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A wonderful journey to Pitalkhora Caves

Pitalkhora caves are some of the most popular sites located at a distance of 40 kms from Ellora caves. Known for its age old rock cut architecture these are one of the oldest rock cut caves which can be dated back to 2nd and 3rd century BC. These caves have been a major centre for the Buddhists who developed it as their monastery. As the caves are located at the hill top it can be reached through steep staircases which provide access to the 14 Buddhist caves which are largely monasteries. Dated back to 2nd and 3rd century these caves are one of the oldest satvahanas monuments of Maharashtra. Though not so popular as the Ajanta caves and Ellora caves yet these are known for their architecture. The entrance of these caves is decorated with the sculpture of serpents, guardians and elephants which decorate the hall of the monastery. Animal motives, miniatures, and Chaitya widows are also engraved in these monasteries. Overall the caves include a number of monasteries and viharas which provide some knowledge about the lifestyle of Buddhist monks. 

The architecture of these caves includes a number of pillars which are mainly erected to hold the caves from demolition. Decorated with paintings of 5th century these caves are considered to be one of the finest architecture in Maharashtra. Though parts of the sight and its sculptures have fallen into the cliff yet much of it still exist which adds to the scenic beauty of the sight. Thus the Pitalkhora caves are considered to be one of the most ancient sights in Maharashtra which exhibit great excitement. Surrounded with tropical greenery and a stream which remains filled with water during the monsoon season, this is one of the most picturesque sights around Ellora caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra that attract tourist from far off regions. 

Not as well known as Ajanta yet also interest are the rock-cut caves of Pitalkhora in the Satamala range of the Sahyadri hills. There are thirteen caves, set high up on the hill, overlooking picturesque ravines. Many of the caves contain carvings and paintings that date from the 1st century B.C. to the 5the century A.D. They were discovered after Ajanta and are first mentioned in a publication of 1853 where Caves 3 and 4 are described.

Many of the carvings as well as the paintings have been damaged by the weather and vandals. The caves appear to be of the early Hinayana period of Buddhism and are contemporary to the other rock-cut Buddhist temples in western India. They were probably excavated and carved during the Satavahana-Kshaharata regimes. There appears to be a subsequent period of desertion and re-occupation much later in the 5th century A.D. during the Vakataka rule. In the Hinayana Buddhist period no images of Buddha or Bodhisattvas (celestial beings personifying the virtues of Buddha and attending to the needs of the people) appear in places of worship and none can be seen in the caves of Pitalkhora except for the paintings in Cave 3, which belong to the later phase of occupation.
Because of their locations the caves have been divided into two groups. Caves 1-9 face north and east and are adjacent to each other. These are in Group I. On the other side of the hill, facing southwards are Caves 10-14 which make up Group II. Many of the caves have crumbled and are badly damaged. Cave 1 looks like a huge natural opening. There are indications of cells and door supports and it may have formed an extensive Vihara or monastery.  Caves 2, 3 and 4 share the same forecourt and are presumed to be of the same period. The dividing wall between 2 and 3 has disappeared, 2 was a Vihara and has an interesting rock-cut drain which prevents water from flowing into Cave 3 which was a prayer hall. The best paintings are in Cave 3. These appear on the pillars and side walls. 37 pillars used to separate the aisle from the hall and these were donated individually as inscriptions on the 10th and 11th pillars, on the right, indicate. The donors of both these pillars were residents of Paithan. Steps lead down to a basement containing several carvings. Rare crystals and other reliquaries were found in the stupa here.

How To Rich To Pitalkhora Caves 

Pitalkhora is 78 kms from Ajanta and can be visited by car, but the climb up the hill has to be done on foot. Another way of getting there is by taking the night train from Bombay – Chalisgaon and then a bus to the ancient shrine of Patna Devi. A short trek and then the climb up the hill. One can also take a bus from Chalisgaon to Bhamarwadi and from there the caves are about 9 kms.

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