travel memoir

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When a friend suggested a trip to the famous Ajanata and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, Sunitha Reddy and her family, who were in India for the summer from Texas, USA, took the advice and did exactly that- explored Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad. Here is Sunitha's travel memoir.

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Like most folks visiting India from abroad, we thought of visiting a couple of major cities in India during our visit to India this summer, the summer 2016. Our friends in Bombay suggested Ellora and Ajanta. Thanks to them, we had an amazing experience! Never imagined Maharashtra, particularly around Aurangabad, had such rich history.We planned our two-day itinerary carefully. After all, we know how carefully we have to ration the few days that we have in India to spend with large extended families.

We landed at the Aurangabad airport from Mumbai. We stayed at the Shiridi Guest house. From there we drove around to visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Most of the places are at a driving distance of about 2-3 hours, with lot of greenery around.


The first day, we covered Shiridi, and Ellora. Here are my short bullet points on the two sites-


- Holy place to visit for Saibaba believers.

- Great temple, with an awesome statue of Shiridi Sai baba. 

- Nice peaceful small town where Shiridi Sai baba was supposed to have lived his last days                            before ending his life.


              - Consists of 34 amazing caves, with some Buddhist, some Hindu and some Jain temples

              - Monolithic, i.e. all carved out of a single basalt cliff!

              - Splendid 3-D kind of views with amazing sculptures.

              - Some walls depict images that tell some ancient stories (ex: Ramayana, Mahabharata etc)

              - Takes about 2 hours for a leisure stroll around the caves.

Ellora Caves - Entrance (top)

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On our way back from Ellora. we stopped by at one of the Jyothi Lingam temple "Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga Temple", which is supposed to be one of the best of the several Jyothi Lingam temples in the nation.

 Aurangabad is famous for "Paithani" and "himroo" sarees, which have beautiful hand woven designs. You can see several saree shops on the road side, some of them have weavers at work working on colorful designs. Our next stop was at one such shop.

DAY 2- Aurangabad - Ajanta Caves

Day 2 was spent visiting more of the local Aurangabad attractions. Until we visited the place, did not realize Aurangabad was named after Auragazeb, the Mughal king, who once ruled the place. 

Some bullet points on the local sites we visited-

Aurangazeb fort

-  the city was named after Auragazeb, the moghul emperor who once ruled Aurangabad City.

-  This was the fort where Aurangzeb resided and ruled. On top of a hill and has huge walls around and the stately Fort look.

Auragazeb's tomb

- Has the shrine/tomb of Aurangazeb, and his guru/teacher.

- Also has Aurangazeb's son and his wife's tombs too..


Bibi ka Makbara

- Also known as mini-Taj mahal, as the structure is similar to Taj Mahal, only a little smaller than that.

- Built by Auragazeb's son for his mother (i.e. Aurgazeb's wife, and Shahjahan's Daughter-in-law)

We also got a glimpse of some of the wonderful Chatrapathi(Emperor) Shivaji statues ( who once ruled Maharashtra)  around the                 city too.

               There may be other attractions around the place, but I list only the ones we visted or know of.

Below- At Bibi-ka-Makbara - a Mini-Taj Mahal like structure in Aurangabad, (Just like Shah Jahan built Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan's grand-son built a similar one for his mom (i.e. Aurangazeb's wife) in Aurangazeb.— in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
Auragazeb's wifes shrine inside bibi ka makbara — in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
Aurangazeb's shrine/samadhi (below)
Aurangazeb's Guru's shrine (below)
With Khote ji - our escort/local tour guide in Aurangabad and Shiridi.

Taking a bus to the top of the Ajanta Cave's hill (below)

Finally, At the to of the hill ! — in Soygaon, Maharashtra, India.(below). Far in the background, you can see the Ajanta caves spread around in u shape.
Walking through the entrance to the caves of Ajanta — in Soygaon, Maharashtra, India.
Inside one of Ajanta's caves ... 
Ceiling of the Ajanta Caves! (below)
Ceiling of the Ajanta Caves! These designs are said to be used by carpet/bed sheet makers !
Budda statue inside Ajanta cave ...
Walking through the bridge...
Map of Ajanta caves, horse shoe shape, with caves around it. it was a nice walk (numbered in the pic)— in Phardapur, Maharashtra, India.
To summarize, here are my short bullet points on the Ajanta caves-
     - 29 Buddhist Cave temples, spread out on top  of a horseshoe-shaped cliff along the Waghora River
     - The caves were supposedly used by Buddhist monks as prayer halls.
     - The valley was completely buried for several years, until 1819 when one of the Britisher saw the top of an arch of one of the caves                from top of the hill. He initiated the efforts to dig deeper into this valley and found these amazing caves, buried for so long and                  now became a major tourist place.
     - Although lesser number of caves than Ellora, each cave is bigger and looks like its own temple, so bigger than Ellora and takes                        about 3-4 hrs to walk around
     - We visited during July when monsoon had just begun, so it was totally green around the valley and made the walk between each                      cave and around the valley very pleasant with lots of beautiful views.
     - The Amazing paintings on some walls and ceilings in the caves are said to be copied by carpet and bed-sheet designers! 

 Parting words- if you get a chance, do take this exploratory trip for a historical experience with your family.

- By Sunitha Reddy. Texas, USA.

travel memoir

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