Friday, January 30, 2009

20-22 January – Ellora & Ajanta Cave Temples, India

We are really enjoying the Deccan plateau in the center south of India. We drive through the tranquil countryside with friendly people; good roads or no roads; lovely food; rich fields of cotton, sugar cane, mustard & wheat, empty forests, grazing cows, working women and idle men.
We can camp in the bush, we can enjoy clean air and silence. However, we occasionally have a welcoming committee at our camp during breakfast.
Almost nobody speaks English here, so we suddenly need a crash course in Hindi. But that’s about time. We have been so spoilt by the fact that many Indians speak English that we only know a few words in Hindi.
The Ellora cave temples were constructed by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks during a five hundred year period, 7th-11th century. The largest temple, Kailasa, is believed to have kept 7000 workers busy for 150 years. If there is any truth to that legend, those men must have taken long siestas. On the other hand, judging by the speed of Indian men working today, the legend is probably true after all.
After admiring the Ellora cave temples we continued to Ajanta and were blown away by the cave temples there. The setting, 30 man-made cave temples hewn out of vertical cliffs above a horse-shoe shaped river gorge, is much more dramatic and scenic than Ellora. And the (Buddhist) caves are much older, some dating back to 200 BC, the youngest dating back to 650 AD.
It was hot and sweaty, Indian tourists demanded at least a hundred line-ups with our kids, and there were hundreds of steps. But we loved Ajanta. The kids too – perhaps because they were excited by the bats in the caves.

No comments: