Ajanta, Ellora and Daulatabag fort

 

Ajanta

 Situated in a remote valley 105 km from Aurangabad, the rock sanctuaries of Ajanta, carved into a sheer cliff face between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century, are among the oldest monastic institutions in the country - first Buddhist, then Hindu.

Gradually abandoned, the site was invaded by forest and forgotten for almost a thousand years, until a group of British hunters stalking tigers stumbled upon it by chance in 1819.

 

You now have to pay an entrance fee to enter the site... but not without having to walk through a huge bazaar selling anything and everything... cheap souvenirs, carved wood, hats, T-shirts and so on... among all these shops are those selling minerals, and you can't help but admire the beauty and perfection of these pyrites, amethysts, tiger's eyes, quartz and other rock crystals...

 

Tourism plays an important role in the country's economy. According to a study by the World Travel and Tourism Council, $121 billion is generated by tourism in India, representing nearly 6.4% of the country's gross domestic product and 8.78% of total employment.

 

To get to this giant amphitheatre, you have to climb a few flights of asymmetrical steps... some people are carried up in bamboo palanquins...

palanquin carriers

 

But the effort pays off ... the visit to the 28 caves takes the rest of the day ... some are truly remarkable and others more austere, but all reveal an undeniable expertise ... the delicacy of the paintings which have great difficulty in resisting the ravages of time, most certainly increased by the over-frequentation of the area ...

Five are chaitya (stupa, reliquary) and the other 25 are viharas (Buddhist monastery).

We passed many school groups, Indian tourists, Tibetan monks and, curiously, not many Westerners.

From selfies to selfies, and yes, we're constantly being asked for them and, admittedly, it gets a bit annoying in the long run, but let's play along! ...

selfies

The return to Aurangabab will take place at sunset by taxi on a dusty road that is often more of a track than a road ....

 

 

Ellora

 

The Ellora site is only 30 km from Aurangabad, like Ajanta, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sanctuaries, which are both monasteries and places of devotion, were carved and sculpted into the face of a long basalt cliff over a period of five centuries (from 600 to 1000) by generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks...

The extraordinary Kailash temple is certainly the most accomplished...

Commissioned by King Krishna I in 760 to represent Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva in the Himalayas, it could be the largest monolithic sculpture in the world ... 7,000 workers over 150 years ... first of all, 3 gigantic walls had to be dug out of the cliffs, requiring 200,000 tonnes of rock to be hammered and chiselled away before the temple could be given its shape ... a marvel of engineering that is both awe-inspiring and breathtaking: How can you imagine the architects and workers standing on that cliff before the first chisel? ... what mental strength had to be developed to achieve this result? .......

Kailash temple

 

Daulatabad fort

Halfway between Aurangabad and Ellora, the fortress of Daulatabad is built on a 200 m high rocky outcrop known as Devagiri ("the hill of the gods")... 5 km of ramparts surround this citadel built by the Yadava kings in the 12th century... in 1328 it was renamed Daulatabad ("the city of fortune") by the Sultan of Delhi.

 

... another formidable climb up the asymmetrical staircases so popular in those days ... from door to door, often bristling with spikes to prevent elephant charges, from selfies to selfies we passed a number of school groups - obviously cultural outings are very popular in schools and colleges - and bands of monkeys, mostly langurs ...

 

 

... a dark and sweaty spiral tunnel ... before reaching the very top in more or less shaded stages ...

... all these visits are very physical !!!

... as always and everywhere so far, we're pestered with questions ... what is your name ? ... which country come from ? ... selfies ? ... etc.

... the descent is quicker of course and a bottle of water will be welcome, but we'll have to wait a good hour before we can board a bus for Aurangabad...