Ajanta Caves

Trip Start Feb 07, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, March 23, 2007

 We set off about midnight from Victoria Terminus in shitty Sleeper class to a place north-east of Mumbai called Jalgaon. We arrived early in the morning after patchy sleep and had to wait a few hours to get a room. The hotel is fine, but this town is in power off mode more than not and it's rare that luxuries such as lights, fans and TV's are operational. We don't have any windows in our room and it's scorching hot and dry here now that we're inland, so we spend the rest of the day trying to rest up, but generally just sweating a lot and reading in torch light! This is the first (and last, no doubt) time we've ever been asked for our autographs! Two little lads who grinned from ear to ear approached us when we were sitting on the hotel steps. We scribbled on their notepads and they both took off down the street flashing the signatures to their friends!!

The reason we came here is to visit the famous Ajanta caves. We head there the next day on the local bus, always good for socialising but not so good for comfort. The caves are Buddhist and very impressive, carved into the cliff face of a river gorge between 200BC -650AD. This place used to be on the Silk Route and the monks were apparently loaded as they received money from the stream of merchants that used to come through the place. This allowed them to employ the best artisans from all over India to carve out and decorate the cave temples and sleeping places. The place was abandoned when the Silk Route moved to the coast and the money dried up. It was overtaken by jungle till it was 're-discovered' by a British hunting party in 1819. The paintings that have survived the damp and the oil lamps used by early tourists are amazing, the colours all formed from minerals and really vivid still.
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