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Published: March 19th 2005
Ellora from above
Ellora's most famous cave from a bird's eye view
We arrived in Aurangabad
fairly early, around 6 a.m., that’s why we had some problems finding a hotel room. In the hotels we had foreseen there were no rooms free yet, due also to the Indian system of 24-hour checkout. This means that you have to check out 24 hours after you checked in, or earlier of course. Up to now, this system had been to our advantage, but that very day it turned into a disadvantage. The idea of having to check out at 6.30 a.m. did not really appeal to us. Bout of course our rickshaw driver had a friend who had recently opened a hotel. We had resisted his offer before, but now we gave in. In the end, the hotel was not bad, close to the train station, a more bustling region than where the other hotels were, which lay quite close to the slums. Actually, we saw people sleeping on fields close to the streets for the first time, they did not even have plastic tents. In the south they still had palm-leaves for building, and as shabby their huts were, they had a kind of shelter. This region is much more arid and barren, only
How long did all the artists work on this gem? Well, 125 years!!
thorny bushes thrive, and with these you can’t build anything.
The whole day lay before us, and we were determined to use it to a maximum. We took a bus to the Ellora caves
, only 26 km from Aurangabad. The streets here in the state of Maharashtra were by far better than in Karnataka, and we had a very pleasant journey on a road winding its way up into the hills of volcanic rock. 34 caves, of the finest in India and dating from the 7th to the 10th century AD, are supposed to be the work of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.priests. Jainism
is a religion whose founder was born in the same region as Buddha, probably in 599 BC. It never spread beyond India, but it has survived continuously into modern India, claiming 4 million adherents. This may partly be due to the fact that certain Jain ideals, such as vegetarianism and reverence for all life are also deeply fixed in the Hindu religion. The essence of Jain belief is that all life is sacred and that every living being, even an insect, has within it and indestructible and immortal soul, so they developed the concept of
You need strong creatures to support such a heavy structure
non-violence or non-harm. The most important of all rules is to avoid intentional harm, which is the worst of all sins.
In Ellora, we started with the most exceptional cave, the Hindu Kailasanatha Temple
, whose carving began in the mid-eighth century. The most magnificent of all rock-cut structures, it is the only one that was begun from the top. The temple’s name means that Siva is the lord of Kailasa, a real mountain on the Tibetan plateau beyond the Himalaya. Mount Kailasa is of great religious significance to Hindus and Buddhists alike. The artists and craftsmen at Ellora tried to imitate the mountain’s distinctive pyramidal shape, carving 85000 cubic metres of rock. We spent a long time admiring all the numerous astonishing details as well as the cave’s tremendous overall structure. This cave, number 16, is situated quite in the middle of the Buddhist and Hindu caves, after visiting it we started from the beginning. The Buddhist and Hindu caves are relatively close, some of them linked by narrow footpaths, which allowed breath-taking views, the high rocks on our right and the steep slope on our left. When you walk up there, you better not be dizzy!
On the way again...
had initially planned to slow down our pace, but unfortunately the Ajanta caves, which lay on our further itinerary, were closed on Monday, so we had to rush once again. We did not have time to see anything of Aurangabad, we only visited the fort of Deogiri
on our way back from Ellora. This fort is situated on a volcanic lava rock 250m above the surrounding countryside, it dates from the 11th - 14th centuries and had been a Buddhist monastery before. We were lucky to meet a guide, who led us through pitch dark tunnels with a flaming torch. We were told amazing stories of how enemy soldiers were slain in the most varied ways possible, burnt with hot coals, suffocated by noxious fumes and all kinds of pitfalls, where either the soldiers fell down 30 metres or were massacred by arrows. Anyway, this labyrinth stretching over several storeys really impressed us. At the end of this day we were exhausted, but full of new and fascinating impressions.
Next day we continued our trip to the Ajanta caves
, 106 km from Aurangabad. We were travelling wit our complete luggage, intending to go on to Jalgaon. We did not
Some people are reminded of the upturned hull of a ship. Up to you to decide...
really know where we would leave our backpacks, but as nothing is a problem in India, we soon found a solution (it was rather imposed on us). Upon arrival you cannot avoid crossing a curio market, where one salesman immediately offered to keep our luggage safely locked, we just should remember his shop when we were back. The site is well organised, first you pay a small sum that merely allows you to enter the grounds, then you are obliged to take an AC bus to the foot of the caves, where you pay the entrance fee. If the uphill walk is beyond your strength, you can hire a dhodi
(palanquin) and be carried all the way. The Ajanta caves date from about 200 BC to 650 AD and are cut from volcanic lavas into a steep crescent-shaped hillside in a forested ravine. In 1819, a party of British soldiers discovered them while tiger hunting. At the height of Ajanta’s importance, the caves are thought to have housed 200 monks and numerous craftsmen and labourers. The masterpieces tell the life story of Buddha and reveal the life and culture of the people of the times. Several of the caves are
Klaudia and her inspiration
Will her texts get better if Buddha has an eye on her?
painted in tempera techniques, and much effort is made to protect them from damage through humidity, the number of visitors is for example limited to 20 at a time. The paintings are well screened, but for an unknown reason the guards liked Stephan very much and we were allowed to step over the barriers and take a closer look and nice pictures this way. Of course this did not work without some baksheesh! The carvings are nice but not as extraordinary as in Ellora, with the notable exception of the last cave with the 9m sculpture of a reclining Buddha. In Ajanta we again saw a special kind of cave that we had already come across in Ellora. It represents a chapel and has a peculiar ceiling. The roof was once fitted with wooden ribs, which subsequently collapsed and were replaced by structures in stone. When we entered this type of cave, we were immediately reminded of a church. On our way down the hill we came across a group of monkeys and they behaved so aggressively that we had to take the stairs! Nonetheless we returned safely to the shopping complex and tried to get our luggage back. The
Row of seven Buddhas
They appear so peaceful, calm and serene
shopkeeper of course tried to sell us his products as dearly as possible, but we refused to buy anything at such overrated prices and in the end got away with paying a small sum.
Close to Ajanta we wanted to catch a bus to Jalgaon
, which we managed after waiting quite long. Jalgaon is situated on an important railway line, we planned to take a train to Rajasthan. Everything worked out fine, we found a really nice hotel very close to he train station, and next morning (March 21st) we took our first daytime train to Ahmadabad. You can only book seats for overnight trains, and so we hoped to find seats at all. We chose the class we usually took overnight as well, because the seats were reasonably comfortable. Several people had booked these seats for an overnight journey, after some time we had sorted things out, hey did not dare to shoo Klaudia as a woman away from her seat, but Stephan had to climb to the upper berth, which did not really disturb him. There was constant movement, it is incredible how restless these people are. We shared the compartment with an extended family with 2
The way to the following treasures was narrow and stony
small children, they were constantly eating or drinking and throwing the rests out of the window or onto the floor. But they are very careful about their own cleanliness, one hour before arriving they start combing their hair and many other beauty activities. Despite a journey of 10 hours, we felt all right and ready for the next overnight trip from Ahmadabad to Udaipur.
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