Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Amazing Ajanta Caves Near Aurangabad

Today we took a road trip from the city of Aurangabad -- beer, pharmaceuticals, and cars -- to the Buddhist caves near Ajanta. These caves were "discovered" by a British cavalry officer in 1819; of course the local people already knew about them. Maybe they didn't think the Brits ought to know about such things.

It took a couple of hours and more to get from Aurangabad to Ajanta because the road was under construction for the entire 100 km distance, apparently getting expanded from 2 to 4 lanes. You can imagine the traffic chaos of buses, trucks, cars, and motorcycles all dodging and weaving around the construction

About 30 caves were hewn out of a basalt cliff over the centuries, starting in the 2nd century BC. Typically, as you enter the cave you are confronted by a Buddha facing  the entrance across a square hall with columns around the walls to reduce the stress on the ceiling. Many of the caves feature rock-cut sculptures and decorations. But everything is chiseled out of the original basalt. Many of the caves have dry fresco paintings rehearsing the life of the Buddha.
It's all pretty impressive, especially as you go from cave to cave and see yet another Buddha -- or perhaps a stupa -- hacked perhaps 50 feet into the cliff, with columns and small meditation cells around the perimeter of the cave.

There were lots of people there, including a troop of noisy teenage school kids that wanted to do selfies with the exotic foreigners, which we were delighted to do. In fact, it was delightful to share the experience with people from all over the world, including China and the very Buddhist country of Thailand. We did selfies with some charming Thai girls on the bus that gets you from the parking lot to the caves and back.

Yes. It's travel in the modern age: nothing but selfies, selfies, selfies, with all and sundry from all over the world. Whatever will be next?

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