My 2nd day-trip from Aurangabad took me to the Ellora Caves, another World Heritage Site in Maharashtra State. Ellora succeeded Adjanta as the place to build devotional caves in the mid-5th century. Here there are 34 “caves”, actually structures that are carved out of the vertical face of the Charanandri Hills. In contrast to the Buddhist monopoly at Adjanta , at Ellora there are 5 Jain caves, 17 Hindu caves and 12 Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves are the earliest and probably served as an enticement for the Buddhist builders of Adjanta to move their future efforts eastward 80 or so kilometers to Ellora. The presence of such monumental development serving three separate religious devotions built in proximity over a period of 3-5 centuries demonstrates the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history. An important distinction to note is that Ellora has been used for worship continuously since inception, opposed to Adjanta which was abandoned and lost to history for almost 1,200 years.
It is also worth noting that the caves are in the vicinity of the Lonar Meteorite Crater, named after the demon Lonasura. From the pack of meteors that plummet towards the Earth – anywhere from 30,000 to 1,50,000 each year – this one managed to create the Earth’s largest and only hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock. Lonar Lake has triggered NASA scientists and officials from the Geological Survey of India to attempt answers to questions like: Why is the lake alkaline and saline at the same time? Why does it support micro-organisms rarely found elsewhere on Earth? Why do compasses fail to work in certain parts of the crater? And what lurks at the bottom?
One can wonder why the creators of Adjanta and Ellora chose the locations that they did. Could it be that the meteor crater created a unique energy in this area recognized by the architects of these two spiritual powerhouses?