UNESCO is a supranational organisation that confers the coveted status of World heritage site upon best of the best monuments or natural areas of this world. The judgement criteria is not how beautiful the monument/nature park looks or how much the structure is architecturally accomplished but how well the whole monument narrates the story of civilizations which existed long ago/natural heritage it hold in its arms or how substantially it represents cultures that have been the foundations of cultures as we see them now. This sought after title has been received by a total of thirty two monuments in India all of which are great vehicles of the tourism industry of India. Three of these are beautiful caves which are located all in the state of Maharashtra where glorious past takes hiding perfectly:
- Ajanta Caves: This is a group of Buddhist monastic caves situated in Aurangabad. About 29 in number, these have been cut out from huge rocks to give the masterpieces as they exist today. They actually remained hidden from the world until being discovered by a British officer in 1819. The caves have been preserved and maintained properly now and are a famous tourist destination for locals as well as foreigners. Coming on to the features, these house some splendid art marvels like sculptures and paintings which have been considered one of the best works in Indian art arena. Especially, the originality and uniqueness of the paintings is something that is noteworthy and is often a subject of appreciation. These paintings are mural paintings i.e. paintings made directly on wall surface. Such is the celebrated status of these paintings that many modern day artists have used these as an inspiration to develop their original style of working.
- Ellora Caves: Ellora caves are situated very close to Ajanta caves cluster and are an architectural wonder as described by many. These caves are basically Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cave temples which are located in each other’s vicinity. Their being together indicates the maturity of that era’s civilisation. A group of 34 caves, these were built during the rule of Rashtrakuta dynasty. The most striking and impressive features of all these caves are a 15 metre statue of Lord Buddha in cave no. 10 and the Kailasanatha temple which was carved out of a huge monolith to retrieve the memory of Mount Kailash. Jain caves here render the underlying philosophy of Jainism i.e. austerity.
- Elephanta Caves: These caves are located offshore in Mumbai Harbour and are reached via a one hour cruise starting from the Gateway of India. A group of seven caves, these are subdivided into Hindu and Buddhist caves. The caves are a representation of the grandeur of rock cut architecture thought to be done between 5th and 8th The name- Elephanta caves was given by the Portuguese. They have been given such a name because of the Elephant sculpture that stood at the arrival area. Hindu group of caves is mainly dedicated to the depictions of Lord Shiva in various forms and mythological stories related to him. Most striking features of all the caves are a Trimurti sculpture in the eastern hill group and a small brick stupa on the western hill.