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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Ajanta: Photo 1

world pictures Peninsular India: Ajanta

The sinuous Waghora or "tiger" river, threads its course through old basalt flows about 200 miles northeast of Mumbai. The caves at Ajanta (from a Sanskrit word meaning "impregnable pass") line the outside of one of the river's curves at a spot where the basalt forms a cliff about 250 feet high.

Most visitors arrive on shuttle buses unloading at the lower right corner. There's a much bigger parking lot to the right, out of sight and a few miles downstream. You park your vehicle there, run a gauntlet of craft vendors, then board a shuttle. When you get off the shuttle, youse buys yer ticket and walks up some stairs or the zigzag path visible here. Alternatively, you can be carried in a dholi or sedan chair by four hearties.

There's a small recent building at the top, then a level concrete path that widens where the cliff begins. That's the location of Cave 1. You can walk or be carried all the way over to Cave 26 at the far left (two further caves are off limits). Alternatively, as the shadow at the lower left suggests, you can start at the top of the opposite wall of the canyon and walk down past by a conical-roofed kiosk at the tip of the point. You then cross the steel bridge seen here, and land close to Cave 9.

The cave numbers were settled by about 1880 and are used in several publications from that period. See the Archaeological Survey of Western India's Notes on the Bauddha Rock-Temples of Ajanta, written by James Burgess and published in 1879. Much of this material was recapitulated in The Cave Temples of India, published in 1880 by James Fergusson and Burgess. See also the supplemental Report on the Buddhist Cave Temples and their Inscriptions, published by Burgess in 1883. This third publication includes, as Platc XIV, a map or plan of the caves, with their numbering. The numbers have nothing to do with the chronology of the caves, which begins at or close to Cave 10.

One more thing: this is January. Come in July and the countryside would be much greener.

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