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Published: March 2nd 2012
I am feeling healthy today, still disappointed with the food but there is nothing new about that, when we departed Beed I had a bag of chips and a carton of mango juice to break my fast.
It took us perhaps three hours to drive to the fifty two thousand year old basalt crater at Lonar which was filled with a salty green lake with a circumference of 1.8 kilometres and a deciduous forest. A very impressive sight, there are sixteen temples built around the lake some of which were quite attractive. After checking out the crater we had an excellent lunch (eggs and chapatis for me) before visiting a couple of interesting old temples around the town.
From here we made the long drive to Aurangabad arriving in the late afternoon, I noticed a pizza bar along the airport road which was pleasing. After a pleasant if spicy dinner at the hotel’s restaurant I wandered across the road to get on the internet and to indulge in a couple of large bottles of beer before returning to my room to watch a bit of TV.
The next morning we travelled the thirty kilometres to the Ellora Caves
these rock cut temples laboriously chipped out of a hillside over five centuries by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks were near the top of my list when I was planning the itinerary for this trip. The Kailasa Temple the world’s largest monolithic sculpture is unique and amongst the best that Indian architecture has to offer. I have seen rock cut caves in other Asian countries some of which were absolutely spectacular but Ellora is something else. When we arrived at this World Heritage site we paid the usually steep foreigners fee and followed the path leading to the complex, fortunately someone suggested we take the path to the left and head towards the Buddhists caves first, the first cave we visited was Cave Fourteen or the Ravana Ki Khai which is a Hindu cave dedicated to Shiva, it was a nice taste of what was to come.
The next cave of note was the Tin Thal (Cave Twelve) or the Three Story Cave a very impressive Buddhist cave with sleeping rooms on the ground floor, a meeting hall on the second and some wonderfully carved Buddha images on the third, this temple also had a large carved courtyard out
the front. The next (Cave Eleven) was Do Thal or the Two Story Cave this was also very impressive. Cave Ten or Viswakarma is a chaitya (prayer hall with a stupa) and has ribs carved into the ceiling which once held wooden panels. Cave Nine has some fantastic carvings including dwarfs and the goddess Tara. Cave Five also known as the Maharwada is the largest vihara (monastery) at the site and has twenty massive columns, twenty four cells and long raised platforms that may have been used for dining or perhaps as a class room. The other caves in the Buddhist group are also interesting many were living quarters, granaries, meditation and prayer halls.
We were quite lucky as we were able to see most of these caves in near solitude, as we walked back towards Cave Fifteen from Cave One we began encountering much larger groups of tourist, which disappointed me as I enjoyed the caves much more when crowds were sparse. Cave Fifteen or Das Avatara has a large courtyard is double storied and was built around the eighth century. This temple has sculptural panels on all the second story walls of mythological figures. Cave Sixteen is
Kailashnath Temple the most incredible of structures, it is carved out of eighty five thousand cubic metres of rock; its entrance is fifty metres long and thirty three metres wide. The central structure is lined on all sides by carved elephants and two more full sized pachyderms’ stand in the courtyard, the second level of the pyramidal central temple still has traces of painted ceilings and fantastic views across the complex. This Temple is up there with the Taj Mahal and the Tiger as highlights of my trip, I was relieved that I didn’t enter this temple first as it makes all the rest look pale in comparison.
Of the remaining Hindu caves perhaps Cave Twenty One and Cave Twenty Nine the Dhumarlena were the most impressive particularly Cave Twenty Nine which was huge with three large entrances and some stunning carvings.
Next to come were the Five Jain caves, Cave Thirty Two or the Indra Sabha was the finest of these, but I was impressed by them all, it had taken us all morning to walk through the complex yet it seemed like only minutes.
Later we visited the Muslim pilgrimage village of Khuldabad where we
visited the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, for a man who controlled such vast wealth his tomb was simple and austere. It was then onto the pizza bar where I picked up lunch/dinner and memory card for my camera before returning to the hotel.
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