Created during the nineteenth century, Ajanta and Ellora, two of the eminent tourist destinations in India, offer some of the finest sculptural illustrations that ensure some of the highest influx of tourists from various parts of the world. One of the greatest tourist attractions in India and in the world, it is located near the city of Aurangabad.
The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 stands as one of the most wonderful architectural creations with the entire structure chiseled out of a single rock. This mountain, believed to be the holy abode of Lord Shiva, is probably the world's largest monolith. The pavilion, gateway, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, are all cut out of a monolith. The sculpture here begins from the very top unlike most of the other temple constructions which start from the base. The Dumar Lena cave is built in the model of the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and houses the idol of Lord Shiva.
Actually discovered by John Smith, a British Army Officer and his team on their hunting expedition, the Ajanta and Ellora caves were found lying amid the Sahyadri hills engraved into the mountain side, over the Waghora River. There are 29 caves which were created as retreats of the Buddhist preachers, who taught and performed religious rites in the Chaityas and Viharas, the old world centers of learning of the Buddhist cultural movement. The amazing sculptured figures were actually hammered and chiseled out to embellish the walls of these structures by the saints. The panels in most of the caves demonstrate stories from the Jatakas (incarnations of the Buddha). One can see the various intricate images of nymphs and princesses too.
The 34 Ellora caves, one of the greatest tourist attractions in India, lie at a distance of 30 kms from Aurangabad. They are basically made out of a basaltic hill. The fascia and subtly decorated interiors are some of the finest instances of cave - temple sculpture. Formed during the 350 AD to 700 AD, these constructions speak of the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The 12 caves to the south are dedicated to Buddhism, 17 in the centre to Hinduism, and the 5 to the north to Jainism.
The Jain caves are located almost a mile away from the Kailasa temple, among which Cave 32 has a beautiful shrine designed with wonderful carved forms of a lotus flower on the roof, and a yakshi on a lion beneath a mango tree. Caves 32 and 34 preserve the royal statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves have the illustrations of Tirthankaras, and one of them, even has a seated figure of Mahavira.
The Ajanta and Ellora caves, one of the must visits during your tour to India, gracefully symbolize the characteristics of nobility, grace and serenity of Buddha himself and his principles. It actually presents itself as one of the key tourist destinations in India.
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