There is so much to see and do in India; hence, the number of international visitors to the country is increasing rapidly, year-on-year. Tourists can browse the internet or consult with various travel agencies to pick the best holiday packages in India as per their desire. One of the finest tourist attractions that may be included in such packages are the world-famous Ajanta Caves, located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. There are 31 caves at the site, which were cut into a roughly 76-metre high cliff over two time periods. The older ones were carved between 1st century BC and 1st century AD while the newer sites date from the 4th to 7th centuries AD. There are two types of rock-cut sites at Ajanta: some are viharas or full-fledged Buddhist monasteries, while others are chaityas or temples.
Most sites have a covered pillared front porch with a round-arched window above it while the interiors consist of large rooms. Their façades are elaborately sculpted and carved with figurines of humans and different Buddhist deities. The majority of the inside-space of the viharas is occupied by long rectangular halls. These rectangular central chambers are surrounded by cuboid stone columns, and beyond them on all sides are narrow aisles. Around the main chamber are small cells, with shelves cut into walls and originally entered through wooden doors. The statues of Lord Buddha are atop rock pedestals and show him in his traditional meditative pose. On the contrary, the chaitya-type caves have high rectangular halls, topped by barrel-vaulted ceilings. The parts between the pillars and ceilings also have fine carved rock-panels. A sort of a tall stone stupa with a sculpture of Lord Buddha, carved into its front face, is at the far end of the chaitya or prayer chamber. On both sides of these halls are rows of cylindrical stone pillars with richly carved capitals with walking galleries behind them.
The walls, along these galleries, also are replete with relief and statues. Chaitya caverns of the first period of construction are plain and their pillars and walls have no carvings or sculptures, though the columns do have paintings. Even their stupas are devoid of statues and are plain round-shaped stones. There is some space behind the stupas and the rear wall that allows for circling the shrine. Ajanta Caves are known for their abundance of wall paintings or murals that show the evolution of society and ideology in the two time periods in which they were constructed. The earlier sites have paintings, depicting a large number of people, characteristic of the courtly style that artists had mastered by AD 200. Many of the scenes are drawn from Jataka tales that describe various events in the life of Lord Buddha. Other famous paintings are of groups of women and important Buddhist deities, such as Vajrapani and Padmapani, also known as Avalokiteshvara.
Many international holiday packages for India include visits to many of such marvellous pieces of architecture. To come to these caverns, people can first avail international air services till Mumbai and then take domestic flights or trains to Aurangabad. From here, Ajanta Caves are about 104 km, and the distance can by covered in around 2 hours by road.