The Ajanta Caves
Getting to the caves takes a long two and half hour bus ride from Aurangabad, but its worth it. When you get there you are greeted by a small swarm of touts trying to sell you little gifts and Indian artifacts, this is annoying, but still worth it. Then you must take one of the “green” buses to get onto the site. All the difficulty of getting there washes away as you stroll around the cave complex. Trying to imagine the scale of work necessary to carve out the giant structures is difficult, as they had nothing more than axes and wood (which they jammed into cracks and then soaked in water so that the swelling wood would break up the rock further) to do it. The paintings are in a pretty bad state compared to anything modern, but it is there antiquity that is so remarkable, not the images they depict. Most are over two thousand years old, the paint they was colored using natural products like flowers and colored minerals, mixed with a natural glue and water and then dried using sunlight which they reflected into the caves using pools of water. The Buddhists were remarkable Macgyvers. Flash photography is not allowed but you may bring a torch (Indian word for a flashlight) to help you see the paintings. And really, the paintings themselves are remarkable. You just have to use your imagination a little to fill in the gaps that have been destroyed by decay. Ornate geometric ceiling patterns, beautiful portraits of ancient royalty, and many, many, paintings of the Buddha cover all surfaces apart from the ground. This would have been such a remarkable and beautiful place to pray and be a Buddhist in 200 AD. In fact the caves correspond with a time when Buddhism was flourishing in India.
Older than old, more ancient than antiquity, the Ajanta caves are one of the great creations of mankind. Not to be missed.
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