Thursday, February 14, 2013

Travelogue 7 - Ajanta, Ellora and Girsneswar - January 25-28, 2013

When I started this trip, I was not sure, how it would turn up. Budget constrain, wasn’t feeling best of in shape, busy work week and lastly, was wondering would it be just another history tour. Nevertheless, when one had to go, one has to go. The weekend trip itinerary had on the list Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Kailasnath Mandir, Girsneswar Jotyiling, Devigiri fort, and few other old monuments if time permits. I also wanted to visit nearby Gautala wildlife sanctuary; however time constrains couldn’t make it in plan. Moreover, I would have been uncomfortable seeing plight of forest and farmers due to less the average rain in this region of Maharashtra, this year.
As usual, we took late evening Friday bus to Aurangabad, in history titled as Devgriri. On the sideline, recently there was proposal to re-name it as Shamba ji nagar, the proposed move was defected due to incumbent central ruling party government favored the current name Aurangabad. It’s named after one of the last effective Moghul king Aurangzeb, after  he made this city - capital of his empire. He was infamous communal oppressive autocratic rule.
Reaching around after 12 hours, our cabbie Bhagwat picked us up. He was well informed and good company. Day 1 had on list: Ellora, Devgiri and Girneswar. Ellora is around 30 km from the city, famous for its Buddha, Jaina and Shiva Caves including Kaliasa Temple Complex (“one of the great monolithic structure in the world”) and Chaitya temple (from which todays chapels and cathedrals are supposed to be inspired from) thought to be constructed between 5th and 13th century. On the way near Ellora, there is old city, now town daultabad (dault-wealth), on the hill overlooking town stand impregnable (as of my friend called) Devgiri fort. From the bottom of the hill, fort seems crown on top of the hill, a formidable fort of a city once famous for its of wealth and rich society; then righty called as Devgiri (abode of gods); falling on ancient trade route of dakshinapatha.
4 km from there, are the Ellora structures, formally known as Elura, Verul and even Charanadari meaning “denizen of celestial region” for its scenic beauty. Roughly in the middle of the all caves stands the magnificent marvel Kailashnath temple. It took an hour, for the magnetic and astounding story of the temple to sink it. It is a single rock temple, made top to bottom front to end, from a mountain. No boulder was moved from distance, no external rock used. Sometime 1000 year back in history, they carved an artistic temple out of mountain. With intricate designs, double story, magnificent, yalli (tamil name), gopurams, panels depicting of Mahabharat & Ramayan, sculptures of Shiva and other others, it’s a sight one wonders if we are going back in time or just imagining it. Even to think about its construction, seems a herculean task. I climbed on the part of the hill above temple, for overwhelming bird eye view.
Experiencing reverberating sound of chanters in the Chaitya hall (cave number 10), makes the hill live one forget about the travel and place stop seeming old but functioning. The Mahayana and Hinayana caves with darpalas, padampani, varjapani, tara and other sculptures, belittle todays achievement of progress. The Jaina caves – one is a mandir known as chota kailasha. The caves have intricately carved idols of gods and goddess, and Tirthankars. One of the most noticeable is seated Mahavir attended by yakshas and yakshis. There Ellora caves are attributed kings -Krishan I, Rastrakutak king –Dantidurga, Calkuyas of Badami, however to me there seems no conclusive proof of time of construction and the reigning kings objectively.  
In the evening, after completing the group of monuments, we went for dinner at a restaurant Virandaban recommended by Bhagwat. The place had best thali, I have ever head after coming to Mumbai.
Next stop was evening darshan at Girneswar Jyotilink. The mystic place of Shiva has a dress code, males can enter garbha grah only shirtless, precisely topless. All the days travel and tiredness disappeared sitting in the temple premise, calmness and peace prevailed over worrisome thoughts of mind time.
Day two it was Ajanta, around 100 kms from city, on the way, talking to locals and farmers, I released extend of loss suffered due to less than average of rain. Drying cotton plants were standing in the field with no cotton. The forest wore a worn out demeanor. Usually at this time of the year, water is receding in the seasonal water bodies, cultivators fields are blossoming and forest is green, however this year all were facing adversity and our big metropolitans were not even talking about it, too lost in their own agendas. By the way, two handicrafts from the region are Paithani and Himroo.
Group of rock cut caves at Ajanta are dedicated to Buddha, the enlightened one. Even the bus ride from parking to caves suggests that we are going back in time traveling in the serene natural beauty, one is bound to contemplate. Lost in jangles and mountains, the first view of caves is breathtaking. Out of nowhere, one sees caves after caves along the hills with a corridor and below now seasonal river Waghore, and a waterfall Satkund (dry when I visited).  Once upon a time, rock cut caves (viharas- monasteries) were used as rain shelters for monks in the mountain. The first of mural painted caves are estimated have been constructed around 2nd B.C. In early 19th century a Britisher hunting for lion, who has itched his name on painting on the pillar, accidently discovered these lost caves. Just for FYI, there are no lions in the forest now.
Paintings depict events in life of Buddha, and only personal experience of being there can make one understand the artistic, spiritual and architectural depth of these monuments. My best three are a painting of Buddha in yellow robe (cave-17, tried clinking it number of times, however could not get on camera what my eyes experienced),   sculpture of Buddha lying in one of the last caves (it was calm and smiling –as asking you purpose of life) and equality of sexes so common to historic Hindu art and culture which we find missing in today’s world.
Described many time as second to none, in these monuments are paintings more than a millennium old, staring at you from all dimensions, not asking you for attention but understanding of society, life and history. What must have gone wrong and what is still to be resolved.
In the evening after dinner and chat with friends at a restaurant Windsor castle. I was wishing to have spent at least day more here, visiting the national park, Pitalhora caves (40 km away from city), two caves in the city of Laxmi and Ganesh in the city and spent more time with around there city. However office calls, monthly bills have to paid: P
The last minute in city was most dramatic, in the conversation with friends we missed our bus. By the time we released it, taxi was gone. We had to take auto till next stop of the bus and ask bus to slow down.

Travelogue 7 - Ajanta Ellora and Girsneswar - January 25-28, 2013

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Ravindra Vikram Singh रवींद्र विक्रम सिंह ரவீந்திர விக்ரம் சிங் રવીન્દ્ર વિક્રમ સિંહ రవీంద్ర విక్రమ్ సింగ్ রবীন্দ্র বিক্রম সিং ರವೀಂದ್ರ ವಿಕ್ರಮ್ ಸಿಂಗ್