Posts Tagged ‘Ajanta’

Ajanta’s Buddhist Caves

January 6, 2018

The day started with sunrise yoga.  Yoga in India!! The sunrise, the grounds, the yoga was all very dreamlike.  The sun rose as the moon set.  We practiced Salutations to the Moon.

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Imagine hiking along a ridge and spotting an unusual formation in the far distance. This strange rock formation is peaking out at you, within an enormous horseshoe rock-face wall across the valley.  You are not quite sure what you are looking at, but you are pretty sure you see a man-made vaulted entrance, almost entirely covered by vines and forest.  Your curiosity is enough to make slide your way down the treacherous cliff, ford the Waghora River, and bushwhack your way up a steep ravine until you reach that spot you saw from so far away.  You machete your way through the dense greenery to an incredible find: the Ajanata Buddhist Caves.

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More thrilling than any Indiana Jones film ever made, this scenerio really happened. The year was 1819, the place is outside of Aurangabad in India, and the discoverer of the immense and beautifully preserved caves that had been hidden for centuries was a British official named Jon Smith. However, Smith wasn’t hiking.  He was tiger hunting up on the ridge when he saw the vaulted arch above one of the caves hidden openings. He was soon to discover 30 significant hidden caves within the area.

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The Ajanta caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The man made caves were carved directly out of the stone, monolithic and impressive.  It took 700 years to carve out the caves between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD. The walls of the caves are covered in frescoes, which contain some of India’s most precious and valued art.

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  • Buddhist monks lived in these caves
  • The rock was chiseled out by humans along. No animals were used in carving out the caves.  The rocks were small fragments and they were dumped into the river where they would quickly erode by force of the river.
  • Once the caves were abandoned, dense forests covered them and they were forgotten
  • The wall frescoes depict various years and events in the life of Buddha.
  • The frescoes depict scenes from the royal court (patrons of the cave building and art work)IMG_2149Above, a lotus flower painted on a ceiling

I used to think this (below) was a reclining Buddha (it is enormous), but learned today the statue shows Buddha as having just died.  I couldn’t capture the whole statue with my camera…. Below his peaceful corpse are depictions of the humans who wail, grieve, and appear to be inconsolable.  Above the Buddha are depictions of the happy heavenly creatures who eagerly await his spirit’s arrival. Above his body are images of angels and cherubs laughing and dancing in anticipation of a heavenly celebration.

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Our group:IMG_2145

Posing with the school children:

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Jack poses with the shoe man. You have to remove your shoes before entering temples in India.  This man is paid to guard our shoes! Arvind paid him for the important task and later tipped him. Even so, at one point, this man raised his pant leg and showed me an ace band wrapped around his presumed injured knee and he promptly asked me for an additional tip.

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Arvind on his iPhone, tending to details.IMG_2183 2

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Part I: Lured by Images of South India

August 19, 2017

I have two back-to-back tours in India taking place January 2018.  Both of the tours are led by Arvind Singh, organized by Kelley McHenry, and both tours offer daily Hatha yoga, which I will be teaching.  In today’s post, I am sharing my favorite photos from my last trip to South India.  We will be revisiting the places below in the January 2018 travels. These trips to India will be the last I will be offering in India, only because I hope to offer yoga retreats to various areas.

I can’t capture the entire trip with these few photos, but hope to give you an idea of the beauty that is INDIA (in this case, South India).  I hope the photos will be of interest and lure you into considering joining me in January.  Or perhaps the photos will offer you an opportunity to do some armchair travel!

South India Tour with Daily Hatha Yoga takes place January 2-January 18, 2018. I am happy to announce that this trip is definitely happening.  Registered participants are already purchasing their flights.  Registration is open through the end of August 2017 View Full itinerary

Periyar Park is a reserve for the Asian elephant.  How I love this park and the elephants living there!  In the evening, the elephants in the park gather at the edge of the lake to get their fill of fresh water.  We watched them from our boat, from the middle of the lake.  In this photo, a baby is coddled and protected by two females.  The next day, we visited the park again in the early morning.  Three naturalists from the park guided us on a walking tour.  I never imagined I would walk in elephant territory, but my group and I did just that.  We got pretty close (at least I think we were close!) to these massive and lovely wild creatures.  Seeing them was thrilling!

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The photos in this blog are not in chronological order of the tour.  The photo below was taken in Mumbai, at the start of the trip.  Mumbai is not considered South India, but it is where we fly into and is a short flight to two of our destinations: the UNESCO World Heritage historical caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Mumbai is vast.  It felt like a cultural center to me, lively and thriving. I loved visiting the Taj Hotel and the house where Gandhi lived for a while.  I was fascinated by his personal library, which still sits intact in his home.

IMG_0428The people of India are bighearted, friendly, beautiful inside-and-out, welcoming, and the children, in particular, are adorable.  Seeing the children and their proud, loving families is a great joy to experience in India:  L1340459

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L1340599Below: School kids enjoying Shiva’s Butterball (as this boulder is called).  You can see a path worn on the stone surface where the kids are playing.  The worn path is most likely created from thousands of years of kids sliding down, as two of the school girls are about to do.

L1340576When I think of South India, I think of the numerous ancient stone carvings of the temples.  Mahaballipuram has impressive stone carvings, as do the caves of Ellora and Ajanta.  It is a singular and unforgettable experience to walk among such massive carvings!

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L1340313During the journey, we stayed in some wonderful places.  The most unique overnight stay is on the houseboat in Kerala.  We relaxed and enjoyed being rocked by the waters.  The rooms are deliciously cool thanks to the air-conditioning (I don’t really like AC, but so appreciated the comfortably cool boats!).  In the afternoon, we got into smaller canoe-like boats and floated along smaller river ways to see the many houses and people living along the banks of the river.

L1350299L1350279We attended Kerala’s signature performance and classical form of dance, drama, and music called Kathakali.  It is an art form that is more than 400 years old.  Below you can see one of the Kathakali performers.  We had our own intimate and private performance. On this day, we all wore our new colorful Indian clothing.  In the second photo below, you can see our festively dressed group gathered around one of the actors from the Kathakali performance.

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12933011_1348191141863221_6997846868358269616_n-1And lastly is a photo of Maria.  We did a South Indian cooking course with Maria in her home kitchen.  I discovered Maria on line and asked Arvind to please include a cooking course with her.  After a little hesitation (Arvind had never met Maria and didn’t have much of an idea of what the experience would be like until he further researched), Arvind agreed to include Maria’s cooking course in the itinerary.  The food was some of the best we had ever eaten in South India!  She appeared to be a magician, an alchemist of sorts, as she blended her spices and demonstrated how to put the various dishes together. To top off the experience, her husband sang Hindi love songs from various movies for us as we ate our delicious dinner.  As we ate, serenaded by Maria’s husband George, Arvind’s head swayed to the live music.  Between bites of food, Arvind sported the satisfied smile of a Cheshire cat.

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  • Click here for a link to see incredible on line images of the Ajanta and Ellora caves.
  • It is so difficult to fathom how the stone sculptures and caves were carved, that some people have theories of an advanced civilization being involved in making them. Though I do not subscribe to this theory, it is fascinating to watch the following video clip to see how intricate the temples are at Ajanta and Ellora. View video
  • View one of my most popular blog posts on India: 10 Reasons Why I Love India
  • This trip is organized by Spiritual India Journeys.

PART II is coming your way next: Rajasthan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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