Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aurangabad Days 4 and 5

Ajanta Cave Temples
The next 2 days will be spent visiting the Ajanta and Ellora caves. These caves were carved by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks between the 2nd century BC and the 7th century AD. They were carved from basalt using the local tools of the time...hammer and chisel. They were carved from the top down and the outside in. These were used as teaching centers and pilgrim sites for most of the year except during monsoon season when the monks actually lived in them. These are huge with intricate carvings, one more awesome than the next. The detail work is mind boggling
but more so is the engineering skills that where required to execute some of these. There are places where the surrounding mountain overhangs the courtyard of the temple with no support. They understood the concept of cantilever. The photos will give a better visual than any description I could come up with. Check them out from the link at the top of the right hand column.

The picture of the little girl has a story. While walking around the Ellora caves, this mother and daughter came up to us. The mother explained that her daughter wanted to talk to me but was too shy. She had been following us around for a while. She finally dragged her mother over with her. Dad took pictures of all of us and I took this one. Not sure why she was so interested, but she is adorable so it didn't matter!

Today Aurangabad is a  very large agricultural area. They grow corn, wheat, soybeans, lentils, mango, papaya, sugar cane, cotton, and just about anything else. The farming is done the old way...hard labor. Oxen pull the plows and the rest is done by the local villagers, both men and women. Landless migrant workers come from farther away during harvest season. They arrive on their oxen pulled carts laden with all their worldly possessions and pitch rudimentary shelters by the side of the road or in fields. They are pretty colorful and I would describe them as Indian gypsies.
Landless Migrant workers

The local  farmers own large herds of goats, sheep, cows, and water buffalo. To us they look poor but they are far from it. A single water buffalo cost about $2000.00. They live in tents and mud huts but there is a lot of construction going on to erect more permanent housing. Some of the huts are pretty elaborate with beautiful painted scenes on the outside. Women draw water from a pump and if it isn't in their village, they carry it on their heads in metal urns. One thing to remember is that the climate here is tropical. They only need protection from the sun and rain. The milk from the cattle is shipped back to the local cities. The women are stately and colorful. Their posture is to die for as they still carry heavy loads on their heads with little effort. They wear their wealth in the form of elaborate jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets, nose rings, ankle bracelets, and toe rings are part of their adornment. In the villages, the male children inherit so the only way to give wealth to the girls is in the form of gold. I must have looked destitute to them as I left my jewelry at home.

So far the driving has not been too bad. The roads are in decent condition and we just had to watch out for the flocks of goats,sheep, water buffalo, and cows that share the road with their herders. Roosters, chickens, and stray dogs round out the scene.  There are no such thing as lanes here and driving is sort of a free for all. It is not for the faint of heart. Everyone passes everyone else. There is no such thing as right of way and driving is a constant cacophony of horn blowing. I am learning to ignore all the hair raising passing or I would always be white knuckled. Our drivers have been superb so far. They tell us you need horns, brakes, and luck here. I believe them.

Our guide here was from a different company and he was very competent, knowledgeable, and easy to understand. He wasn't overly friendly, but I think that was just his personality. I think he was a retired professor. He obviously had done a lot of traveling, but let's just say his bedside manner left something to be desired, although by the end of the 2nd day he did start to warm up. In his defense, we learned a lot and he answered all our questions. We spent 2 days here and flew back to Mumbai the 2nd evening.

1 comment:

deanna7trees said...

just wanted you to know that I'm so enjoying your commentary. you must have a great memory or maybe you wrote everything down. thanks for sharing your adventure.