On our trip to India this year, we spent around one week at Lonavala, a week at Sanchi and Nashik, but nearly two weeks around Aurangabad, which includes the world famous cave sites at Ellora and Ajanta, besides others, and around half of the photographs I am publishing from the trip came from these sites.
The first groups of cave sites we visited were on the edge of Aurangabad itself, and so were within relatively easy reach, which was just as well after our previous tiring itinerary. There are two sites separated by about a mile from each other, which we visited on succeeding days.
They both date from later times, and the sculpted work and design reflects this, as it the exquisite patterning typical of later times found on the rock carved works. The first group we visited required the normal climb to get into; but the second group is at the end of a road which only goes to these caves and is at the same level.
We stayed at the Bodhisattva Buddhist Temple while in Aurangabad, and the monks were very helpful while we were there, and we also got to see some of the very vibrant Buddhist life in the city, which is around 1/3rd Buddhist. We went for house dānas, out on piṇḍapāta and visited a number of other temples during our stay.
Afterwards we headed off for Ellora, but on the same day, went past that site and on to Pitalkhora, which is around 40km further along the same road. This was one of the most remote of the sites we visited, and must have been a true meditation monastery in its time. It includes small Chaitya Halls of some of the famous monks who had passed away while residing there, and some fine paintings on the Chaitya Hall pillars.
We were at Ellora for only a couple of days, and although I had hoped to be able to photograph the Brahminical and Jaina caves for comparison to the Buddhist ones, in the end I only had time for the latter, and we only walked round the others quickly one morning. This left work undone in many ways, but the schedule by now was getting tight.
Once we had done what we could do at Ellora we moved across country to the Ajanta caves, around 100km from the Ellora site. Ajanta is justly famous as, for one thing, it has preserved extensive painting work from the early period. We spent around three days on the shoot there, which included having to redo one section completely after forgetting my SD card one day.
The very last cave we visited on the trip was cave 26, which struck me then, as it does now, as the absolute zenith of the cave art we saw on our trip, with a beautifully proportioned Chaitya Hall, a well-designed chaitya and magnificent reliefs all round the perimetre of the cave.