ASI records indicates there are more than 100 caves in and around the Sayadhri hill ranges of Ellora hillock which was a news to me of which 34 caves consist the Ellora complex. There has been a massive destruction of Jain heritage with most of their statues and remanents found in the museums of Daulatabad fortress, Shivaji Museum (Aurangabad closed on Thursdays ) History Museum ( University Campus Aurangabad Closed on Sundays ) is an evidence that Jainism prospered in the region. They were obviously sponsored by Sathavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Yadavas.
Our disappointment with the package tour guide from MSRTC was primarily because of lack of clear directions how to go about visiting the caves. First of all the caves are spread over 5 kms in distance approximately 2 kms on either side from cave 16 ( Kailashnath Complex ) which is the most important among the Ellora cave range.
In case of paucity of time cave No 10 which is also known as Carpenters Cave because of its finish and is dedicated to Lord Buddha, cave No 16 which is the world’s largest cave complex also know for its dedication to Mount Kailash and Lord Shiva, cave 21 which is known as Rameswara Cave, Jainism caves numbering 32 & 34. Ellora caves are closed to Public on Tuesdays whereas Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays. It can be visited from Sunrise to Sunset with a nominal entry fee for Indian tourist.
We had stayed put in the Ellora complex with MTDC dormitory in 1998, which is currently converted into MTDC restaurant, which even the franchisee was not aware. I distinctly remember there was a swing to play around position in the garden. Now the landscaping around Kailashnath cave is amazing and literally decked up to suit the World heritage Status which was awarded in 1983.
Unlike the Ajanta caves which is predominently Buddhist heritage Ellora symbolises diversity in religious leanings with Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jainism co-existing. It is intriguing as to why Jain Heritage was targetted, probably it is because of naked sculptures of the thirtankaras. The invaders and antiquity seekers have had free reign to ransack their existence.
The ideal way to cover the Ellora caves is to take a hike by share rickshaws to cave number 1 and walk towards cave number 16. And than take a rickshaw from Cave 16 upto cave 34 and trudge backwards towards cave 16, this would definitely save time and monotony of coverage. If a visitor is historically inclined and has plenty of time than the entire sequence of caves can be covered leisurely from morning to evening. If one is pressed for time than the Buddhist group of caves numbering 2, 5, 10 & 12 should not be missed. If one is interested in Brahmanical group of caves than 14, 15, 16, 21 and 29 should be visited. Finally cave nos 32 and 34 can be covered for a brief preview of Jain Heritage.
Erotica : Majority of the famous monuments are obviously filled with erotica, degree varies according to the destination, well I was aware of this fact but how does one explore it physically, it is not possible unless you get some help from the local guides, one can find in cave 16, check out. If you all are not able to spot it ping me.
Majority of the tourist miss out on Pital Khora group of caves which is located approximate 40 kms away from Ellora caves. It is located on Aurangabad Chalisgaon route, one has to take a 4 km diversion from Kalimath to reach Pitalkhora caves.
Pitalkhora has 14 buddhist caves and its antecedent dates back from 250 BC to 4th century AD. Its sponsorers were primarily from Sathavahana dynasty. After the death of Emperor Ashoka in 232 BC, Simuka ( 230-207 BC ) broke away from the suzereignty of the Maurya empire. He established his capital at Paithan which finds mention in Megastanis chronicles. An eloquent description of Megastanis mentions that Sumuka possessed a huge infantary consisting of more than 1 lakh foot soldiers, 400 elephants and 4000 cavalry. Later he was succeeded by his brother Kanha who extended their empire upto Amravathi.
Majority of the construction activity of Pitalkhora caves were undertaken during the long reign of Satakarni ( 180-124 BC ). During his long reign of 54 years he commissioned extensive finish of the group of caves. Records show there was plenty of gold and silver were found in the region and thus coins are traced to his reign.
A detailed account of Ellora caves is penned in this link for those who are historically inclined.