Ellora Caves

Trip Start Nov 02, 2009
Trip End Nov 27, 2009

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Flag of India  , Mahārāshtra,
Monday, November 16, 2009

Preeti had arranged for a car to pick us up at 5:45 AM to take us to the Mumbai airport.  The driver called three times starting at 5 AM (earlier than we hoped to wake up) to get directions, but he did make it.  When we went downstairs, the gate of her apartment was padlocked.  We had to wake the night watchman who sleeps on a mat on the concrete floor to let us out.  5:30 AM is a great time to drive in Mumbai - we got to the airport in 15 minutes, a ride that would have been at least twice as long during the day.
Aurangabad is a 45 minute flight away.  The only reason a tourist would visit this unappealing city is as a gateway for two World Heritage sites - Ellora Caves and Ajunta Caves.  Kerry had arranged a car and driver to pick us up. The first stop was to see "The Boss", settle our itinerary and pay for the car.  The boss is Asoka - who made sure we knew he is mentioned in Lonely Planet.  The car cost about $35 a day; a reasonable price, especially because Ajunta Caves are over 2 hours away.

We had breakfast at a restaurant hotel next to Asoka's - a location that I would be shocked to see in Lonely Planet unless it was in the last resort section.  It looked dirty and we didn't drink the luke-warm tea.  The eggs seemed safe so we nibbled at them.  

The drive to Ellora took under an hour.  The site is made up of several cave temples and monasteries chiseled into the solid rock hillside.  The Hindu temples, built in the 8th through 10th centuries are massive and very impressive.  There are also Jain (9th - 11th centuries) and Buddhist caves (5th - 7th centuries). 

All the caves are incredible in their own way and very deserving of their World Heritage designation.  We hired a government certified guide to take us through the caves.  He was very knowable, but Kip had a difficult time trying to understand him.  He explained the stories behind some of the carvings, sang to us to show off the acoustics in a Buddhist cave and took us to the best vantage points for photos.  Since information on the caves is readily available, I'm not going to spend time writing about them, except to say it is worth the effort to get there.  On the ride back to town we stopped to look at the crumbling walls and fortress towers that protected the site. 

Back in town we got a feel for Auragabad.  There isn't much to recommend it.  It seems depressed and dirty compared to our travels in Kerala.  There seems to be a very high ratio of ox and goats to people.

One thing Auragabad is known for is textiles.  We asked our driver to take us to a shop to look at the famous weavings.  A few of the old wooden looms are still in use.  The weaving technique is called Himroo.  The fabric is woven using cotton, silk and silver threads.  It can take months to make a special wedding sari and cost tens of thousands of dollars  Two older men were sitting cross-legged at the ancient equipment carefully controlling the delicate threads.  We couldn't afford the hand loomed fabric, but did purchase a table cloth that was made on a wooden loom that used punch cards to direct the design.  The cards reminded me of the old cards used by player pianos.

Our hotel for the night was the Lemon Tree.  A well-run hotel that provided a welcome oasis in the middle of a not so attractive Indian city.  As usual the food was great and we seemed far away from the traffic, cows, oxen and buffalo that freely roam the streets of Auragabad.
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Jan on

Sounds like the Lemon Tree is your home away from home! Glad to hear from you - I was missing my updates. Have a wonderful time in Agra!

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