ये भरे-भरे बादल, ये लदी-लदी घटा.. शांत-शीतल-चंचल, अहा! ठंडी हवा...!
चहुँ ओर, वातावरण, ओढ़े सुन्दर आवरण.. मन-तन, करें चिंतन, पक्षी-पौधे, रमें इक धुन !
ऐसे में, तुम और मैं, एक ही सुर, एक ही लय.. गायें गीत, मधुर संगीत, अमर रहे यह प्रेम-रीत - फ़नकार
'Ajanta Caves are one of the most awe inspiring and
historically rich heritage sites in the world’. I had, obviously heard and read
a lot about these caves, to be able to make such a statement. But it was only
when I actually visited the place last year, that I realised the profundity of it
To my mind, there have been three distinct phases
in the long life of these caves. The first phase was when the caves were first
spotted, dug, sculpted and elaborately painted in the early part of the first
millennium. The second was when Capt. John Smith, chanced upon these
jewels, while on a hunting trip in the thick jungles of Deccan in
1819. The third and the last phase is the present. Each and
every time a visitor sets foot at their door, they, both the visitor and the caves;
get a fresh lease of life.
It must be a long and weary journey for these centuries’
old caves, alone in the desolate jungles, but for the guiding light of Buddha
and his followers, they have dutifully survived to spread his message to this
There are 32 caves in-toto, all in a single line on
the horse shoe shaped hill side. The very first look at these caves left me
spell bound. In spite of having sifted through a number of websites and books
in advance, nothing prepared me for the real stuff. I was like..."Wow! Ancient
is SO real". Gingerly, I started walking towards them.
The first two caves are home to the world famous
paintings, one of which has even been done by mum in batik back
home! The paintings, 'frescoes' actually, depict the life and times
of Prince Siddharth, who later became Buddha as mentioned in the 'Jataka'
stories. They are all over...on the walls, ceiling, pillars, porch... each and
every nook and corner is covered with some moment or incident related to
Buddha's life. And they are done with such flair that one look at them
and you feel enamoured by their charm. Look in any direction and you would find
something interesting happening. You are in the midst history, literally.
As I wandered from one cave to the other, I was
trying to imagine, how the place must have been... some two thousand years
ago... when it was still 'under construction'… the time, when it
was buzzing with monks and artists…the time when there was no electricity or
any other modern day comforts…when animals and humans used to share the same
Each cave had a unique charm to it. The stone
carvings of Buddha in the different caves are so identical that it is difficult
to imagine how the sculptors must have replicated the same details of design
from one cave to the other and that too without any modern technology or aid.
It was sheer brilliance etched in stone.
Then there was the famous 'Sleeping Buddha' - a
long horizontal stone carving depicting Buddha resting in peace.
But the real magic awaited me at the end of the
tour. As I approached the last of the caves with the overbearing thought of
knowing it already, having seen so many similar caves, I was pleasantly
surprised to see that it was an incomplete cave! Apparently, the work on this
cave might have started, when it was abandoned soon due to some reason. That is
when, I had my magic moment.
As I became slow, patient and silent, I began to
faintly hear the chants of the monks, the sculptor's hammering, the
workers' murmur, the painter's strokes on the walls...I felt I had gone back in
time. Just had to feel the rhythm!
And for that, I believe, one should visit this
place in a non-touristy season...lesser the crowd, the better it is. Just sit
and observe - the best way of experiencing this ancient place.
Oh! By the way, remember to wear slip-ons and not
shoes as almost all the caves require the visitors to go inside bare feet.