Ellora/Ajanta magnificence

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January 31st 2008
Published: February 11th 2008
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After a long chill out in Varanasi, we trained on ahead to the glorious caves of Ajanta and Ellora. My second time here, sure, but definately worth a second round- and not to be missed by any artist in India, especially Alexis~
We arrived on an overnight/overcrowded sleeper train in the morning in Jalgaon where we then jumped aboard a local bus for the rickety ride to the hidden horseshoe shaped cliffs of Ajanta. In the blaring heat of the winter sun, and with Lex barely able to walk from exhaustion, we stumbled in, paid the admission (the usual 250 Rupees to the Indian visitor's 10~) and began the trecherous trek through the 8 billion other Indian tourists, surrounding us like we were animals in a petting zoo - we were seemingly of as much or greater interest than the beautiful and powerfully timeless caves around them.
Yet we persisted. In all some 30 buddhist caves hug the cliffs, some dating all the way back to 300 years after the death of the Buddha! These caves were the most interesting to me, as they had a very different iconography than one associates with Buddhism, including cuts in the stone cieling imitating wooden rafters and only a large spherical structure at the front as a representation of the Buddha nature (apparently originally the Buddha had bequested no imagery of himself!).
The paintings were interesting too, depicting a plethora of stories of Guatma Buddha's life and previous incarnations~
That same day, both thoroughly exhausted, we rewarded ourselves with a cushy comfy taxi ride the remaining 2 hours to Aurangabad - which we barganed down to 300 Rps ($7.50)! best spent 300 Rps so far -
After a necessary day of rest - Lex got sick, and spent the day on the toilet (a very common occurance in India) - we went on nearby Ellora, the other massive complex of carved monestaries and temples.
These structures were even bigger - extending over 2 km - and include the largest monolithic structure in the world! Kailasa (named after the mountain home of Lord Shiva) is a fantasticly detailed and breathtaking temple, all carved from one single rock and spanning an area twice the size of the Greek Parthenon! Starting from the top, thousands of carvers worked down over some 600 years to complete this wonder.
Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples are represented at Ellora, a cultural heritage of tollerance, and even illustrative of the Indian competative nature - the different religion's caves would compete for the more grandiose and spectacular structures~


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