Installment #10 - November 24, 2000

Ellora and Ajanta Caves

We arrived at Aurangabad at about 5AM on Monday morning with a plan to see Ellora that day and Ajanta, 140 kilometers away, the next.   We soon learned that both the Ellora Caves and the Ajanta Caves are closed on Mondays.  We checked into the Taj Residency hotel (probably the most expensive of our entire India visit at about 3500 rupees), and Rita finished the night's sleep while I checked out the hotel grounds and then the surrounding neighborhoods.  Realizing that we would have to see both sets of caves on Tuesday, we arranged for a car to pick us up at the hotel and take us to Daulatabad (a fort I wanted to see), Ellora, Ajanta, and on to Jalgaon to catch our train back to Mumbai.

We had supper Monday night at "Food Lovers" where the ambiance, according to our guide book, was the best in town.  I ordered sweet & sour chicken, being careful to emphasize NO HOT SPICE—no black pepper, no red pepper, no chili power, nothing hot.   What I got was hot & sour.  I sent it back, explaining again that I wanted NO HOT SPICE.  What came back was still hot & sour.  Rita said it was delicious and ate most of it.  I ate steamed rice.  Rita's fish was old and perhaps freezer burned.  When she said so toward the end of the meal, the cook insisted on making her more with fresh fish at no charge.  It was about the same as the first batch.

This was probably our worst restaurant experience to date, but it is often a struggle for me to get something with NO HOT SPICE.  Occasionally I end up with simply yogurt and steamed rice.  And if I can find a restaurant that has something I like, there is a good chance that Rita will not be able to find something tasty and spicy that she likes.   But we even had that problem at home; if I liked a restaurant, then Rita didn't, and vice versa.  Anyway, I'm getting enough to eat, even if I do get burned occasionally.  [Ahhhhhh—at last! That's more like it! Took ten Installments, but we finally get to hear Allen complain about spicy food!]

On Tuesday morning, we started our sightseeing marathon with a stop at Daulatabad, a fort dating from the 14th century or earlier, and having a complicated and well-engineered series of defenses.  Rita and I walked about half-way to the central bastion, and then Rita returned to the car and a cup of tea, while I continued on to the top.

Our second stop was Ellora, where there are 34 caves that are described as "the pinnacle of Deccan rock-cut architecture".  They are religious shrines carved between 600 and 1000 AD by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain artists.  We thoroughly checked out the first group of 15 caves, and were impressed with the amount of work and skill required to complete these projects, and all before jackhammers and laser levels.   After a less thorough inspection of the remaining caves, we moved on to Ajanta.

The Ellora caves contain large numbers of carved images and statues, while the Ajanta caves (which are much older, dating from 200 BC) contain mostly wall paintings.  By the time we reached Ajanta, it was mid-afternoon and it was very hot.  As Rita huffed and puffed up the stairs toward the caves, she was followed by four guys carrying a chair on two poles and offering her a ride.  They stuck with her almost to the top, but Rita was determined to make it under her own power, and she did.  After checking out the caves, we returned to the car for the trip to Jalgaon.

We arrived in Jalgaon about four hours before our train was due, and with Rita in desperate need of a clean bathroom.  We rented a room in the first hotel we found for the bathroom, TV, and a quiet place to rest and wait for the train. This was a basic room with Indian-style toilet, no soap, towels, or toilet paper, and a missing showerhead.  At 10:30 or so, we walked to the station and boarded our train for the overnight trip back to Mumbai.

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The Taj Residency in Aurangabad,
probably the most expensive hotel
of the entire trip.
This fortress was protected by multiple walls
(5km of them), a moat, dead-end passages,
and underground passages.  The central
bastion is at the top of Devagiri hill, the
"Hill of the Gods". I was impressed by
the engineering.
This is Bibi-ka-Maqbara, the "poor man's Taj", the
tomb of Rabia-ud-Dauani, the wife of Aurangzeb,
the son of Shah Jahan, the guy who built the Taj
Mahal.  This tomb, which we did not visit, is said
to be a poor imitation of the real Taj, using plaster
instead of marble. I understand that Aurangzeb is
buried elsewhere under a large mound of dirt.
An overview of some of the 15 Ellora
caves in the southern group.  Overall,
there are 34 caves at Ellora.
I'm posing with 7 Buddhas (only 5 visible in
the picture) in one of the Buddhist caves at Ellora.
I took this picture to give some idea of the
size of one of the larger Ellora caves, and
to show the carved supporting columns.
This Ellora cave (the Tin Thal cave) was carved
on three separate levels with connecting staircases.
The Hindu God Shiva and his consort
Parvati in an Ellora Hindu cave.
Rita with one of the many carved Buddhas
in the Buddhist Ellora caves.
This Ellora cave (the Viswakarma cave) has
carved ribs in the roof that simulate wooden
supporting beams.
Some of the current-day inhabitants
of the Ellora caves.
An overview of several of the 30 Ajanta caves,
which are located on the outside wall of a
curved canyon that follows a bend in the river.
Rita rehydrates outside one of the Ajanta caves. 
The temperature was in the mid nineties.
I'm posing with one of the carved women
in an Ajanta cave.
A tourist in a chair is being carried up some
stairs at Ajanta by four men.  This service was
available for 300 rupees.

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