Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pune should learn from Ajanta & Ellora’s heritage conservation

The Government of Maharashtra is celebrating 2011 as the tourism year and has recently crowned Aurangabad as the tourism capital of the state. It plans to market the Aurangabad heritage corridor to the world especially to Buddhist countries.

The two world heritage places (as declared by UNESCO) – the Ajanta and Ellora Caves are spectacular sites wherein the fusion of art, architecture and civil engineering (of the middle ages) is at its creative and scientific best and continues to stun every visitor even in this technologically advanced age of the 21st century. You are wonderstruck by the paintings and frescos in Ajanta, many of which have retained their colours even after more than 2,000 years of their existence – even the white colour which has been used amply in the paintings is still stark white. You are over-awed by the Lord Shiva temple at Ellora, which is a single rock-cut cave, sculpted from top to bottom.

What’s admirable is the respect the state government has shown towards the preservation of these caves, while making it tourist-friendly as well. Thanks to copious Japanese funds, renovation and conservation of Ajanta and Ellora is going on since 2003. The 700 steps from Ajanta Point (4kms before Ajanta Caves) which take you down to the Ajanta Caves and were once kuccha have been made of cement now. Lakhs of tourists from all over the country and the world visit the caves every year but you will hardly find any litter or plastic around. That’s because, no food stall dots the area except vendors selling guaves, pineapples and piping hot bhuttas. Private vehicles are banned from entering Ajanta from a particular point. Instead, green-coloured shuttle buses take you to and fro for a mere Rs.10. Every cave has an information board and its insides have special lighting to enable the visitor to see the paintings and sculptures. Flash cameras are banned though mobile cameras are permitted.

While Ajanta and Ellora being world heritage sites are bound to receive all the attention from the powers-that-be, a little respect by the Pune Municipal Corporation towards heritage sites in Pune can make a world of difference. Even the iconic Shaniwar Wada is ill-maintained. Prime structures of Maratha architecture like Nana Wada lie in utter neglect. While the Pune Darshan bus takes visitors to 22 sites, none of them have proper boards that provide information to the tourist. The concept of consciously portraying Pune for tourism seems to be completely missing from the PMC’s or state government’s radar.  Considering that Pune is now home to thousands of people from all over the country and the world, it is important to have proper infrastructural development along with heritage and tourism development.  Interesting facets of Pune’s history, culture and heritage which are in abundance should be showcased as the city has much more beyond shopping malls and swanky restaurants – much of which is still unknown.

For more details on Ajanta and Ellora, explore the following links:

The 700 steps that take you down to Ajanta Caves from Ajanta Point (4 kms before Ajanta Caves)

The renovated bridge leading to Ajanta Caves

Ajanta: The most spectacular paintings (see ceiling) made of natural colours that have withstood weather of more than 2,000 years

A glimpse of Ellora Caves

The cluster of caves at Ellora are breathtaking

Another glimpse of Ellora Caves

Such intricate sculpting dot the Lord Shiva Temple at Ellora

Ajanta Caves as you see from the Ajanta Point


  1. I wish we had such foresight in preserving the Heritage Structures of Pune

  2. Dear Vinita
    I fully endorse your views. Going by the track record of the State Government or the PMC it is unrealistic to expect either of them to do anything because there is neither money nor political benefit in it. Perhaps hoteliers, airlines, tour operators or travel agents need to be motivated to be more proactive by, for instance, initiating a campaign to raise funds and lobby with these two bodies to improve the state of our heritage sites. This would undoubtedly benefit all concerned by making Pune a more attractive tourist destination & significantly increasing tourism.
    Ashok Gokhale

    Dear Vinita,

    Enjoyed reading and seeing your blog posts about Ajanta, Vetal Hill and (especially) Bhimsen Joshi. Thanks for sending.

    Warm Regards,


    i wonder, how many things a common man needs to put his attention in? what are our IAS and politicians doing? do we see any good effort going on for years (even if with lukeworm success) Please publish some such events/efforts as well - even if not government.


  3. Usha Sonalkar wrote in her email:
    I fully agree with you,all these historical structures require proper maintainence I learnt that Shivajis chapter has been deleted from the school syllabus.

  4. Situated in the Sahayadri mountain location, Ajanta Caves are a elegance to check out. The caves are known for their wonderful interpretation of Buddhist Jatakas. These Jatakas are a sequence of testimonies about reincarnation of Master Budhha. There are about 29 caves in Ajanta. icrave pune

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.