river below, making the setting quite striking and the surrounding area very lush and green.

The Kneeling Elephant... a symbol of welcoming.
The Kneeling Elephant… a symbol of welcoming.

The real appeal at Ajanta (aside from the obvious feat of carving into a mountain with tools akin to a hammer and chisel) are the paintings.


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One of the glorious ceilings.
One of the glorious ceilings.

The Ajanta caves are several centuries older than Ellora, dating back to about 200 BC. The caves and spaces are equally beautiful, but the prolific wall and ceiling paintings here are the real stars… and are in surprisingly good condition for being close to 2000 years old.

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2000 years. That fact alone should make one pause for reflection.

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I decided to get a guide for my time here and he effectively explained a lot of the history and detail I would have otherwise missed. Turns out he was a lot of fun and an excellent photographer too.

A little cave (and iPhone) magic.
A little cave (and iPhone) magic.

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I don’t have much more to say about Ajanta and will just let these photos speak for themselves.

The most famous painting at Ajanta, an enormous fresco of Padmapani.
The most famous painting at Ajanta, a large fresco of Padmapani.
An enormous reclining Buddha. Perspective was impossible to capture because of the surrounding pillars, but the beauty was not just in this carving of Buddha at the time of his death, but also in the multitude of carvings below him, depicting the mortals sorrowful at his departure, and the carvings above him, depicting the angles rejoicing at his arrival.
An enormous reclining Buddha. Perspective was impossible to capture because of the surrounding pillars, but the beauty was not just in this carving of Buddha at the time of his death, but also in the multitude of carvings below him, depicting the mortals sorrowful at his departure, and the carvings above him, depicting the angles rejoicing at his arrival.

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—–

From here I go off the grid for ten days as I head to the Nashik Vipassana Meditation Center for my second 10-day silent retreat.

Visiting the two special places was an experience I will never forget, but getting here has had its price. I’m not going to lie… after the chaos of Bombay, Aurangabad and the ridiculously difficult logistics of getting around in rural India (not to mention the bone-wracking roads! Please, say a word of gratitude for the tax you pay to maintain yours!) I’m not only looking forward to vipassana but am craving and viscerally needing the silence and introspection.

More on that when I emerge.

For now, Namaste.

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