Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 300 Ajanta

Woohoooo, day 300! I celebrated by visiting my last must-see sight in India: the buddhist caves of Ajanta. From now on I will only cycle to my well-known city of Vadodara with no sights on the way.
Compared to the Ellora caves the ones here are less and smaller, but also older and in a wonderful setting: along the ridge if a horseshoe shaped canyon. I visited the caves from last to first as I had figured the lighting would be better. So I crossed the river and took the path on the other side to the end of the canyon. Right now in the dry season there was no water in the canyon, but during monsoon it all will surely look spectacular - there would be a huge waterfall at the canyons end (or rather beginning if considering the water flow) and several smaller waterfalls right between the caves as was visible by the marks on the rock. The caves are either monasteries (a central pillared hall, a sanctum with a buddha and companions and surrounding cells [some with some beds and pillows - very comfortable]) or assembly halls (chapel like structures with a vaulted roof and a stupa or a buddha figure as a central element). In terms of size or level of detail there are more spectacular things to be seen in Ellora (though without seeing Ellora before everything here would still be very very impressive). What makes the Ajanta caves special are their age, their setting and the paintings which have survived nearly 2 millenia (the earliest caves date back to the 2nd century AD). Of course of many paintings only traces can be seen nowadays, but a couple of them are surprisingly complete - all these are only dimly lit to prevent further decay. If you plan a trip to Ajanta and Ellora it might be a good idea to go to Ajanta first - which would also be in the correct chronological order. Ajanta was abandonded and forgotten when the work at Ellora gained momentum. Interestingly there are some unfinished caves here which give a good impression of how the work was done.

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