Saturday, January 3, 2015

Temples and Caves (Maharashtra)

BheemaShankar - Shirdi - Shani Shingnapur - Ellora - Ghrishneshwar - Ajanta

The trip to the caves of Ajanta and Ellora was pending for long, but somehow was not getting time to plan a visit. December 2014 was approaching fast so decided to visit these places. 

Called friend Vikas and he immediately agreed and the planning started.

Issue is that there is no convenient railhead to Ajanta and Ellora. Nearest railhead to Ajanta is Jalgaon  or Manmad and to Ellora is Aurangabad and AhmadNagar.

Both can be conveniently visited through Aurangabad.

People visiting Shirdi also can visit these places conveniently.

Initially I had planned to take traing to Kopargaon but as could not get tickets, planned the trip via Pune.

So we decided to visit Shirdi along with Ajanta and Ellora. Two Jyotirlinga temples of BheemaShankar and Ghrishneshwar was also included in the itinerary along with Shani Temple at Shani Shingnapur.

So below plan was made

Day 1: Pune - Bheemashankar - Shirdi (and Shani Shingnapur if possible)
Day 2: Shirdi - Shani Shingnapur - Ellora - Ghrishneshwar
Day 3: Ajanta - Some other Atractions at Aurangabad

Though I have good travel experience but somehow the planned trip got a bit hectic. I overlooked the fact that year end days sees big crowd at different tourist destinations. Another mistake I did was planning the travel time. I went wrong in calculating the time required to go from Pune to Bheemashankar and from there to Shirdi. Hence at the end of day, we need to replan our startegy.


Hence a few places we could not visit, most notably the Daultabad fort.


One more day is needed in the above itinerary to have comfortable visit.


But anyway I am happy and satisfied, except Daultabad fort, we could cover the other long wished and planned destinations.


We reached Pune on 25th December evening and stayed at my wife's elder sister's house. The warm welcome is beyond words and I thank them for taking good care of us and also arrangement for road trip further.


26th December morning, after a good breakfast we started for Bheemashankar. I had assumed it will take may be 2-2.5 hours, but it took almost 3.5 hours from Pune.


सौराष्ट्रे सोमनाथं च श्री शैले मल्लिकार्जुनम |
उज्जयिन्यां महाकालंओंकारं ममलेश्वरम ||
केदारं हिमवत्प्रष्ठे डाकिन्यां भीमशंकरम |
वाराणस्यां च विश्वेशं त्रयम्बकं गोतमी तटे ||
वैधनाथं चितभूमौ नागेशं दारुकावने |
सेतुबन्धे च रामेशं घुश्मेशं तु शिवालये"||
(शिव पुराण कोटि रुद्र संहिता अध्याय 32-33)

I was quite excited that in this trip, we were going to cover two Jyotirlinga Temples. With this I have covered now 11 out of 12 Jyotirlinga Temples. One last pending is Vaidyanath.

I pray You, Śiva, Śańkara, Śambhu, Who is the Lord, Who is the Lord of our lives, 

Who is Vibhu, Who is the Lord of the world, 
Who is the Lord of Viṣṇu (Jagannātha), 
Who is always dwelling in happiness, 
Who imparts light or shine to everything, 
Who is the Lord of living beings, Who is the Lord of ghosts, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
(Shivashtakam Shloka 1)

Bheemashankar Temple is located in the ghats of Sahayadri mountains. It is said that there was a demon called Tripurasur. Who with great penance has earned lot of powers. With power come the ego and he started misusing those divine powers for harassing the  Gods.


Gods worshipped the merciful Shiva and he with help of mother Goddess Shakti, killed the Tripurasura. Since then he is still said to be dwelling there to bless all those who meditate on him.


The shrines of Dakini and Shakini is located near to the main temple. They are the Shiva Gana.


I pray You, Śiva, Śańkara, Śambhu, Who has a garland of skull around the neck, 

Who has a net of snakes around His body, 
Who is the destroyer of the immense-destroyer Kāla, 
Who is the lord of Gaṇeśa, 
Whose matted-hair are spread-out by the presence of the waves of Gańgā falling on His head, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
(Shivashtakam Shloka 2)

It was bright sunny day. As the ghat roads started I remembered my college days at dwarahat. College days are always best in anyone's life.


There was a good crowd there, which I had not expected. Leaving the Tavera, we all proceeded towards temple, which is away about a KM walk.


BheemaShankar Jyotirlinga Temple
Passing through covered steps, flanked by shops, we went in queue.

I pray You, Śiva, Śańkara, Śambhu, Who scatters happiness [in the world], 

Who is ornating the universe, Who is the immense universe Himself, 
Who is possessing the adornment of ashes, Who is without a beginning, 
Who is without a measure, Who removes the greatest attachments, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
(Shivashtakam Shloka 3)

The Bhimashankara temple is constructed in the Nagara style of architecture. The current structure dates back to 13th century. The Sabha Mandap along with Shikhara was constructed in the 18th century by Nana Phadnavis.


Chhatrapati Shivaji is said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate worship.


Queue was moving at slow pace, but in about 45 minutes we got the oppertunity to be inside the sanctum.


It was such a nice feeling touching him and praying there.


I pray You, Śiva, Śańkara, Śambhu, Who resides below a Vaṭa (Banyan) tree, 
Who possesses an immense laughter, Who destroys the greatest sins, 
Who is always resplendent, Who is the Lord of Himālaya, various tormentor-groups (Gaṇa) and the demi-gods, 
Who is the great Lord, and Who is the Lord of everyone
(Shivashtakam Shloka 4)

Blessed we came out of sanctum and sat for sometime in the Sabha Mandap.

A unique bell (Roman style) can be seen in front of the temple which was presented by Chimaji Appa (Brother of Bajirao Peshwa I and uncle of Nanasaheb Peshwa). Chimaji Appa collected five large bells after he won in war against the Portuguese from Vasai Fort. He offered one here at Bhimashankar and the others at Menovali.

Just ouside the sanctum is a temple of Lord Shani, where we worshipped and then next to that was abode of Dakini and Shakini, the consorts of demon Tripurasura.

As we walked back, near the main gate of temple is the temple of Goddes Kamalja, the mother Goddess. Tripurari killed the demon with help of mother Shakti.

There was no rush there, as we visited the temple and prayed to the divine mother, the origin of all!

Kamalja Temple, BheemaShankar
We salute to the auspicious one, the giver of auspiciousness. 
The consort of Lord Shiva, who fulfils all our spiritual and material desires. 
Our salutations to the three-eyed Divine Goddess Parvati or Narayani.
(Shri Durga Saptashati)

I had got a small cut in my left toe, which was paining, so I did not put my shoes and walked barefooted. The path was full of rubbles. Alas, even such sacred places there are no proper arrangements.. who is responsible? Government or we ourselves?


Bhimashankar is the source of the Bhima River, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna River later.


Surrounded by lush greenery and forest, Bhimashankar is definitely one of God's choicest creations to stay as an abode.


Time was to take road to Shirdi. It was about 2 PM. I wanted to visit Shirdi via Shani Shingnapur, but our driver Santosh, suggested to visit Shani Temple the next day as it was on way to Ellora. I agreed with his logic, though later I realised that had I not agreed to him, we could not have get the darshan of Shirdi Sai on that day. Also next day was Saturday, more auspecious to visit the Shani Dhaam.


You can have a look on my blog to Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur and Triyambakeshwar, where I had visited with friend Saroj in 2011.


Again my timing calculations were wrong. I had thought of reaching Shirdi from Bheemashankar in about 4 hours, but it took almost 5.5 hours!


Thanks to my wife, she had secured good hotel rooms for all of us. It was huge rush in the temple town.


The hotel was very near to gate number 2 of Samadhi Mandir. After some refreshment, we rushed to the temple gates.It was about 745 PM.


To our utter disappointment, the doors got cloed when I was about to enter. The gurds told to come next day morning 5 AM.!!


We tried hard, but guards did not allowed us... with heavy heart we went to a nearby restaurent to take dinner.


Gods wish is amazing.. many times we don't understand that!


As we came out after dinner, we realised some people rushing towards temple entry gate. After enquiry, we came to know that for some more time the gates have been opened..


 We rushed to the gates delighted and shouting salutations for Sai.... He wanted us to take rest and food before coming for darshan.... Salutations to Sai.....


Soon we were in the Samadhi hall. It was time for Night Aarti Darshan. We all sat patiently as on exactly 1030, the Aarti started.


It was very nice feeling and we all felt blessed that Sai gave us this opportunity. Aarti continued for about 20 minutes and after that with heart full of devotion, we came out of Samadhi temple.


Next to Samadhi Temple is the Masjid, which was the residence of Sai for many years. He used to call it as "Dwarika Mai". Even at that time of around 11 PM, there was a queue there. We went into the blessed place and saw the Dhuni and the stone, where Sai used to sit.


There are a few more small temples in the compound, which were closed by now. You can get more information about that from my another blog. Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur and Triyambakeshwar.


Just nearby were two more places of intereset, The Chhavdi and the hut of a muslim who was Sai devotee. Chavdi was closed but we visited the dargah of the muslim devotee.


Chavdi darshan can be done beautifully on every Thursday!


Blessed and happy we came back to hotel for a much required sleep.


Saturday morning was a bright sunny day. It was a little warm but good. After a good breakfast, we checked out and took the road for Shani Singnapur.


This place is famous for a Shani Temple. Here Lord Shani is worshipped in the form of a black stone, which is kept on an open platform. Its about 75 KMs from Shirdi.


Enrote we saw many sugarcane juice "center".We stopped at one such small Juice Centre to taste the fresh sugar cane juice crushed by a mighty bull!


Sugarcane Juice "Factory" enroute to Shani Shingnapur
It was Saturday today and so a little rush at Shani Temple. We took some required Pooja articles including oil to offer Lord Shani, who is considered to be the Judge of Gods!

He is Son of Lord Anshumaan, brother of God of Deeath Yama and also of Kalindi (Yamuna).

Nilanjana samabhasam raviputram yamagrajam 
chaya martanda sambhutam tam namami shaishcharam.
(I bow to Lord Shani, who is black in colour and son of Sun and born to Chhaya and brother of Yama , who moves very slowly.)

It is to be noted that in the entire vicinity of te temple, no shops or homes have gates. When if gates are there never a lock has to be put. Lord Shani himself is custodian of this place!!!


Though we were a little late as per the schedule but still satisfied, we took the road to Aurangabad.


As we were getting a bit late so decided to move directly to Ellora Caves first which is a little off to Aurangabad town.


Aurangabad is an ancient town named by Aurangzeb. In 1653 when Aurangzeb was appointed the viceroy of the Deccan, he renamed this place as Aurangabad. In a small town of Khuldabad, he lies in his grave, died with heavy heart not being successful to convert complete India.


Nearby Fort town of Daultabad is another famous place. It was famous as Devgiri, ruled by Yadav rulers. This fort and the hindu dynasty was devastated by many muslim rulers including Alauddin Khilzi. Mahmud Tughlaq tried to change the capital from Delhi to this place, which proved to be an utter failure.


Rampart of Devgiri (Daultabad) fort
This fort was assumed to be impregnable, but the ego and jealousy led to the downfall of all hindu empires!

Devgiri fort stand majestically even today and we were planning to visit the place. It was well past 4 PM by now, so we decided to skip it for today and go straight to Ellora.

Chand Minar in Devgiri (Daultabad) fort
We passed through it as I saw the fort with some state of helplessness... promising myself that I will visit it again some other time.

So here we were the famous Ellora!!!


This place is more commonly known as Verul in local areas.

Ellora is an archaeological site, 30 KMs from Aurangabad. These caves were carved during the times of Rashtrakuta dynasty. It is also known as Elapura as mentioned in the Rashtrakuta literature in Kannada.


Mughal Aurangzeb took his last breath at Khuldabad near Aurangabad. His grave is there.


Ellora is a World Heritage Site. It represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 caves are actually carved out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity are an exciting site to visit.


It is always good to visit such place on foot, but in a hurry and keeping in mind the kids, we took an auto. One can go even with his Car to most of the Caves.




These caves were built during the 5th-7th century. 


These structures consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Gautama Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood.


Auto driver took us to different caves one by one... It requires some time to visit all the 34 caves, so we decided to visit the most famous caves only.


I remembered my visit to Badami a few years back and then a visit to Udayagiri and Khandagiri in Odisha in 2013.


Veerbhadra

The "Hindu" caves were constructed between the middle of sixth century to the end of the eighth century. The early caves (caves 17–29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period. 
Shiva Parvati and Kailash and Ravan trying to lift

It is just unimaginable that how with only chisel and hammer, how these caves were carved out of mountain.

We entered the first cave (Cave 10 perhaps), which is having huge idols associated with stories from Purans and other sources.

Shiva Parvati Marriage

Kids were also quite excited and surprised with huge idols as we roamed each chamber cave after cave...

Being there takes one behind the generations... Monks and Saints meditating in these sacred places and a cool and serene atmosphere rejuvenating all those visit here.



Ellora Caves

There are five Jain caves at Ellora and they belong to the ninth and tenth centuries. They all belong to the Digambara sect.

The most remarkable Jain shrines are the Chhota Kailash (cave 30), the Indra Sabha (cave 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (cave 33). 


Next we went to Cave 32 which is the Indra Sabha. It is a two storeyed cave with one more monolithic shrine in its court. It has a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. It got the appellation "Indra Sabha" because of the sculpture of the yaksha Matanga on an elephant, which was identified as that of Indra. On the upper level of the double-storied shrine excavated at the rear of the court, an image of Ambika, the yakshini of Neminath, is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits.


Another notable cave is the Dashavatara (Cave 15). Guide told us that it was begun as a Buddhist monastery. It has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa at the middle and a two-storeyed temple at the rear. The wall columns on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes, which include the ten avatars of Vishnu. 

Jain cave

It started becoming little dark now...time was slipping so we ran towards the most famous Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa temple, which is a masterpiece of Ellora. 

This is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It looks like a multi-storeyed temple complex, but was carved out of one single rock!!!


 It is said that in early days, the temple was covered with white plaster thus even more increasing the similarity to snow-covered Mount Kailash.

Indra

All the carvings are done in more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway resembling a South Indian Gopura opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. 
Indrani

Being there was great. I felt great bliss and happiness. By paying gratitude to all those who contributed for construction of these immortal creations of art, we started our excursions.
Kalash on a pillar

Within the courtyard are three structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, the first is a large image of the sacred bull Nandi in front of the central temple. The central temple - Nandi Mantapa or Mandapa - houses the Lingam. 
Mural Paintings

The Nandi Mandapa stands on 16 pillars. The base of the Nandi Mandapa has been carved to suggest that life-sized elephants are holding the structure aloft. A living rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandapa to the Shiva temple behind it. 


Mural Paintings

The temple is reminiscent of a South Indian Dravidian temple. The shrine complete with pillars, windows, gathering halls, and lingam, is carved with images of deities and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu). There are two Dhvajastambhas (pillars with the flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva is wonderful to see.
 
The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius. It is calculated that it would have required removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and about 100 years of time to complete this!
Kailash Temple

Other notable cave is the Rameshvara (Cave 21), which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance.
Gaja Lakshmi at Kailash cave

Several inscriptions are at Ellora range from 6th century to 15th century. The best known of them is an inscription of Rashtrakuta Dantidurga (c. 753-57 A.D.) on the back wall of the front mandapa of Cave 15, which gives an account of his conquests. 

Jain cave Jagannatha Sabha has 3 inscriptions that give the names of monks and donors. 

MahishsurMardini

The Great Kailasa (Cave 16) is attributed to Krishna I (c. 757-83 A.D.), the successor and uncle of Dantidurga. A copper plate grant by Karka II (c. 812-13 A.D.) narrates that a great edifice was built on a hill by Krishnaraja at Elapura (Ellora).

Another famous Buddhist caves is cave 10 with a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or 'Vishvakarma cave', popularly known as the 'Carpenter's Cave'. The ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the center of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. Amongst other Buddhist caves, all of the first nine (caves 1–9) are monasteries. 


At the front is a rock-cut court, which is entered through a flight of steps. On either side are pillared porticos with chambers in their back walls. 


The main hall has seated Buddha in vyakhyana mudra (teaching posture). A large Bodhi tree is carved at the back. The hall has a vaulted roof in which ribs have been carved in the rock imitating the wooden ones.



Kailsh Cave

The Ellora caves, unlike Ajanta, were never lost. There have been several written records that indicate that these caves were visited regularly by visiting foreign explorers and monks alike.

At 6 PM, the guards closed the gates of Kailsh Cave. We were still inside along with many other tourists. It was to deny entry to other tourists. It was quite dark also so very carefully we ascended the steps and moved out of this remarkable place.


As far as I remeber, It was about 7 PM. Nearby is the Jyotirlinga of Grishneshwar. We proceeded towards that with reverence


Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana. Grishneshwar is believed as the Last or 12th (twelfth) Jyotirlinga on the earth. 


It lies at about 1 KM from Ellora Caves.


I have yet to vist Baidyanath Jyotirlinga. Rest all I have visited with grace of almighty Shiva.


As we approached near the temple, Lord Anshumaan has moved to other side of globe so it was dark now. Temple was still open so we decided to have darshan.


Near temple, there I saw one tomb like structure, which after enquiry I came to know belong to Samadhi of ancestor of Shivaji maharaj.


There was quite a rush at temple and also camera and mobile were not allowed inside. We were disapponited as hungry and tired, we had not expcted that much crowd.. Also we should have left our camera and mobiles etc in taxi itself.


Anyway we deposited our mobiles and camers on a store next to temple gate and went into queue.

I pray You, Siva, Sankara, Sambhu, 
Who shares half of His body with the daughter of Himalaya, 
Who is situated in a mountain (Kailasa), 
Who is always a resort for the depressed, Who is the Atman, 
Who is reverred by (or Who is worthy of reverence by) Brahma and others, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
||Shivashtakam Shloka 5||

I pray You, Siva, Sankara, Sambhu, Who holds a skull and a trident in the hands, 

Who endows the desires of those who are humble to His lotus-feet, 
Who uses an Ox as a vehicle, 
Who is supreme and above various demi-gods, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
||Shivashtakam Shloka 6||

Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga

I pray You, Siva, Sankara, Sambhu, 
Who has a face like the Winter-moon, 
Who is the subject of happiness of Gana (tormentor groups), 
Who has three eyes, Who is pure, Who is the friend of Kubera (controller of wealth), 
Who is the consort of Aparna (Parvati), Who has eternal characteristics, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
||Shivashtakam Shloka 7||

I pray You, Siva, Sankara, Sambhu, Who is known as Hara, 

Who has a garland of snakes, Who roams around the cremation grounds, 
Who is the universe, Who is the summary of the Veda (or the One discussed by Veda), 
Who is always dispassionate, Who is living in the cremation grounds, 
Who is burning desires born in the mind, 
and Who is the Lord of everyone.
||Shivashtakam Shloka 8||

The queue was big but moving swiftly. I want to congratulate the security staff and other temple committee members who were very quick and very managing the crowd very efficiently.


We got our turn in about 45 minutes.


As we did not had camera, so I could take only one pic from outside.


Inside the sanctum, males need to remove there clothing above waist.


It is said that a Shiva devotee, once found a treasure hidden in the snake pit (ant hill). He spent that money to renovate the temple and built a lake in Shikharshinganapur. Later on, Goutamibal and Ahilyadevi Holkar renovated the Grishneshwar temple.


Halfway up the temple, Dashavataras are carved in red stone. These are beautiful to look at. There are also other beautiful statutes carved out. A court hall is built on 24 pillars. On these pillars there are wonderful carvings. The scenes and paintings are beautiful. 


The legend is that according to Shivapuran, in the south of Bharat, on a mountain named Devagiri lived a Brahmin called Brahmavetta Sudharm along with his wife Sudeha. The couple did not have a child because of which Sudeha was sad. Sudeha prayed and tried all possible remedies but in vain. Frustrated of being childless, Sudeha got her sister Ghushma married to her husband. On the advice of her sister, Ghushma used to make 101 lingas, worship them and discharge them in the nearby lake. With the blessings of Lord Shiva, Ghushma gave birth to a baby boy. Because of this, Ghushma became proud and Sudeha started feeling jealous towards her sister. Out of jealously, one night she killed Ghushma's son and threw him in the lake where Ghushma used to discharge the lingas. Next morning, Ghushmas and Sudharm got involved in daily prayers and ablutions. Ghushma's daughter-in-law, however, saw stains of blood on her husband's bed and parts of the body drenched in blood. Horrified, she narrated everything to mother-in-law Ghushma who was absorbed in worshipping Shiva. Even when Ghushma saw the bed drenched in blood she did not break down and said he who has given me this child shall protect him and started reciting Shiva-Shiva. Later, when she went to discharge the Shivalingas after prayers she saw her son coming.At that time Lord Shiv appeared before her and said - I am pleased with your devotion. Your sister had killed your son. Ghushma told Lord to forgive Sudeha. Pleased with her generosity, Lord Shiva asked her another boon. Ghushma said that he should reside here eternally in form of a Jyotirling. On her request, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Jyotirling and assumed the name Ghushmeshwar and the lake was named as Shivalaya thereafter.


We had wonderful darshan. We forgot all our tiredness. Nearby temple we sat down for refreshing tea.


I had booked a hotel at Aurangabad. The manager their was calling me as I was quite late by now. I asked him to keep the booking and I will be there in an hour.


A good hotel, a good food and a comfortable sleep completed our tired but happy day.


Day3, our last day of excursions, with early breakfast, we hit the road to "Ajintha" or the famous Ajanta caves.



Ajanta Cave Complex

About 5 KMs before the cave complex, we need to take Maharashtra Tourism buses, who took us to the base of hills which houses these heritage monuments.


Private vehicles are not allowed on this last stretch.



The Ajanta Caves are about 100 KMs from Aurangabad. It can also be reached from Jalgaon about 60 KMs from here.

After taking tickets we all ascended a small flight of stairs to be on the edge of the massive cave complex.

Roof of a cave

Ajanta cave complex consists of 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 650 CE. The caves include paintings and sculptures said to be the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting. The caves were built in two phases starting around the 2nd century BCE, with the second group of caves built around 400–650 CE according to older accounts, or all in a brief period of 460 to 480 CE.

The most famous, Padmapaani (Lotus in hand) painting at cave 1

The Ajanta caves are cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small river Waghur. It is said that earlier there was only possible to reach cave through ladders from river bed. Now there is a pathway running across the cliff.

I was feeling great to be there. It was my long wish to visit Ajanta.


It was bright sunny morning and quite a rush as well. Many school children were also there.

Mural Painting
On 28 April 1819, a British officer for the Madras Presidency, John Smith, while hunting tiger, accidentally discovered the entrance to Cave No. 10 deep within forest cover. Captain Smith vandalized the wall by scratching his name and the date, April 1819. Since he stood on a five-foot high pile of rubble, the inscription cant be seen now as its quite high to be seen from eye-levels today.

Nizam of Hyderabad built the modern path between the caves. Before that a trip to Ajanta was a considerable adventure with dangers from falls off narrow ledges, animals and the Bhil people, who were armed with bows and arrows and had a fearsome reputation.

The British excavated further with help from Nizam of Hyderabad and this complex came into light after centuries of human silence.

Mural Painting
The caves are numbered 1 to 28 according to their place along the path, beginning at the entrance. Several are unfinished and some barely begun and others are small shrines. Two caves. "9A" and "Cave 15A" were still hidden under rubble when the numbering was done. So total 30.

Mural Painting
Like the other ancient Buddhist monasteries, Ajanta had a large emphasis on teaching, and was divided into several different caves for living, education and worship, under a central direction. Monks were probably assigned to specific caves for living. 

The layout reflects this organizational structure, with most of the caves only connected through the exterior. The 7th-century travelling Chinese scholar Xuanzang informs us that Dignaga, a celebrated Buddhist philosopher lived at Ajanta in the 5th century. 


Mural Painting
The earliest group of caves consists of caves 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15A. The probable dates they were made during the period 100 BCE to 100 CE.

Of these, caves 9 and 10 are stupa halls of chaitya (prayer hall) form, and caves 12, 13, and 15A are viharas (monastry or place to dwell). 


It is believed that second phase of construction began in the 5th century. Some 20 cave temples were simultaneously created. 

Stupa
It is said that later, the Ajanta Caves appear to have been abandoned by wealthy patrons. They were then gradually abandoned and forgotten. During the intervening centuries, the jungle grew back and the caves were hidden, unvisited and undisturbed.

All the paintings appear to be the work of painters at least as used to decorating palaces as temples, and show a familiarity with and interest in details of the life of a wealthy court. We know from literary sources that painting was widely practised and appreciated in the courts of the Gupta period. 
Mural Painting
The ceilings are also painted with sophisticated and elaborate decorative motifs, many derived from sculpture.The paintings in cave 1,concentrate on those Jataka tales which show previous lives of the Buddha as a king.

The paintings have deteriorated significantly since they were rediscovered.


The scenes depicted are mostly devotional, and ornamental, with scenes from the Jataka stories of the Buddha's former existences as a bodhisattva band the life of Buddha.


Point from where John Smith discovered Ajanta Caves
The four completed chaitya halls are caves 9 and 10 from the early period, and caves 19 and 26 from the later period of construction. All follow the typical form found elsewhere, with high ceilings and the stupa, which is near the back, but allows walking behind it, as walking around stupas was (and remains) a common element of Buddhist worship (pradakshina). The later two have high ribbed roofs, which reflect timber forms.
Mural Painting
The caves from the first period seem to have been paid for by a number of different patrons, with several inscriptions recording the donation of particular portions of a single cave.

Cave 1 was built on the eastern end of the horse-shoe shaped scarp, and is now the first cave the visitor encounters. This would when first made have been a less prominent position, right at the end of the row. It is said to be one of the latest caves to have been excavated. 

Writing practice done!!
As we started from cave 1, each cave, each pillar, each painting was like narrating its story. 

The two most famous individual painted images at Ajanta are the two over-life size figures of the protective bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani on either side of the entrance to the Buddha shrine on the wall of the rear aisle.


Stupa
We need to remove our shoes before entering the caves. Cameras and mobiles are allowed but using flash is prohibited. Without flash, photos can be taken.

We took guide across different caves to understand things better.


Cave 1 tells the stories about the birth of Buddha with paintings, while cave 26 tells us about his parinirvana in the form of scultures.

Next was Cave 2 which is known for the paintings that have been preserved on its walls, ceilings, and pillars. It looks similar to Cave 1 and is in a better state of preservation. There are scenes carved from the life of the Buddha. The cave has a porch with simple cells on both ends. 
Holding the ceiling pillar on his back!
The stories illustrated in cave 1 emphasize kingship, those in cave 2 show many "noble and powerful" women in prominent roles, leading to suggestions that the patron was an unknown woman. Paintings appear on almost every surface of the cave except for the floor. At various places the art work has become eroded due to decay and human interference. 

We moved further to explore other caves. 


Cave 3 is merely a start of an excavation and there is nothing much interesting.


Mural Painting depicting a war
The Archeological Survey of India board outside the cave gives the following detail about cave 4:

"This is the largest monastery planned on a grandiose scale but was never finished. An inscription on the pedestal of the Buddha's image mentions that it was a gift from a person named Mathura and paleographically belongs to 6th century A.D. It consists of a verandah, a hypostylar hall, sanctum with an antechamber and a series of unfinished cells. The rear wall of the verandah contains the panel of Litany of Avalokitesvara".
Mural Painting of march of army.

Caves 5 and 6 are viharas, the latter on two floors, that were late works of which only the lower floor of cave 6 was ever finished. The upper floor of cave 6 has many private votive sculptures, and a shrine Buddha, but is unfinished.

Cave 7 has a grand facade with two porticos but, perhaps because of faults in the rock, which posed problems in many caves, was never taken very deep into the cliff, and consists only of the two porticos and a shrine room.

Buddha giving alms to his son!
One by one we explored all caves. Kids were getting tired and restless. Lord Anshumaan was showering heat... but I knew its not easy to visit such place so frequently and hence I concentrated to fulfill my hunger to know and explore more.

Cave 8 statue may have been loose rather than carved from the living rock, as it has now taken away. It may be at some museum now! The cave was painted, but only traces remain.

Cave 10 facade
Caves 9 and 10 are the two chaitya (prayer) halls.

The paintings in cave 10 include some surviving from the early period nearly all Buddhas and many with donor inscriptions from individuals. 


Buddha Mahaparnirvana

One explorer Walter M. Spink has over recent decades developed a very precise and circumstantial chronology. He places entirely in the 5th century as approx time for completion of these caves. This is based on evidence such as the inscriptions and artistic style, combined with the many uncompleted elements of the caves. 


The rediscovery of ancient Indian paintings at Ajanta provided Indian artists examples from ancient India to follow.



Each painting is alive... each stone speaks, each sculpture narrates its story... Stunning place to be!


Carpenter's cave with Stupa. The carved stones look like as wooden beams

Spending about 5 hours there and badly tired we were pressurized by kids to head back. But I had completed my exploration to my satisfaction. I wished to go down to river bed and then ascend again to the the point from where John Smith saw the cave first time, but kids and wife insisted to start back as they were badly tired.

On the way back we took some fresh guavas to be refreshed. Then we took the MTDC bus to get back to taxi stand.


A cup of refreshing tea and we took the taxi back to Aurangabad.

On way back in taxi, I was thinking about the people, who created these caves and paintings and sculptures. The people who lived there and the person who found them after centuries!
Sun set on way to Aurangabad from Ajanta

It was about 730 PM or so when we reached Aurangabad. Friend Vikas suggested to visit another Monument called "Bibi ka makbara" at Aurangabad.

Though I wanted to visit, but was not sure that at that time it will be open or not. Still we proceeded there. Its in city limits only.


To my surprise it was still open. Thanks to Vikas we were able to explore one more historical monument!


We took a guide there but it was useless. He didnot told me anything, which I didnt knew already or was not mentioned on information board near ticket counter.


It was built around 1660 AD by prince Azam Shah (son of Aurangzeb) in the memory of his mother, Dilras Banu Begam.  It bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal.


Due to its strong resemblance to the Taj Mahal, it is also called the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan). An inscription found on the main entrance door mentions that this mausoleum was designed and erected by Ata-ullah, an architect and Hanspat Rai, an engineer respectively. Ata-ullah was the son of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.



In the dark, we could get the glimpse of it. we walked till the building and also visited the inner portion of it.

The marble for this mausoleum was brought from mines near Jaipur. According to famous traveller Tavernier, around three hundred carts laden with marbles, drawn by at least 12 oxen were seen by him during his journey from Surat to Golconda.

The mausoleum was intended to rival the Taj Mahal, but, the decline in architecture and severe budgetary constraints imposed by Aurangzeb had resulted in a poor copy of the latter.

The budget was being used to fight against Hindus and Sikhs so was not for art etc.

The mausoleum was built on a high square platform with four minarets at its corners, which is approached by a flight of steps from the three sides. A mosque which is to the west of the main structure, is a later addition constructed by the Nizam of Hyderabad, resulting in closure of the entrance from the west side.
Roof
The mortal remains of Rabia Daurani are placed below the ground level surrounded by an octagonal marble screen with exquisite designs, which can be approached by a descending flight of steps. 

The breeze was a bit strong there in open, which refreshed us a bit. We all were badly tired by now so it was time to be back to hotel.


After dinner we quickly packed luggage etc.


Monday morning 4 AM we took the road to Pune, reaching there by 745 AM. Our train was at around 1130 AM, but to keep safe margin we started a bit early.


Tuesday morning we were at home sweet home! 

5 comments:

  1. Really nice coverage. I have been this places earlier and really felt blessed mainly in Trayambkeshwar and Grisneswar Jyothirling,

    Sir, hope you would have got a chance to do the abhishekam.

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