View of section of Ajanta caves from hilltop opposite. The caves are cut into the rock-face. The river Waghora, not seen in this photo, flows down below. Originally, each cave had steps cut into the rocks, going down to the river below, so the monks could get water and also enter/exit the caves.
When they started excavating these caves, they threw grappling hooks into the stones above and suspended themselves, chiseling away with just basic tools into the hard black mountain.