9th -10th March 13: The wonder that is called Ajanta-Ellora Part 2 (Ajay writes a few lines... Yipee!!!)

You can get the First Hand Guide for Ajanta Ellora by signing up here.
Day two of Aurangabad, I was excited to visit the Ajanta caves. After the experience I gathered from first day of my trip, to Ellora, I was prepared for Aurangabad’s heat. I took a government tourism package for the caves (450/- per head), which included transportation from Aurangabad city to the caves and back, and a govt. authorized guide (who was supposed to show us the important caves at Ajanta). The good thing about the tour bus was that it picked me from my hotel (felt exclusive) and the bad one; it wasn’t air-conditioned (on a sunny 40 deg day).
Bus Ride

It took almost 2 hours to reach Ajanta village where our guide joined us and he was a disaster. The first help he extended after being on board was to collect cash for further tickets (45/- for Indians) from all the tourists. Although a convenience for all of us but he appeared more like a ticket agent.

I went there... mandatory pic for gounesco
 That was AJ and now I take over. The bus ride is perhaps the most irritating part of the visit after the guide. As you reach Ajanta you are to park in MTDC facility for which they charge 5/- per head except for children under 12 I guess. Rest assured that before you have even stepped down from the bus the ‘helpers’ or the touts will mark you especially if you are a foreigner. You need to be brief and rude like me or totally ignore them like a few others I saw. It depends on how long you want to listen to their nagging voice. You pass through an array of shops with shopkeepers telling you the shop numbers to visit on your way back.
MTDC provides ‘pollution free’ buses from the complex to the cave site. After we got our tickets we started up the steps which would not end. You have to climb to know and it is particularly tiring in the hot weather. If you are particular about bottled water carry a bottle more than you think you need. They do have a water dispenser around cave 8 but that is way too far from where you start.
Start of the steps there are more setps after the topmost point you see here
With a guide who would not stop hollering (I am not kidding) we made our way up.  The ‘ready’ family if u remember from my Ellora blog would stop enroute and take photographs and this was the time when AJ was trapped into clicking a few for them. And that too at a certain angle after he would squat into the perfect photographing pose.
View of the caves
Padmapani one of the famous paintings from Ajanta
The first cave we visited (cave1) is the one which houses all the paintings that we know from Ajanta. Dimly lit and crowded the cave is still a sight to behold. Before we could look around the guide started. ‘Ladies in the front, gents come here with me. See where I am showing you. Move fast. See in the corner’. These lines at the top of his voice guided our group into position to receive his wisdom on the paintings. As a person who loves all things historical this was the first time I wanted to run away from a heritage site.
Aj did try to get in a few pics but the lighting was not right and you are not allowed to use flash.  As we moved on to a few more caves it was really heart breaking to see that many of the paintings were destroyed by people by scribbling their names on them. Again I was ashamed at the sensibilities that people have.

Stupa in a Chaitya. Note the ceiling.
Sculptures and paintings at the cave entrance
After a few more caves which depicted jataka kathas and beautiful scenes along with birth of Buddha and Buddha meeting his wife and son we were left to our own means. The guide though did tell us that we may as well return from here as he has shown us the most important of caves. Relieved we started on to visit the next caves.
Paintings on the ceiling
What is surprising is that people really think that the caves which were sculpted and painted more than a century ago are meant for them to eat their picnic baskets at. Now I know why they take away your food when you visit Taj Mahal.
The caves from a distance
We came across a cave which was perhaps just started by the artists. As an architect it always fascinates us to just see the perseverance and dedication people have put into various monuments and heritage sites you find across India. It was evident how they went about excavating with narrow corridors cut in and large mass of rock with starting of a vihara chamber. This was perhaps the most interesting cave we came across.
Column detail in a cave
Finally we reached cave number 26 which has the famous sleeping Buddha. It is indeed very interesting to see various carvings which dot the cave’s walls.
Buddha Sleeping
After a few more caves it was time we turned back. There is a view point which Aj had really wanted to visit but it was way too up and far and we were running short on time. We eventually took the shortcut from cave no. 8 to reach the restraunt faster.
The MTDC restaurant here is expensive than the one at Ellora and I think the food is not so great. We ordered a single veg thali and ate ourselves to satisfaction.
We reached our bus after a very hot ride in a crammed MTDC bus. After a patient wait for a few members of our group we started for Aurangabad.
Finally a pic of us and Ajanta
AJ at Keys
We had already checked out of our hotel in the morning as we had planned to walk around and see more of the city. One thing I learned five minutes after we got off the bus at a random location is- Plan. On the road with our bags we had no idea where to go. We were clear about one thing wada pav and pani puri. We had luck with wada pav in a few minutes. Though not as hot as I would have liked and minus the chutney, it was heavenly. The thadi /thela or bandi whatever you call it served us both for Rs20/-. We walked a bit pondering over whether we should visit the only mall in the city we stumbled upon a place which promised to served good chaat. We orders bhelpuri wada pav sabu patties and ante to our heart’s content. We both still feel that the thela wada-pav was better.
Me at Keys unwinding
Roaming on the street on the lookout for clean toilets at a reasonable price we stopped at Keys to get a cup of coffee so that both of us can relieve ourselves. Thank god we did. After two nice cups of caffeine to sooth our nerves we climbed a floor to get to their bar at first floor. A dink and nice plate of hakka noodle later it was the time we walked to the station.
Both of us were so happy that this was our first trip where we walked when we had to and did not use any public transport except the buses for sightseeing. We entered a rather clean station and waited for our train to arrive.
The train came in soon after and we settled ourselves. If we had felt cold coming to the city this time it was nowhere. In a pleasant temperature we finished our trip minus my phone and with 50 gounesco points to our credit.

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