Jun 192011

The Cave paintings of Ajanta are the most admired place to visit in India for the Indian Art lovers. Along-with the caves of Ellora (Read here: A Solo Backpacker’s Day at Ellora Caves), the cave paintings in Ajanta are included in the World Heritage Site List by UNESCO. The paintings dates back from 200 Century BC to 5th Century CE and still preserved in excellent conditions.

Paintings at the wall of Cave 17

Paintings at the wall of Cave 17

Location: Ajanta is located in Aurangabad District of Maharashtra, on the main highway between Aurangabad and Jalgaon, 104 kms away from Aurangabad and 59 kms away from Jalgaon. The distance between Ajanta and Ellora Caves is approx. 100 kms. Ajanta caves are the part of small hills in the area, 4 kms from the main highway.

How to Reach Ajanta?
By Road: Ajanta is easily accessible from Aurangabad as well as from Jalgaon. In local language, it is famous as Ajanta Leni (Leni stands for caves). Frequent public buses are available from the bus stands of Aurangabad as well as from Jalgaon. You can also use a hired cab/taxi from Aurangabad or Jalgaon.

The road journey from Aurangabad to Ajanta is very scenic. Initially, the bus moves along the fertile plane for 25-30 kms and after that it is a hilly terrain upto Ajanta.

By Train: There is no railway station in Ajanta. The nearest Railway station is Jalgaon. It is a major Railway Station on Delhi-Mumbai and on Kolkata-Nagpur-Mumbai Railway Line. Plenty of trains are available from all over India to Jalgaon.

Another good option to reach via Aurangabad Railway Station. Outside the railway station, lots of shared auto-rickshaws are available to the government bus stand.

After leaving a train at Aurangabad or Jalgaon, you can easily get a public bus from the government bus stand.

By Flight: Nearest Airport is in Aurangabad, that is about 15 kms away from the main city of Aurangabad. You can hire a direct taxi to Ajanta from the airport itself. Otherwise, go to the government bus stand for the cheaper option.

Delhi Gate in Aurangabad

Delhi Gate in Aurangabad

From Ajanta Bus Stand to Ajanta Caves: The public buses and private taxis drop you near the parking lot closer to the highway. Caves are still 4 kms away from that place. Just walk towards the market from the taxi stand. That market has lots of food joints and other shops, where you can buy souvenir, handicrafts items, paintings’ replicas, food, water etc.

After passing the market, there is a bus stand for the shuttle buses. The shuttle buses operate between the market and the caves at frequent intervals. They charge INR 7 for non-AC shuttle bus and INR 15 for AC shuttle buses. The journey time is not more than 10 minutes, so board any bus that you get first. Lots of people travel in standing mode in those overcrowded buses. But it doesn’t matter for 10 minutes journey. I didn’t see anybody covering that 4 kms distance by a walk. The shuttle buses drop near the ticket counter of the caves.

Ticket Charges: The admission ticket to Ajanta is INR10 for Indian Nationals and INR 250 for foreign nationals same as other UNESO Heritage Sites in India. There are free admissions for children of 15 years of age and below. Many of the caves at Ajanta do not have proper lighting inside to prevent the degradation of the paintings’ colour. To see the paintings in Cave 1, 2 , 16 and 17, you have to buy a ticket of Rs. 5 as a lighting fee. One ticket is approved for a group of people upto 20 persons. It is highly advisable to buy the lighting fee, even if you are alone, to avoid any disappointment later.

Be sure to have a good guide, because I wasn’t able to sight most famous paintings in the absence of a guide. This is the only reason, I will go back to Ajanta again with a good guide.

Video camera fee is INR 25 and for outside use only. Still photography is free of charge. Inside the caves, be careful and click pictures without flashes. Flashes are not allowed to prevent the degradation of paintings by the reaction of light.

The Caves at Ajanta: These 2000 years old caves at Ajanta are set in a horseshoe shaped valley covered with lots of trees. They were hidden inside a dense forest until accidentally rediscovered by a British hunter , John Smith, in 1819. There were local people already using the caves for prayers with a small fire, when he arrived. The caves were carved out in to the side of a cliff along the river gorge. There is a paved pathway running across the cliff over the U-shaped river gorge to reach at the caves now, but in the past, they could be only accessible by individual ladders or stairs from the bottom of the river gorge.

Horse-Shoe Shaped Ajanta Caves

Horse-Shoe Shaped Ajanta Caves

While walking on the pathway outside, they look like the simple caves carved out in the hill, but once you enter inside, the sheer size of the caves leaves you speechless. There are huge rooms inside the caves with many pillars, excellent carvings and wall paintings.

Frescos on the wall of a cave

Frescos on the wall of a cave

Carvings at a pillar

Carvings at a pillar

They are beautiful, really beautiful. But can you consider them as caves? No, they aren’t just caves, they are entire rooms with many pillars and carvings of deities. Depending on which cave you are in, they are carved by people who followed one of the following faiths: Jain, Hindu or Buddhism. All of them are fantastic. The whole ambience tempts you to click more and more pictures, but you can’t use flashes inside the caves and darkness doesn’t allow to click the good pictures. The only option is to have a good camera, that enables you to click some good pictures in low lights without flash.

Carvings of Lord Buddha in different forms

Carvings of Lord Buddha in different forms

Group Sculpture

Group Sculpture

There are total 30 caves in Ajanta, numbered 1 to 28, according to their place along the path, beginning at the entrance. Two caves 9A and 15A were still hidden under rubble, when numbering was done. All caves were basically designed to use for three purposes: Living, Education and Worship. So, out of these 30 caves, Cave 9, Cave 10, Cave 19, Cave 26 and Cave 29 are the chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries.

Lord Buddha in preaching pose surrounded by Boddhisatvas @ Cave 4

Lord Buddha in preaching pose surrounded by Boddhisatvas @ Cave 4

Reclining Buddha in Cave 26

Reclining Buddha in Cave 26

The most famous caves in Ajanta are Cave 1, Cave 2, Cave 16, Cave 17, Cave 19 and Cave 26. Cave 1 has the most famous paintings of Ajanta. Cave 1 is basically a monastery (vihara) filled with wall murals, sculptures and ceiling paintings dated back to 5th century. The most renowned murals of this cave as well as whole of Ajanta are paintings of two Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Vajrapani) and Bodhisattva Padmapani. To the right of main door is painting of Vajrapani and to the left is the painting of Padmapani. An important thing is that if you don’t aware of this fact and don’t have a guide, you can miss it in the darkness. I missed both the images 🙁 . 

Seated Buddha in Cave 20

Seated Buddha in Cave 20

Cave 2 is another impressive vihara with remarkable painted ceilings, murals and carvings. There are murals depicting the birth of Budhha emerging from under his mother’s arm, 1000 Buddhas, Dancing girls before the king etc. Cave 16 is another spectacular 5th century vihara. Cave 17 is a beautiful caves containing best preserved paintings and murals in Ajanta. The murals are basically dominated by Jatakas  stories including worship of Buddha, preaching of Buddha, with paintings of geese etc.

Stupa in Cave 19

Stupa in Cave 19

Sculptures at Cave 26

Sculptures at Cave 26

All paintings at Ajanta show heavy religious influence and centre around Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas. The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.

Frescos at the wall of Cave 17

Frescos at the wall of Cave 17

Lost to the elements for over a thousand years, Ajanta’s exquisite  paintings were in danger of being permanently damaged after their discovery. Apart from water seepage through the rocks and insects eating  into the fibrous base of the ancient paintings, yogis had started  dwelling inside and visitors kept touching the painted surfaces. Restoration efforts have  continued at Ajanta. With experience and  the advancement of conservation techniques, methods are constantly reviewed, and new measures taken to preserve the paintings, which remain  vulnerable to water seepage and the heavy tourist inflow. High Imaging Camera is used to capture finer details of the paintings and the part which are destroyed / faded are restored.

Effect of Restoration Work: Before and After

Effect of Restoration Work: Before and After

Facade of Cave 9 Entrance

Facade of Cave 9 Entrance

Viewpoint: In front of the horse-shoe shaped caves, there is a viewpoint across the river on a hill-top. It provides a spectacular and panoramic view of Ajanta Caves.

View point in front of the caves

View point in front of the caves

I spent around four hours there. The Ajanta caves are really stunning and well worth the day-trip.

  65 Responses to “Solo Backpacking to AJANTA Caves”

  1. You are doing a splendid job. Keep it up. Excellent use for planning a trip. Wishing you and your family a great future. God bless you.

  2. Thank you for your informative article and nice photos. It will help me prioritize my time at Ajanta. I can only spend 4.5 hours there. By the way, I was planning to be dropped off at the upper view point and walk down to the caves from there. Do you have any information to share about that trail/path? Do you remember the orientation of the sun in the morning?

    • Hi, As far as I know there is only one way to reach the caves. First take the shuttle bus, then drop off near the ticket counter and explore the caves from there. These caves form a horse-shoe pattern facing towards the South.

  3. Thank You for your all answers… Your blog and all of your answers helped me in a great way….

  4. HI i propose to go to Aurangabad on day0 evening, after sight seeing at ELLORA on day1, I want to proceed to AJANTA on day 2 in .the early morning and go back to catch a train at BHUSAVAL .I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT TRANSPORTATION TO BHUSAVAL, cabs/ buses etc

    • Hi, You can proceed from Ajanta to Jalgaon (77 kms). Frequent buses are available from the main road in Ajanta. From there you can proceed to Bhusawal (approx 30 kms ) either by train or by bus.

  5. Hello, great article! Any hostels you recommend in Aurangabad?

  6. I am a design student I want to visit Ajanta and Ellora and want to spent 4 days there.Can you give me a list of backpackers hostel or low cost hotels in Aurangabad?

    • The government hotels are the only option in the nearby vicinity. If that appears costly, it’s better to go there and try your luck with one of the shopkeeper from the many shops at the main entrance after the parking area.

  7. Thank you so much!
    Very detailed explanation with pictures 🙂 and patience to answer… Keep up the good work

  8. Hi:
    Where do you get some good lunch at Ajanta Caves during sightseeing visit? is it better to to have lunch & then visit caves to look around or should we visit first & then have lunch? Whart do you recommend?

    • Hi, It’s your individual choice. You are supposed to walk for 5-6 hours to visit each cave properly. Lunch facilities are available at the local market outside the shuttle bus terminal.

  9. Hi,

    I am planning to go Ajanta & Ellora caves for 3 days. Can I stay in Aurangabad and visit Ajanta and Ellora or staying in Ajanta and Ellora is recommended? Are state government buses a good option to reach Ajanta and Ellora.

    What are the attractions in Aurangabad?


    • Hi, you can stay in Aurangabad and travel to Ajanta and Ellora from there. Biwi ka Maqbara and Daulatabad’s Fort is the other good attractions in Aurangabad. Daulatabad is on the way to Ellora.

  10. I am planning for a trip in OCt, I have a 2 year old kid, does the trip require a lot of walking?

  11. hi..
    I am planning to visit a trip to ajanta elllora and aurangabad, and my train drops me at jalgaon on saturday morning. I am thinking of taking a bus from jalgaon to ajanta and then from ajanta to aurangabad straight and if possible will visit places around. Next day I will try to visit ellora and cover it up and catch my train from aurangabad. Is this plan fessible. Please lemme know.

  12. Very Informative for my planned visit in November.. Thank you.
    I hope lockers are available near Ajanta caves. are they?

  13. How is it for a senior citizen to climb the steps leading to the Ajanta caves?

  14. Very helpful info here, I am going next to next week, hope to be able to see the magnificent ajanta elora caves. Heard so much about them. What kind of food you found at the market?

  15. Hai Dear Can I cover Ellora and Ajantha in a single day if I start early morning from Aurangabad ?

    • Hi, It’s very difficult. You need some time to visit the caves. Better to stick at only one.

    • Hi Bijesh
      Yes, it is possible only if you start early i.e around 5’o clock at Aurangabad. I have availed a taxi service of Md.Husain, who was very punctual and in time. I could cover additional places as well without any hassle at a very affordable price. Thanks.

  16. Where should I stay while visiting ajanta? any safe place near the caves..

  17. Very Informative. Going from Mumbai for Ajanta Allora by own car. Will reach appx 2 pm to Aurangabad on 24 dec.Would be greatful if you can suggest how should I plan to visit Ajanta Allora n Ghrishneshwar. 27th12 pm I would prefer to start back my travel to Mumbai.

  18. TNA good feedback .how to reach ellora from ajanta

  19. hi , i am planning to travel to ajanta caves for a day . i am right now in ahmednagar . how should i plan so that i go and come back on the same day. i just have one day off from work which is tom i.e 22nd . please help

  20. Very nice and helpful.

  21. How long will the travel by public bus take from Aurangabad to Ajanta? Are there public buses to Ellora from Aurangabad too?

    • Yes..Ajanta about two hours and Ellora about 30-40 minutes from Aurangabad.

    • Guys i want to know about the cheapest means of transport from jalgaon or pachora or aurangabad to nearest attraction like ajanta and ellora caves i am coming from mumbai where should i land and how should i do travel from above cities

      • Hi, The cheapest mode would be a public bus. You can leave a train at jalgaon, while coming from Mumbai. From Jalgaon, proceed to Ajanta in the morning, visit Ajanta and reach Aurangabad by evening. Next day, visit Ellora from Aurangabad.


  23. Hello Sir,

    I am planning to visit Ajanta Caves from Jalgaon Junction.
    Is there any direct public transport available to Reach near Ajanta Caves from Jalgaon junction.

  24. excellent . i want to visit ajanta ellora shirdi pune mahabaleshwar kas pathar satara from howrah end of October . do i start from jalgaon or pune?

  25. First I want to visit Ellora caves and Aurangabad city tour from Jalgaon on 19.10.2015(Monday) Night stay at Aurangabad. Because Ajanta Caves is closed on Monday. Next day i.e. 20.10.2015(Tuesday) I wish to visit Ajanta Caves from Aurangabad and after that I want to come back at Jalgaon Station. Is it possible <

  26. Are there guides available at the Ajanta Caves or should we seek them out before we get there?

  27. Thanks for good pics and nice information.
    Is it possible to return same day to Aurangabad after spending four to five hours at Ajanta caves? or I should plan a night stay at Ajanta.

  28. Good info but pictures should have been High Res .. Why crop & loose the richness captured 🙂

    • Thank you for the concern. Pictures are cropped and compressed, so that webpages can load faster. My main aim to provide correct information with relevant pictures. However, I am trying to build flicker albums for better picture quality.

  29. thanks for the lots of information. can i get a bus around 8.30 am from jalgoan to ajanta.

  30. How can I get the tour or the MSRTC bus at central bus stand? Is there any sign?

    • Its better to do it on your own without any tour operator. Go to Aurangabad government bus stand. You can get frequent buses to Ajanta, that further goes towards Jalgaon. After leaving the bus on the main road, ask about the shuttle bus to the caves. There is no sign-board and you have to walk for about 500-600 meters to catch the shuttle bus. Caves are further 4 kms away.

  31. You have presented the things in a very wonderful way…..

  32. Very informative. Thank you

  33. Limited and complete

Your Valuable Comments, My Inspirations...