Relatively lesser known than Ajanta Caves, Pitalkhora Caves are known for its fascinating carvings. One of the largest group of Buddhist structures belonging to Hinayana school, the rock-cut caves in the district of Aurangabad date back from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD.
Comprising mainly of viharas, the Buddhist caves were discovered after the Ajanta Caves were found and were first mentioned in report that was published in 1853 with the description of four caves.
About 48 km away from Ellora Caves, the Pitalkhora Caves date back to the 2nd century BC. There are many bizarre statues in the caves that resemble Yaksha figures. The main entrance to the caves has a wide balcony with statues of a ‘naga’ (snake), guards and a row of elephants.
There are a total of fourteen caves overlooking the ravines with many caves consisting of paintings and carvings that date back to the 1st century AD. The caves can be divided in to two groups because of their location – the first to the ninth cave face east or north and are adjacent to each other while all the caves in the second group from the tenth cave to the fourteenth; face south.
The first cave, which has been damaged, was used as a monastery or ‘vihara’. The second, third and fourth cave have similar courtyards and seem to belong to the same period.
The third cave has the best paintings and there are 37 pillars that separate the aisle from the hall. The inscriptions on each pillar indicate that they were added individually over a period of time by rulers of Paithan. There are steps that lead down to a basement where there are many carvings and a stupa which houses many rare crystals.
There are animal designs, small windows for miniature ‘chaityas’, elephants, guards and Yaksha statues in the caves. Due to the depreciating strength of the pillars, they have been replaced with concrete pillars to prevent the caves from caving in.
Even though many of the carvings and paintings have been damaged due to time and vandalism but most of the caves remain intact and you can see the murals clearly. The origin of the caves seems to belong to the early Buddhist period.
Most evidence points to the fact that the caves were excavated during the regime of Satvahanas followed by a long period when they remained abandoned till the 5th century AD. No images of Buddha appear in any place of worship or any caves except for the paintings in cave number three which belongs to a later period.
There are no accommodation options in the Pitalkhora caves but there are lots of options in Aurangabad.
Carry food and water when visiting the Pitalkhora Caves. The best time to visit the Pitalkhora Caves is between October and March.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Aurangabad is as given below. The best time to visit Aurangabad is also specified.