Ever took a Indian overnight bus racing without speed limits for 15 consecutive hours through a mountainous countryside to get out in one of the most lousy, shabby and dirty places you have ever seen? Aurangabad is all of this, but also a good hub to explore the world-heritage listed caves and temples of Ajanta and Ellora in northern Maharashtra, around 400 km northeast of Mumbai.
The 29 Buddhist rock-cut caves at Ajanta are rich in fresco-type paintings and sculptures and date from between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD. They consist of two types: Caityas (sanctuaries) and Viharas (monasteries). Carved into hillside rock, they were discovered in 1819 by a British hunting party.
Only 80 km from Ajanta are the impressive 34 caves and temples at Ellora, also crafted by hand, with hammer and chisel. They are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious art demonstrating the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history, and date from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD.
On our way to the extraordinary architecture of Ellora, our rikshaw wallah took us to the magnificent hilltop fortress of Daulatabad, which briefly served as a capital in the 14th century, before Mohammed Tughlaq changed his mind and marched thousands back to Delhi.