Travel Blogger DINH HANG

Join travel blogger Dinh Hang as she explores a series of 2,000-year-old Buddhist cave shrines in India

Taking a closer look at the moss-covered horseshoe-shaped slope of Ajanta, I could make out a network of caves cut deep into the heart of the mountain. Long ago, these intricate cave temples were abandoned and forgotten. More than 2,000 years ago, hundreds of devout monks spent years carving these cave shrines out of the rock and decorating their walls and ceilings with paintings depicting the Buddha’s life.

Ajanta is surrounded by lush greenery

A 2000-year-old gallery

The Ajanta Caves are located in the Aurangabad District of the Indian state of Maharashtra, roughly 350 kilometers from Mumbai. Ajanta emerged like a lost kingdom long hidden beneath the lush foliage of a tropical forest. After passing through the greenery, I discovered the Buddhist cave complex, which transported me to an ancient world where history, religion, and art all flourished beneath this horseshoe-shaped cliff.

Using rudimentary tools like hammers and chisels, Indian artisans from the 2nd century BC created what is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is no exaggeration to compare Ajanta to an “ancient gallery” containing a portion of India’s lost art heritage. The façade is elaborately carved, and the interiors are no less magnificent and intricate.

My journey through the complex’s more than thirty caves heightened my feelings of awe, fascination, and reverence. This ancient “gallery” houses a spectacular “collection” of hundreds of unique Buddhist frescoes, sculptures, and carvings full of intricate details, vibrant colors, and complex patterns that speak volumes about the religion and culture of ancient India.

Travel Blogger Dinh Hang

When stones speak

As I made my way through the monasteries, frescoes, and sculptures, I felt like I was traveling thousands of years back in time. My flashlight gleamed on the detailed walls and ceilings, transporting me back to the Golden Age of Ajanta with its majestic, gilded palaces, exquisite and sumptuous banquets, and reverential Buddhist ambiance.

Some 500 frescoes, created entirely from plant-based materials and minerals, have withstood the test of time and appear to have been painted only yesterday. After thousands of years, these “storytelling walls” have retained their yellowish-brown, jet-black, and emerald-green colors. In one corner, we see princesses with jasmine crowns; in another, we see Indian nobles whose chests burst with life. One painting depicts a monk meditating in complete tranquility, while another depicts disciples gathering to hear Buddha’s teachings.

In Cave One, I was stunned by a depiction of a Bodhisattva holding a lotus. The slightly tilted face of the Bodhisattva revealed a pair of gentle, serene eyes. The Bodhisattvas at Ajanta seem imbued with an otherworldly beauty full of elegance and compassion. I stood in awe, admiring them.

Entering Cave Nineteen, I was taken aback by the ornate and spectacular façade and equally enthralling main hall. Rows of pillars support a beautifully and intricately carved horseshoe-shaped canopy, which in turn covers an impressive statue of the Buddha standing atop a stupa.

Gateway of India (Mumbai)

Cave Twenty-six contains one of Ajanta’s most famous chaitya halls. Carved in the 5th century AD, this holy place contains a stupa at the center of the apse, surrounded by elaborate pillars and Buddha statues. On the left side of the hall is a seven-meter-long reclining Buddha statue, which transported me to the moment the Buddha attained nirvana in the Sala Forest. The infinitely high ceiling of the chaitya hall chronicled the Buddha’s magnificent life.

I stood and wondered about the artisans who created this beautiful place and breathed their soul, faith, and reverence into otherwise barren slabs of stone. It is no easy task to transform lifeless objects into symbols of eternity!



– Ellora: A rock-cut cave complex containing Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain elements with over 34 monasteries. Kailasa Temple is the most remarkable structure in this complex due to its intricate, complex, and multi-layered architecture cut from one single megalith.

– Bibi Ka Maqbara: While it is sometimes described as an imperfect replica of the Taj Mahal, this temple will astound you with its ornate and intricate carvings.


– Gateway of India: This arch-monument overlooks Mumbai Port and the Arabian Sea. Millions of pigeons soar from this structure in all weathers.

– Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: Formerly known as Victoria Terminus, this striking train station was built in the Victorian-Renaissance Gothic style and stands out among Mumbai’s numerous buildings.

– Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple: This vibrant, colorful, and peaceful ashram lies in the heart of the bustling city.

Vietnam Airlines is launching new flights between Hanoi/HCMC and Mumbai (India) on May 20, 2023, with promotional prices for round-trip tickets (taxes and applicable fees included), starting from USD 199 (VND 4,597,000) for all passengers whose flights depart until May 26, 2023. For more information, please visit From Mumbai, visitors can arrange local transportation to Ajanta and Aurangabad.