Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Ajanta and Ellora CavesLocation : 
The rock cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora lies in the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra in India. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora are one of the most amazing archaeological sites in India. These are not the natural sites but the man made caves, which have been built by cutting the huge granite hillside. According to the historical evidences caves were built by the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monks, who stayed and mediated here for the longer period of time. Ellora caves start from the point from where the Ajanta caves ends. Ajanta caves are older than the Ellora caves. Each cave at Ajanta and Ellora has the different story to tell. Tourists can make a visit to this place at any time during the year.

History : 
The caves of Ajanta and Ellora were somehow forgotten, but were rediscovered by the group of British officers in 1845 when they were haunting in the Deccan Plateau. While haunting one of the official discovered the horseshoe rock from the distance. Their curiosity aroused to explore the place. Soon they discovered several caves behind the bushes and informed to the government. The Archaeologist began excavating the caves. The caves also finds mention in the writings of the Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, who visited India between the 629 and 645 AD. The caves provides the finest example from the Chalukya, Kalachuri, and Rashtrakuta periods. These caves are located near the ancient trade route between Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and the west coast. The caves were roughly constructed somewhere between the 200 BC and 650. It is also believed that these caves are the handiwork of the priests and the Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks who frequently visited the place.

Architectural Significance : 
The rock cut caves of the Ajanta and Ellora are the architectural marvel that also finds place in World Heritage list. Both the caves of Ajanta and Ellora are cut out from the volcanic lava of the Deccan plateau. There are total of 29 caves in Ajanta. The caves houses some of the wonderful well preserved paintings, which include two great Boddhisattbvas, Padmapani, and Avalokiteshvara. The most interesting among them are the Jataka tales that illustrate the diverse stories related to the previous incarnations of the Buddha. Some of the caves in Ajanta boosts of some of the most divine sculptures. The flying apsara and the image of Buddha in the cave number 17 is simply amazing.

There are total of 34 caves in Ellora, which houses the elaborate facades and exquisitely adorned interiors. The 12 caves which lies in the southward direction are Buddhist caves, 17 in the middle are the Hindu caves while 5 in the north direction are the Jain caves. The sculpture in the Buddhist caves beautifully presents the nobility and grace of Lord Buddha. Tourists are recommended to make a visit to the Kailasa temple in the cave 16. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the world's largest monolith with the gateway, pavilion, sanctum, assembly hall and tower all cut out of one single rock. Ellora caves also contains the image of Vishwakarma, who was the patron saint of Hindu craftsmen.

Tourists activities : 
Tourists can spend time by indulging themselves in the photography. As the Ajanta caves faces eastwards so the best time to take pictures is the morning time. The caves of Ellora faces westward so its good to capture the pictures in the noon time. Apart from photography you can take the leisure time venturing in the clipped lawns. Tourists can also make a visit to the Siddhadtha Gardens and Bibi Ka Maqbara - the Mausoleum of Akbar's Queen.

Ellora Festival : 
Tourists can also be a part of the Ellora festival, held in the month of March every year. You can enjoy the classical programmes performed by the prominent artists. The festival is organized by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation.

Badami Caves

Badami Caves Location of Badami Caves : Badami caves lies in the state of Karnataka in India. It is located near the red sandstone ridge in the northern part of the city. The best time to visit these caves lies between the month of October to February.

History : 
These caves were built during the regime of the Chalukya Empire around the 6th century. They were discovered by the Pulekeshin I, the great Chalukya ruler. Along with these cave temples you may find here number of monuments belonging to the ancient times. These caves presents the perfect blend of the architectural design of the north India Nagara style and the south India Nagara. Description of caves of Badami : There are total of four Badami caves. Out of which three are the Brahminical caves and one is the Jain cave. Cave I is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Cave II and III to Lord Vishnu and cave IV to the Jain saints.

Cave I : 
It is the oldest of the four caves of Badami. It was carved in 578 AD made of red sandstone. A flight of steps leads to the hall of pillars, behind which is the square shaped sanctum. The cave is beautifully designed with the painting and carved work that leaves the tourists spell binded. Apart from the walls the ceilings provides the ultimate example of the finest art work of that period. Another main attraction of the ceilings are the Nataraja panel and the carved panels. The ceiling also has the collection of paintings of Shiva and Parvati.

Cave II : 
In this cave you will find Lord Vishnu in different forms and shapes. In one of the images Lord Vishnu is shown as Trivikrama. The artists try to portrays Vishnu with one foot conquering the earth and the other covering the sky. There is one more very beautiful image of Vishnu which displays him as Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu. But the most striking feature of the cave is the form Lord Vishnu, riding the Garuda and the lotus is encircled by the sixteen fishes.

Cave III :
This is the most interesting cave among the four caves of Badami. The cave contains the wonderful sculptures and paintings of the Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. This beautiful large cave is approximately 70 feet wide. You may find here the images of Trivikrama, Shankaranarayana, Bhuvaraha, Anantasayana, Harihara. It is only cave which contains inscriptions dating back from 578 AD.

Cave IV :
It is the only Jain cave among the other four Badami caves. The cave was completed around 100 years later when the other three caves were completed. The main attractions of the cave include image of Lord Mahavira, image of Lord Parsvanath (with the serpent in his feet), images of Padmavathi and Tirthankaras.

Excursion from Badami Caves :
There are many sightseeing places around the Badami caves. You can make a visit to the famous historic village of Pattadakal, which lies at the distance of 20 km from Badami. The village has many picturesque temples dating back to the 6th and 7th century AD. Than You can also make a visit to the Mahakuta temple a and Naganath temple, 10 kms from Badami.

Bhimbetka Caves

Bhimbetka Caves Location : 
The Bhimbetka Caves are located about 45 km from Bhopal, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They are beautifully surrounded by the forests of Sal and Teak. The caves of Bhimbetka have gained popularity in the very span of time. There are 838 caves, which are spread in the total area of 1850 hectares. Out of these 15 of the most exotic caves have been opened for the tourists. Bhimbetka caves are oldest one among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

History : 
The name Bhimbetka caves is on the name of Bhima, the hero of great Hindu epic called Mahabharata. The name Bhim-bet-ka means Bhim sat down. These caves were found by the famous Indian archaeologist, Dr. V.S. Wakankar of the Vikram University, Ujjain, in the year 1958. It took more the 17 years to fully excavate these caves. 

Architectural significance : 
Bhimbetka is a huge archaeological treasure, that boosts of ancient paintings. More than 600 rock shelters, belonging to the Neolithic age were recently discovered in the rocky terrain of the Vindhyan range. The paintings of the caves shows that the same canvas were used by the different people at different times. And on that basis these paintings can be classified into seven major periods. Period I Upper Paleolithic, Period II Mesolithic, Period III Chaleolithic, Period IV and V Early historic, Period VI and VII Medieval. The caves are mainly executed in red and white with the little bite use of green and yellow. The themes used in these caves include the scenes from the everyday life, depicting household scenes, haunting, dancing, animal fighting, elephant riders, honey collections, body tattooing, music. In some of the caves you may also find images of some of the animals such as bison's, tigers, wild boar, lions, crocodiles, lizards, dogs and antelope. According to the sources and as the paintings depict, these caves must have been used as shelter by the large number of people in the pre historic times around 300 BC. The oldest painting in the Bhimbetka cave is more than 12,000 years old. 

Religious Importance : 
The local inhabitants around the Bhimbetka caves have the deep religious thoughts attached to it. They relate these caves with the Mahabharata hero Bhim, who used to sit over the mountains and talk with the people. They also speak of one interesting incident associated with these caves. According to them one day when Bhim was sleeping deeply, at that time his brother Arjuna threw arrows to bring out the holy Ganges out of it. Local people also call these caves as Dant or Toli. They compare these caves with the Demons teeth and believe that all the paintings in these caves have been drawn by the demons.

Borra Caves

Borra Caves Location of Borra caves : 
Borra caves are situated at the distance of 90- 95 km from the city of Visakhapatnam. They are located at the height of 1450 feet above the sea level. They are spread in the Ananthagiri hill ranges of eastern ghats, which ranges between 800 to 1300 meters M.S.L. In Andhra Pradesh. November and December are considered as the best time to visit these caves.

Borra Cave Formation : 
Borra caves are the natural caves, that are said to have originated from the Gosthani river, which flows through these caves. The caves were created due to the flow of river over the limestone area. The pressure was exerted by the humic acid in the water on the mineral deposits and the limestone dissolved in the water. The dissolved limestone trickled down drop by drop forming the different shapes in the cave. These Borra caves spreaded over the one square km and are formed over the period of million of years.

Interior of the cave : 
The opening of the cave measures upto 100 m horizontally and 75 m vertically. The cave is filled with stalagmite and stalactite formations. Visitors have given different names to the different shapes of these stalagmite and stalactite formations such as Shiv Parvathi, Mother child, Human brain, crocodile, Rushis Beard etc. Some more interesting structures inside the cave include mushroom formation, temple, church and many more. You may find here crystal white calcium stones in various forms. The Borra caves glitters and illuminates by the sixty three lamps of mercury, sodium vapour and halogen.

History of the Borra Caves : 
The caves of Borra are said to be more than 150 years old. These wonder caves were discovered by the British geologist William King Gorge in the year 1807. The local tribals inhabitating in this area have a different story to tell. They say once a cowherd lost his cow while grazing. He soon realized that his cow had fallen down. He got worried, on looking down he found 60 feet deep hole, where he saw his cow was alive and feeding on the grass deep below. This was the time when the tribal has discovered the cave.

Religious Significance of the Borra caves : 
These million year old Borra caves holds the great religious importance among the Hindus in India. Among the formations found in the cave, you may also find here 'Shivalingam' and the idol of the cow known as Kamadhenu.

Entry Fee :
The entry fee for the adults visiting the cave is Rs 25 and for the children is Rs 15. If you are interested in photography you may take the cameras along with yourself that may cost you Rs 10 and for the video cameras they will charge you Rs 100. The cave remains open to the tourists from 10 am to 5: 30 pm.

Sightseeing around the Borra Caves : 
You can take a leisure walk around the Borra caves in the landscape of rugged and mountainous area. The area holds the rich flora and fauna. You can witness the limestone area where the cave is found is surrounded by the several mica mines. Trip to the Borra caves gives you the opportunity to enchant with the tribal people inhabitating in this area. On the excursion trip from the Borra caves tourists can make a visit to the Araku valley, which lies at the distance of 15 kms from the cave.

Elephanta Caves

Elephanta Caves Location : The Elephanta caves are located on the small Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea, 10 km from the gateway of India. This ultimate location is half an hour boat ride from the Mumbai harbour. The Elephanta caves have already been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1987.

History :
These rock cut old caves temples on the Elephanta island dates back to the Shilhara Kings belonging to the 9th and the 12th century. It is believed that the prince of Chalukya dynasty Pulkesin II, raised the huge shrine of the Lord Shiva in order to celebrate his victory. While some of the historians also suggests that the caves were built by the Kalchuri King Krishnaraja in 6th century AD. The region was known as the Gharapuri or the Places of caves in the ancient times. These caves were termed as the Elephanta caves by the Portuguese, who found here the large elephant stone. There are many priceless statues of the Elephanta caves which have been destroyed by the Portuguese.

Architecture : 
The Elephanta caves are the architecturally rich. The beautiful sculptures as well as the art and craft of these caves are the archaeological treasure. There are total of seven caves, which are located at the height of the 76 meters above the sea level. The entire work in the caves has been completed through the process of rock removal. The whole complex of these caves consists of inner cells, grand halls, portico's, shrines and courtyards. It has a huge collection of exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu God and Goddess.

The most interesting part of these caves is the 40 metre square main hall with two wide columnades. On the western side you can check out the lingam shrine symbolizing the Lord Shiva, which is guarded by the stone doorkeepers leaning on the dwarfs. You can see the huge pillars carved from the rock. The most exotic feature of the caves is the Maheshmurti, depicting the three facets of Lord Brahma the creator, Lord Shiva the destroyer, and Lord Vishnu the protector. On the left side of the Maheshmurti is the Ardhanarishvara, Lord Shiva both as the male and the female. One of the sculpture shows how Lord Shiva brings out the River Ganges on the earth through his hair. On the other sculpture he is also seen as Yogisvara, the lord of the Yogis seated on the Lotus and also as Shiva Nataraja – the many named cosmic dancer.

Tickets : 
The rate of the tickets are fixed, Rs 10 for the Indian and Rs 460 for the foreigners. You can take the video cameras along with yourself, which are charged for Rs 25. The caves remain open from 9:30 morning to 5:30 in the evening.

Festivals :
Tourists can also be a part of the spectacular dance festival held in the month of February every year on the Elephanta Islands. The festival hosts many colourful dance program mes, performed by the renowned artists. The festival is conducted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Cooperation.

Khandagiri Caves

Khandagiri Caves Location of Khandagiri caves : 
Khandagiri caves are located at the distance of six kilometers from Bhubaneshwar. The caves of Khandagiri are located at the height of the 118 feet. It is situated on the hill rock slope facing the Udayagiri caves. Khandagiri means the 'broken hill' and the Udayagiri means 'hill of the sunrise'.

Caves of Khandagiri :
Khandagiri houses the total of 15 caves. Each cave of Khandagiri is beautifully designed with the paintings and motifs. The caves of Khandagiri can be reached either by climbing the flight of steps leading from the road, up from the main entrance of the Udayagiri caves or by cutting directly across from the Hathi Gumpha, via the steps that drop down from the cave 17. Akshya Ganga, Gupta Ganga, Shyam Kund and Radha kund are some of the most famous caves of the Khandagiri. The most interesting among them all is the 24 Tirthankaras Cave, which contains the carvings of the twenty four Apostles of Jainism on the monolithic stones.

Visit Cave 1 and 2 popularly known as the parrot cave because of the because of the carvings of the birds on the doorway arches. They are also locally known as the Tatowa cave. Explore the Ananta Cave (snake cave), which contains the carvings of the elephants, womens and the birds carrying flowers. The Anantha Gumpha also contains the decoration in the shape of the serpent at the entrance. It is the most impressive cave among all the other caves of the Khandagiri. The best place to visit at Khandagiri is the modern Jain temple at the top of the hill, dedicated to the, Mahavira, the 24th tirthankara (Jain teacher).

History : 
The caves of Khandagiri are famous as the popular Jain pilgrimage center. It is believed that these caves in the ancient times were inhabited by the number of Jain scholars. They are believed to be over 2000 years old. These caves presents the finest example of the Jain and Buddhist occupation.

Excursion from Khandagiri caves : 
Apart from the Khandagiri caves you can also explore the caves of Udayagiri, lying next to them. The caves of Udayagiri are equally interesting as the caves of the Khandagiri. You can venture on the top of the hill admiring the surrounding beauty. You may come across several monkeys on the hills. You can feed them with the fruits and peanuts available at the outside stalls.

Entry Fee : 
The entry fee to the caves is around Rs 100. The cave remains open from 8 am to 6 pm. The best time to visit these caves is after the month of March. Wear light summer clothes during the summers and light woolens during the winters.

Undavalli Caves

Undavalli Caves Location of Undavalli Caves : 
Undavalli Caves lies in the Undavalli village in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. From the city of Vijayawada the caves are located at the distance of 8 km and 32 km from Guntur. These caves are located at the top of the high hills facing the Krishna River.

History : 
These four stories caves are said to be found in the 7th century. They are associated with the Vishnukundin Kings of AD 420 – 620. These exotic caves of Undavalli were dedicated to the Anantapadmanabha and Narisimhaswami. According to the historical evidences Madhava Reddy who ruled this region as the subordinate under the Reddies of Kondaveedu gifted the caves to the temple of Anantha Swamy. It is also believed that these caves were used by the Buddhist monks as the rest houses. Some of the other shrines in the cave are dedicated to the Trimurti, Brahma and Shiva. These ancient Hindu cave temples holds the great importance among the Hindus in India.

Interior of the Undavalli Cave : 
The caves of Undavalli provides the finest example of the rock cut architecture of the Buddhists in India. The most striking feature of the Undavalli cave is the 5 meter long statue of the Lord Buddha in the reclining position. Another major attraction of the cave is the sculpture of the Lord Vishnu, which is made out of the single granite block.

Clothing and Best Time to visit :
As the climate is warm in the summers tourists are recommended to wear the light cotton clothes to escape from the summer heat. Do not forget to carry the water bottles along with yourself. You may take help from the tour guide in order to fully explore the area and to know about its historical importance. In winters the temperature is cool and pleasant. The ideal time to plan out the holiday trip to the Undavalli caves lies between the month of October and February.

Nature Walk : 
Besides admiring the architectural beauty of the Undavalli caves tourists can explore the nearby area around the Undavalli caves. When you reach at the top of the cave you get the finest view of the agricultural environment. You can kill time picking alongside the Krishna river. You can also take the leisure walk along the river and enchant with the local people. You may find children playing in the fields barefooted and their mothers working hard in the fields. Tourists can even take the boat ride in the river enjoying the surrounding beauty. After that you can even have lunch with the local villagers in the fields.