Image by Sam Hollenshead/Polaris for The New York Times
Read the full article by SIMON WINCHESTER in The New York Times of November 5, 2006.
"The monument comprises a series of 29 caves that have been carved deep into this sheer face of a horseshoe-shaped cliff a few miles from the old walled town of Ajanta, hidden away in the deep gorge gouged in the high Deccan plains by the Waghora River about 300 miles inland from Mumbai. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated as such back in 1983 as one of India’s first, along with the Taj Mahal. And though Shah Jahan’s famous memorial in Agra is far better known, the Ajanta Caves are hugely popular, particularly with Indians, who see them as eloquent testimony to their country’s immense and unbroken history. The caves can in consequence become insufferably crowded. But I went in March, the lowest of the low seasons — the schools hadn’t closed for spring break and the weather, though warm, wasn’t as hot as most Indian travelers prefer. There were so few people around that it sometimes seemed as though the tourists were outnumbered by the monkeys, who gathered in troops up in the neem trees, gazing down at the scattering of humans who wandered, in rapt attention, in and out of great gaping holes in the high walls of the cliff."