Ten years ago, Fardapur was an obscure point on the road leading to the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra. Today, as you plan your trip to this heritage site, situated 100 km from the city of Aurangabad, you may want to spend time at the Fardapur junction before moving on to the caves. Coming up at Fardapur, four kilometres from the foothills of the caves, is the Ajanta Visitor and Exhibition Centre (AVC), which promises to help tourists appreciate the caves better.
The project, undertaken by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) with a soft loan from Japan International Co-operation Agency, is an effort to provide tourists with an interactive medium that tells the story of these caves.
Vijay Sridhar Chavan, General Manager, Department of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra, says, “Work at the AVC is almost complete. It will make tourists’ visit to the Ajanta caves a wholesome experience.” The project, which is expected to be open for the public by the end of this year, is estimated to cost around Rs 61.6 crore.
At the AVC, an audio-visual set up will narrate the story of the caves. Spread over five galleries, perhaps the biggest attraction at the centre will be the cave replicas. The most important caves—shortlisted by a panel of experts recommended by UNESCO—will be recreated here. At present, cave No. 1, 2, 16 and 17 are being replicated, complete with the frescos that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves.
The exhibition centre will have panels and audio visual guides that talk about the heritage and art in the caves. The contract for the project has been given to L&T and consultation work is being carried on by TCS and Oriental Consultants, Japan.
In Cave No 16 of the Ajanta caves, 26-year-old photographer Aneesh Bhasin is busy at work. Bhasin has been hired to create replicas of the frescoes at the caves for the AVC. Bhasin spends around four hours with every painting—clicking pictures and mapping them. “I have to follow the ASI guidelines on using light. It is so dim inside and everything has a yellow tinge, but I have been able to capture the paintings well. In fact, we are going to get some test prints done next week to see how the entire thing looks,” he says.
Apart from the work at the AVC, the Archaeological Survey of India, Aurangabad Circle, has undertaken