Buddha & Bodhisattvas in the Ellora & Ajanta Caves

Buddha Buddha Statues Buddhist Indian Art Indian Carvings Photos of India

Photos from the Ancient Caves at Ellora & Ajanta, India.

In the central Indian state of Maharashtra are two remarkable cave complexes built about 1500 years ago. The cave complex at Ajanta contains Buddhist paintings and rock cut statues created between 200 and 500 CE (common era, equivalent to AD). Ajanta is 2 hours drive from Ellora which is close to the town of Aurangabad. The Ellora cave complex features Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments constructed between 600 and 1000 CE.

Ellora and Ajanta are among the cultural highlights of India but we only went to see them in December 2018, over 40 years after my first visit to India. That's largely because they're off the beaten track - and also because they're popular and therefore can be rather crowded. My preference is for the more obscure.

We stayed at the basic but friendly Kailash Hotel - which I'd recommend - at Ellora, the caves are in easy walking distance. 

I'm staying clear of too many details in this blog - think of it as photo gallery. Photography isn't easy - the caves are dark, tripods aren't permitted and there are people in the way! So there are many wonderful statues that I didn't photograph. Some of the best photos are for sale on the Ajanta & Ellora page.

Carved Portico over Cave 8 at ElloraRow of Seated Buddhas at Cave 12 ElloraTeaching Buddha, Cave 11, ElloraThree Green Tara, Cave 12, Ellora Caves, IndiaFuture Buddha, Maitreya, Ellora Cave 11Avalokiteshvara, Green Tara & White Tara, Cave 11, ElloraBodhisattva and Ganga ,Cave 11, Ellora Caves, IndiaCave 10 Pillars & Female Figure, Cave 10, Ellora

We started early morning at Cave 1 - the furthest from the hotel. The earlier caves have mostly Buddhist content, the later ones start to merge Buddhist and Hindu iconography. There is more commentary on the Ajanta & Ellora page.

The most spectacular cave at Ellora is Cave 16, the Kailash Temple which is the largest temple in the world cut from solid rock. It's almost impossible to conceive - it was carved down from the top. How they envisaged it is beyond belief. Like all the other caves it was cut from the rock using only hammers and chisels.

I found it almost impossible to photograph, even though on our second visit we arrived as the gates opened at 8am and before it was crowded with other visitors.

Kailash Temple, cave 16 Ellora

The following day we drove for a couple of hours to the Ajanta cave complex which contains almost entirely Buddhist carvings and paintings. The only painting I was able to photograph was this beautiful image of Padmapani.

Padmapani, cave 1 Ajanta

I'm fairly confident of the correct cave numbers for the following photos - but am happy to receive any corrections! 

Buddha and Bodhisattvas cave 9

Aoghasiddhi, cave 19 Ajanta

Meditating Buddha, cave 19, Ajanta

Stupa in Cave 14, Ajanta

Standing Buddhas, entrance cave 19, Ajanta

Painted Column, cave 10, Ajanta

Standing Buddha & Chattri, cave 19, Ajanta

Sunlight on the Buddha, cave 10, Ajanta

Buddha's Parinirvana cave 19 Ajanta

More information and buying options on the Photos of Ajanta & Ellora page.

If you want some further reading, a reasonable summary of the Ajanta caves is on the Ancient History website.

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