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Aurangabad Caves

A significant aspect of the world renowned Buddhist cave art forms are the caves of Aurangabad. They are the classic example of the work done by Buddhist ‘bhikhshus’ or monks who were habituated for spending long sojourns in meditating upon the teachings of the Buddha. The caves have exquisite sculptural manifestations of human and larger than life forms of fantasy beings and scenes of the ‘bodhisattvas’ or manifestations of Lord Buddha.

These caves comprises of a set of twelve Buddhist shrines located over a two kilometer stretch. These caves find mention in the large Chaitya or temple of Kaneri. The rock from which these caves and their sculptural wonders have been carved is the comparatively softer basalt rock. Depending upon their location, Aurangabad caves have been divided into three distinctive categories. Most of these caves are ‘Viharas’ or dormitories for the stay and meditation of monks.

Among the twelve caves in Aurangabad, the most strikingly beautiful ones are the caves number three and seven. Whereas cave numbers one to five are located in the western group and cave numbers three to seven are located in the East. These Viharas are self contained dwelling units in themselves.

They are adorned with elaborate sculptural representations of men and women that seem to be part real and part fantasy. The caves have been carved into the Sihaychal range that overlooks the vast rambling campus of the Doctor Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University.


The Aurangabad caves are located on a hill near the famous historical monument popularly called the Bibi-ka-Maqbara (or the Mausoleum of the Lady) which lies on the outskirts of Aurangabad City in Maharashtra. They are situated at a distance of 5 kms from the Aurangabad main bus terminus and around 10 kms from the Aurangabad Railway Station. The caves had probably been carved during the period from the 2nd to the 6th century AD. Also famous as the rock cut caves of Aurangabad, they have been carved out of the sheer rock surface in the hilly rock face.

They are resplendent examples of ancient architectural skills and design. The geographic coordinates of the location are 19 degrees 55 minutes and 01 seconds North and 75 degrees 18 minutes and 43 seconds east.

Historic Significance

These caves have beatific designs of tassels, flowers, geometric patterns and elaborate scrolls worked into the rocky walls of the caves. The perfect balance and harmony of shape in the exquisite sculptures is a rare showcasing of the artists skills. The best samples of the sculptures can be glimpsed in the caves one and three.

In fact, they share striking resemblances with some of the elaborate art work of the Ajanta caves. Probably made towards the end, these forms of art share similarities probably because the same artists must have initiated work on the Ajanta caves after having completed their art forms in Aurangabad or some of the monks may have gone to the Ajanta and Ellora caves to live there and work on the art forms there.

Cave number six is another example of the fabulous intricacies that these monks had woven into the rock. The human figurines etched out in the caves bear regal bearing and wear elaborate ornamentation besides being dressed up in elaborate hairstyles.

Despite the years of exposure the sculptures continue to retain their pristine beauty. This cave has the unique distinction of having a magnificent large figure of the Lord Buddha as well as Lord Ganesha which are both very well preserved. There is also an added aspect of cave number seven where there are depicted figures that are scantily clad and have some intricate ornamentation. According to scholars, this may probably have been a depiction of the rise of the tantric form of Buddhism in those days.

To some extent, the popularity and allure of the Aurangabad caves has been played down by scholars and academicians because of the comparative prominence of the Ajanta and Ellora Caves which have been subsequently declared as World Heritage Monuments.

The sculptures of these caves have been compared with the best and most brilliant of the paintings of the Ajanta Caves but most academicians regard the Aurangabad caves as somewhat lesser than the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Lying in the sylvan surroundings, the caves are a haven of peace and unspoilt beauty rarely found in the present day.

They have also been regarded as the forerunners of the Ajanta caves as the wondrous carved figures find a description in painting in the Ellora cave complex. Many of the visitors going to visit these Aurangabad caves have come back spellbound by the pristine beauty of the art work which has taken lessons from life and dressed them up so beautifully as to make all visitors to the caves hold their breath in stupefaction. The caves are a treasured part of the country’s magnificent heritage and have been recorded under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India as a protected monument.

Essential Precautions

As these are internationally renowned and rare heritage monuments, there are certain essential precautions to be taken while touring the Aurangabad caves. These precautions have been enumerated as follows:

The visitors must refrain from touching any of the surfaces of the beautiful monuments as perspiration, oils and dirt can leave indelible marks on the rock surfaces.

Smoking, spitting and littering must be avoided at all costs as it is a punishable offence and mars the beauty of the monument precincts.

Visitors are requested to carry their own litter back and dispose it off in the large bins provided as the flying bits of scrap and plastic can eventually deface the beautiful sculptures.

It is the responsibility of the visitors to help preserve these vestiges of a rich cultural heritage for posterity and in doing so they are carrying out an important social responsibility.

Photography especially with flash lights is strictly prohibited and video filming of any form must be done under explicit permission of the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India.

How to Reach

By Road

As the city Aurangabad is well connected to all the major metro cities like Mumbai via NH-4, Pune and Nagpur, one can avail the transport buses from Aurangabad and then to caves with the help of local transport.

By Train

Being directly connected with train routes to cities like Manmad, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Nasik, one can easily make use of this means of transport.

Best Time to Visit

One of the best hangout spots with family and friends throughout the year to spend a memorable holiday.

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