The main attractions around Aurangabad are the cave temple complexes of Ellora and Ajanta, and for them it's worth putting up with any amount of social asphyxiation. I spent a whole day at Ellora, and it's simply magnificent.
Television and computers must be the most destructive forces known to man, because before either of these (admittedly excellent) developments came along, man actually achieved things. The caves at Ellora are prime examples of what man can do if he doesn't get hooked on soap operas and videogames, and instead is desperate for something else to alleviate the boring nature of his existence. Faith might move mountains, but you've got to have a lot more than faith if you're going to dig entire temples out of rock faces.
Or should I say into rock faces. The temples of Ellora are as big and as impressive as any others you will see in India, but here each temple is literally made out of a single piece of stone; before the builders arrived there was a hill made of rock, but after all the whittling and chipping there stood (and still stands) a collection of complex multi-storey temples, smothered in intricate carvings, towers, statues and plenty of cool rooms for meditative reflection... all made out of one continuous piece of rock. In much the same way that sculptors take lumps of stone and tease beautiful statues out them, the builders of Ellora took an entire cliff and teased the most incredible temple complexes out of them. The scale of the achievement at Ellora is breathtaking.
There are three main collections of temples at Ellora: the Buddhist temples, built around 600 to 800 AD; the Hindu temples, built between 600 and 900 AD; and the Jain temples, built somewhere between 800 and 1000 AD. The varied styles of the 34 caves are wonderfully diverse, from the austere and peacefully meditative atmosphere of the Buddhist temples and the overwhelming grandeur and pomposity of the Hindu offerings, to the halfway house of the Jain constructions, which manage to combine aspects of the others into a uniquely different religion.
The main temple in the complex – the Kailash Temple from the Hindu period – is a masterpiece. Built by digging down vertically into the mountainside and forming the whole temple complex from the top down, it is estimated that simply quarrying the three million cubic feet of rock (about 200,000 tonnes) must have taken at least 100 years; the complex covers twice the area of the Parthenon and is 1.5 times as high; and the whole thing is literally made out of a mountain. It is, not surprisingly, a stunning sight.
Put simply, Ellora makes the mind boggle, which, one assumes, is the whole point.