Welcome to my Aurangabad/Ajanta/Ellora post!
This post will cover the city of Aurangabad and two UNESCO world heritage sites close to it, Ajanta and Ellora.
Aurangabad — they told me i will see the fake Taj Mahal, huh.
So a lil info on Aurangabad
Aurangabad is a city in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. Aurangabad (“Aurang City“) is named after the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The city is a tourism hub, surrounded by many historical monuments, including the Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as Bibi Ka Maqbara. The administrative headquarters of the Aurangabad Division or Marathwada region, Aurangabad is titled “The City of Gates” and the strong presence of these can be felt as one drives through the city.
Matt (My English friend) and I arrived to Aurangabad with no specific plan, no idea where to stay or what this city has to offer. What we did know is that Ajanta/Ellora (the caves) were not far from this city and were on our “to go” list.
First steps in Aurangabad
Getting out of the bus in Aurangabad was a typical Indian “get-of-the-bus” experience, you get swarmed by countless rickshaw drivers offering you rides to hotels/guesthouses all around, while your eyes are still half-open from the long bus ride (bus rides in India can be really long, trust me). Anyhow, we were able to dodge the drivers and walked out of the station, our plan was to walk around and find a guesthouse on our own. After a while we stopped for a nice street chai (5-10 Rupee on the streets), all the hotels/guesthouses we saw until that point were expensive. Suddenly a rickshaw driver approached us and asked us where we were from, i was so tired of the rickshaw drivers that i started trolling him, i told him i was from Sierra Leone. Now, imagine my face when he started speaking French to me and showed me his notebook, where positive reviews about him were written in French, apparently by people from Sierra Leone (I don’t speak French and i do not live there). Well, this guy was really nice and actually helped us get a great hotel room (Hotel Indraprasth) for about 700 rupee (12USD), this city has quite expensive accommodation. The room had hot shower, something that was missing for about a week.
Time to explore Aurangabad
After a good hot shower and a nice sleep, we were ready to start exploring the city itself. Ellora was planned for the next day. Aurangabad has few sightseeing places, we decided to see Bibi Ka Maqbara and the caves of Aurangabad. Bibi Ka Maqbara (English: “Tomb of the Lady“) is a mausoleum that was built by Azam Shah son of Aurangzeb, in 1678 in memory of his mother, Dilras Banu Begum. It resembles the Taj Mahal, since the Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of his grandmother, Mumtaz Mahal. A must see in my opinion, and yeah, i have skipped the Taj Mahal in my travels, so this was a compensation.
After the mausoleum we went to the caves of Aurangabad. Interesting place, the cave temples of Aurangabad were cut between the 6th and the 8th century and are actually Buddhist shrines. Take a look 🙂
After returning back to the city the hotel owner helped us score some amazing weed, the stuff we got in Aurangabad was one of the best i had in India. Aurangabad has no nightlife, so if you are up for a party, wait untill you get to Mumbai.
→ Ellora caves ←
We woke up early on day number two and headed to the central bus station of Aurangabad. Getting a bus to Ellora is easy, there are many busses going to the caves area from the central bus station of Aurangabad. What you should know is that the caves are open 09.00-17.30 but remain closed on Tuesday. Both caves (Ajanta/Ellora) remain open on all national holidays. Entry is 10 Rupee for Indians, 250 Rupee for foreigners (this x25 pricing happens in many historical places around India) with free entry for children below 15 years. Photography is free, but video photography costs an extra IDR25.
The first thing that impressed me when we got to the Ellora caves was.. Obese monkeys! Local people sell bananas on the entrance and the tourists feed the monkeys (sounds lovely, right?). Well, not exactly, the monkeys get aggressive when they see you holding those bananas and might even jump on you. Be careful!
Some Ellora history
Ellora is an archaeological site built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty (Brahmanical & Buddhist group of caves) and Yadav (Jain group of caves). It is also known as Elapura in the Rashtrakuta Kannada literature. Well known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 34 “caves” are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. Hindu, Buddhist and Jain rock-cut temples and viharas and mathas were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 17 Hindu (caves 13–29), 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.
So as you see, there are many caves to visit, you can hire a rickshaw or just walk around yourself. Don’t forget your camera, the place is truly amazing. Make sure you buy one of those guide books from the guys selling stuff around, it will help you understand what you are looking at (bargain hard on those books, the merchants start from crazy inflated prices).
A crazy ride back to Aurangabad
So yeah, as you guys saw from the pictures, Ellora has a lot to offer, go there;). One cool thing was the ride back to Aurangabad, while waiting for the bus back, a jeep driver offered us a 40 Rupee (60 cent) ride back to the city, the price of the bus ride was 35 Rupee. We though that was a scam, but heck, we went for it! The jeep did get us back, but at what cost? The driver was driving through all the villages around and kept on filling the jeep, at some point we were laughing hard, because there were FOUR people on the two front seats (including the driver), SIX on the back seats and about TEN in the back side of the jeep. Indian hell ride, was fun!
→ Ajanta Caves ←
The Ajanta caves are a little further away from Aurangabad, the bus goes off from the central bus station of Aurangabad and it takes about three hours to get there. You will get to a bus stop about 4km away from the caves, there you get another bus (7Rupee for non—ac/15Rupee for an ac bus). The ride lasts for about 15 minutes and there you are, the Ajanta caves.
The Ajanta Caves are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The caves include paintings and sculptures which are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales. Look, i do recommend getting a guide (in Ellora too), not sure what the price is, but they will for sure help you find the most important parts of the caves. The area has a shape of a half-moon and it is easy to go from cave to cave, make sure you visit as many as you can! There is a view-point there too, take a look!
In the view-point you will find vendors selling water, fresh lemon juice and stuff related to the caves (guide books, souvenirs etc). One of those guys started speak to us and offered us pretty cheap weed, we agreed and he took us on a short trek to a cool lake nearby, we bought the stuff and went back to the bus. The day was great, and even though the weed turned out to be freaking tea (I swear it did smell and look like proper weed when he gave it to me), we were happy that we got to such special places like Ajanta and Ellora.
Thanks for reading, i wish you a positive day!