92. The Ajanta and Allora Caves

The Ajanta and Ellora Caves: From Aurangabad, Doug and I spent three days exploring the cave and temple complexes of Ajanta and Ellora, the oldest of which date back to 200 BC. Unless you were an art history major or just exceptionally alert in those freshman-year humanities courses, this is precisely the kind of World Heritage site that you’ve probably never heard of and India happens to be overflowing with. The earlier Ajanta caves were cut from the sheer face of a horseshoe-shaped canyon by Buddhist monks looking for places to worship and live – so “caves” is a bit of a misnomer, each one of these actually being a temple or monastery that houses ancient murals, massive Buddha statues and terribly uncomfortable little “beds.” I got a much bigger wow from the primarily Hindu and Jain rock-cut architecture at Ellora, which includes the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, the Hindu Kailasa Temple (below, bottom three photos). It took 7,000 laborers more than 150 years to carve it from the gentle rock slopes of the Deccan Plateau and it covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens. I loved the Taj Mahal and its unstoppable ego, but this temple, all of these temples really, are the supreme national treasures of India. Recommended.


  1. amyispolish says:

    I’ve seen some cool stuff in Ireland too, you know! I’m just too lazy to actually write about it. But it was cool too!

  2. S says:

    Whatever you say, Mary O’Hangover.