Aurangabad is the launch pad for the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, both World Heritage sites worth checking out if you have the time. More about them later.
The Aurangabad Red Sox
We arrived in Aurangabad after midnight, after a full day of traveling by train from Goa (Canacona -> Thane, Thane -> Aurangabad). Since we loved Mysore so much, we decided to stay in Aurangabad for five nights, to give ourselves time to recover from the train journey, check out the city, and have time to see both caves. In retrospect, this was way too much time in Aurangabad.
There really wasn’t much happening in Aurangabad. There’s a cluster of restaurants and hotels near the train station, and a fancier shopping street with some international brands. It wasn’t very walkable, but we walked around anyway.
Hand carved meditation hall, Ellora
We decided to skip the tours and check out the caves ourselves. We started with the Ellora Caves. The Ellora Caves are a short, less than an hour, bus journey from Aurangabad. We waited for the bus at the station. Nothing was in English. A bus pulled up to the berth and there was a near riot as people tried to jam onto it. We stood back and watched. Once that bus took off, we met a couple from Sweden also trying to take the bus to Ellora. We warned them about the rush for the bus. Lucky for us they were more aggressive than us, so as the next bus pulled up, they managed to elbow and shove their way into the bus and secure 1 seat for us. We rioted our way onto the bus and jammed onto this seat, thankful to our new friends and the woman who shared the seat with us.
I wish I had video of this. It would probably be a youtube hit. We noticed that people were jumping through the windows of the bus trying to get seats. One couple even threw their baby in to secure a seat.
Immaculately preserved cave paintings, Ajanta
The Ellora caves are worth the bus ride and modest 250 Rupee (~$5) entrance fee. There are 32 caves – Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain – built between 500-1000AD. They were all carved out of the stone and built into the hillside. As there were lots of Indian tourists there as well, we also found ourselves to be a bit of a tourist attraction, with lots of requests for photographs with us. We mostly said no, unless someone was particularly convincing or aggressive.
A couple days later we went to the Ajanta Caves. These are also possible to reach by bus, but the ride is longer, 3-3.5 hrs. These caves are all Buddhist and were built between 200BC – 600 AD. The cave paintings are in incredible condition despite the years.
Street parade – celebration of a god whose name escapes me
We braved the shopping center that’s part of the complex and scored a few deals. With 70+ shops, nearly all the vendors sell the same things. Bargaining is imperative here and we found dramatic differences in prices, depending on the vendor. We couldn’t understand why there wasn’t much diversity in the goods; if any of the vendors decided to carry a different selection of goods, they probably would do very well.
On the way back from the caves, I had a lovely 2 hour conversation with the man sitting next to me, Vinod. He is a Marathi teacher (the local language in the area), has a wife and two children. We talked about everything, from family to politics, the education system in India and America, and more. At the end of the journey, he invited Brandon and I to his home.
Brandon and I with the Sinkar family
This was the highlight of our time in Aurangabad. Vinod’s family warmly welcomed us. His wife made snacks and tea, we played with the kids, met all the neighbors, and took lots of photos. What lovely people! We are going to send them a package from America, any ideas??
In the end, we were happy to have the time in Aurangabad and meet the Sinkar family.
At the Mini Taj