AJANTA ELLORA CAVES : The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves are located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The caves shrines cut out of rock, by hand, and rank amongst some of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, were remained in dark, undiscovered for over a milleniuam, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally discovered them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. Ajanta has been designated as a World Heritage Site to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will inspire the generations to come.
It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills, cut into the curved mountain side, above the Waghora river, were discovered. They depicted the story of Buddhism, spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD.
The 29 caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and nerve – centers of the Buddhist cultural movement. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.
At various places the art work has become eroded due to decay and human interference. Therefore, many areas of the painted walls, ceilings, and pillars are fragmentary. The painted narratives of the Jataka tales are depicted only on the walls, which demanded the special attention of the devotees.