Posts Tagged ‘Ellora’

Ellora’s Temple Caves

January 7, 2018

Today we went to the Temple Caves in Ellora.  Unlike yesterday’s caves, the fabulous temple caves of Ellora were never hidden, lost, or waiting to be rediscovered.  They were always treasured and contain Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu temples.  The 34 temples caves of Ellora were carved directly into the sides of a basalt hill and one of the temples here, Kailash Temple, is the largest monolithic temple in the WORLD!

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The excavation was done from the top and downwards.  No scaffolding was used to carve out these enormous works of temple architecture. Three million cubic feet of rock was chiseled out and removed from the mountain to create these fabulous caves. The caves were built between 350 AD and 700 AD and were inhabited by holy men.

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Imagine if you will, a bus arriving, packed to the gills with tourists. Most of these tourists are from various parts of India.  The women wear colorful saris. The men are cheerful and hold the babies.  The children are dressed up and their eyes so beautifully big and filled with light.  The men, women, babies, and youngsters are beautiful.They have come to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, like us, to see this gem of India! They are all very excited. They are friendly. They are playful. They are welcoming.  How many times did I hear an enthusiastic “Welcome to India!”?  Children laughing and crying on the bus.  Many languages are being spoken and the whole bus is like a party!  Most people have selfie-sticks and are taking photos of groups sitting on the bus.  Well, I am on this bus, too! And my group is on this bus! In my row, there are only two seats, but three of us have squeezed in for the short shuttle ride to the temple caves. We are laughing along with the others.

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In no time at all, we arrive and everyone piles out of the bus.  There are many hawkers/vendors waiting.  Those of us from the USA stand out, as you can imagine.  The vendors spot us and they surround us, working hard to sell books, photos, postcards, purses, bags, sculpted elephants, Ganesha, necklaces, gems, rocks.  You name it, they have it.  In their world, no means maybe and maybe is very close to yes.  Their eyes are filled with hope.  Oh, some of them are very charming. Their tactics and skills for selling are remarkable and impressive. “Miss, Miss, my name is Johnny.  Remember my face!  When you finish looking at the caves, I will be here.  I’ll save you a necklace for you for later. I give you good price.”  They are very clever.  When, later, we leave the caves, we can be sure Johnny will still be there, waiting, remembering our faces.  They are full of joy, anticipating a sale.

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Inside the temples, we are dazzled by the work of thousands of hands from ancient times.  How on earth did they create these masterly carvings? Enormous life sized elephants carved from the rock greet the tourists. Kailash Temple is most impressive.  It is the last place we visited in Ellora today, the grand finale!

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Kailash is a miraculous site.  It is uniquely a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.  The temple was a great center of learning.  It’s built like a chariot and has an antechamber, an assembly hall, a sanctuary, a tower, and an open sky platform.  This is a mind-boggling cave temple within a cave temple within a cave.  Near the innermost temple is Nandi, Shiva’s bull.  People were lovingly whispering into his stone ear, their whispers releasing prayers and hopes and dreams.  Nandi, it is believed, will listen and then deliver the prayers to Shiva.

In the innermost sanctum, there is a Shiva lingam.  The lingam is the divine symbol of energy of Shiva. I felt a deep inner stillness and I felt the room was humming with energy.  My mind went blank and I simply observed the worshipers. As we stood there, Hindus came pouring into the room to pray, to touch the Shiva lingam, to raise their children to touch the Shiva lingam, to press their foreheads to the edge of the yoni and to be reminded of the power of creation, of consciousness and nature coming together in perfect union and life.

In traditional Indian society, the linga is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva himself. The lingam is often represented as resting on yoni (Sanskrit word, literally “vulva”, “origin” or “source”), a symbol of Goddess Durga in Hinduism.

The Lingam has also been considered a symbol of male creative energy or of the phallus. The lingam is often represented with the Yoni, a symbol of the goddess or of Shakti, female creative energy. The union of lingam and yoni represents creation or life.

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Soon, I will be offering an evening yoga session.  As I write back in the cool of the hotel room, I hear the Muslim call to prayer.  India never ceases to fascinate!  Not only will I never forget the Ellora caves, but I will also never forget the lovely people at the caves, the large families and groups of school children, all vying to interact with us.  Such an incredible day!

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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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