Jaggu was anxiously waiting at one of the platforms of Dadar station. He looked like a lost child at a temple festival. He was waiting for Devagiri Express bound for Secunderabad.
It was a tiresome day at his iron scrap company. By the time he left the godown, it was almost 7pm. His train was scheduled for 9pm. He rushed to Borivali to take dresses for 2 days and rushed to Dadar station like a 108 ambulance.
Boss of his very first company was a master in Ajanta and Ellora. Jaggu called him a couple of weeks back to get his suggestion to visit those places.
“What a kollan (scrap iron seller) is going to do in an artistic place? Are you going to dig any iron mine there?”
“Ayo sir. No. Just to enrich my..”
Our hero Jaggu removed all his ornamental romanticisms in his words and put it in black & white.
“No sir. I have a weekend. I’d like to visit Ajanta and Ellora”
He suggested reaching Jalgaon first. It is easier to reach Ajanta from there. It was not convincing for Jaggu. It was true. Ajanta is nearer to Jalgaon. But Ellora is far away, more than 200 KMs. Travel time will ruin his plan. Mumbai to Jalgaon; Jalgaon to Ajanta; Ajanta to Ellora; Ellora to Aurangabad; Aurangabad to Mumbai. Jaggu decided it wouldn’t work out. He finalized one option finally
- Mumbai – Aurangabad (1 night trip by train – onward)
- Aurangabad – Ellora – Aurangabad (1 hour drive – each way)
- Aurangabad – Ajanta – Aurangabad (One and a half hour drive – One way)
- Aurangabad – Mumbai (1 night trip by train – return journey)
He justified his choice to his consciences using these points.
- The journey is easy
- Saibaba Travels, Aurangabad
Jaggu found good reviews about the travels on Wiki Travel site. He dialed them from the dusty and rusty phone of his iron scrap company. Pankaj picked up the phone on the other end. Jaggu spoke to him few simple sentences.
“I will come to Aurangabad after one week. Hindi and Marathi letters are like Karasev and Seenisev (sweet sev) for me. I can not speak both of them. I like to visit Ajanta and Ellora. I need someone who can pick me from railway station on Saturday morning, take me to those places, and drop me the same railway station by Sunday night. Could you help me?”
Pankaj was so confident, “You just come over. Don’t worry”.
Jaggu asked for one more assistance, “Could you book a hotel room as well, please?”.
A reliable business man like Pankaj are the Gems of Indian tourism. If Jaggu was the president of India, he would make him a tourism minister. Jaggu’s colleage said that the travel agent may get a commission for booking the room, etc etc. So what? He work for Jaggu, right? As long as he helps his guests to have a memorable journey, nothing wrong with giving him minister post! No. Not to get more commission; but to establish trusted tourism environment. It’s rare to see such sincere guys in India – or at least in Jaggu’s native place.
The next step was to book the tickets in Devagiri Express, all within 15 minutes! The search for caves would be sweet like a jilebi only if there was no travel problem!
All was well, except that Dadar station, where Jaggu was waiting for his train then. There were plenty of platforms like Chennai Central. There was a parade of night trains. They came and stopped on the platforms with a screeching sound one after another. At no time, they left the platform with a paaang horn. In between, they wait for 1 or 2 minutes to board the passengers. Miserably some of the trains do not have name boards at all. Jaggu enquired here and there, and finally he was waiting on that platform. Despite being a nationalistic, he was blaming himself.
‘Indians do wonders; sometimes blunders too.’
Was it that difficult to keep the name boards and arrival and departure screens? Indian railway should learn to serve its guest like Pankaj!
The train arrived late by 10 minutes. The crowd of passengers started running back and forth on the platforms like the warriors running in war fields in Baahubali movie. Jaggu saw all passengers start running back and forth furiously, like the Kaalakeya-s of Baahubali movie. He, too, ran across the mob to find his S8 coach.
Jaggu was sitting in his aisle seat. There was a white lady sitting in the opposite seat with an North (or east) Indian guy, who looked younger than her. With an oily face and a kadukkan (ear ring) he looked weird. It was like Pakoda Kathar (a comedian in old Tamil movies) and Padmini (Leading heroine in old Tamil movies) acting in the lead roles. Whatever. It is up to an individual.
There was an elite-bald-gentleman sitting besides Jaggu. He took out baby cucumbers, a knife and a plastic plate. While he started cutting the cucumbers, he tried to socialize with the white lady. Bored Jaggu eavesdropped into their conversation.
“Are you a tourist here?”
“Ya. I’m a traveler” *smiles*
“Interesting.. Which country are you from?”
“Oh you travel alone? That’s great. European ladies are usually bold in nature..” (The discussion was not annoyed by the tuk tuk sound of cutting the cucumber in plastic plate).
“Na Na.. He is my companion.” Her fingers pointed at the kadukkan guy with the oily face. Kadukkan guy smiled at the elite for the sake of doing it.
“Oh.. Wonderful. “. (To the kadukkan guy) “How do you know her?”
(To the European) “How do you know him? You need to be careful while traveling alone”. Jaggu understood the elite man got suspicious.
“He is my Facebook friend”
Jaggu felt he should jump out of the train immediately.
The elite-balded-head took out a bottle and glass. A transparent liquid with a savor smell was poured into the glass with bup bup sound.”
“You want to have some wine?”
“No Thank You. I have mine”.
Jaggu stood up to push his bag on his upper birth. Like an angry monkey, he jumped to his birth at no time. He could not tolerate the discussion any more as he was so jealous of the kadukkan and elite. Still the discussion was going on, like the one between Indian and Chinese armies.
“Why don’t you have some salads”
The kadukkan boy was still looking out side the window on the opposite side.
“No. Thank you. I don’t like cucumbers”
She might be bored as well. She too got up and came up to the opposite upper birth. She smiled at Jaggu and thanked him, as he helped her to switch on the fan. Before she completed her odomos coating, Jaggu went to a deep Zzz mode with a light snoring.
While he was asleep, he woke up on hearing the noise of stone pelting on the train. Aurangabad was marked as a district of concerns due to naxalism.
There are two unsolvable problems in India – one is diabetes; the other one is stone-pelting!
As promised, Pankaj’s driver was waiting with a name plate early in that cold morning. It was written as JAGGU, Mumbai. Jaggu got goosebumps. He became a Mumbaikar in just 3 weeks :-). A nice room was reserved for him in a nice hotel as well.
The punctual driver Easwar told Jaggu, “You take a nap first. We may leave at 8 a.m. Hotel breakfast may not be suitable for you. I will take you to another South Indian restaurant for breakfast”.
Jaggu slept for two hours. He still felt the jolting of the train compartment. He went to the reception at 7:50. Easwar came on time, as promised. There was a hotel nearby. Easwar preferred to have Kesari after Jaggu compelled him to give him company. On his recommendation, Jaggu ordered for dosa. Actually, it was not that good. Jaggu should have ordered local food.
They started after breakfast. Easwar liked Aurangabad very much. He kept on praising his town. Jaggu was not amused as it was like Trichy or Madurai in Tamilnadu. They came out of the city and joined the beautiful highway in 15 minutes.
The attractions started from Khuldabad. They visited Aurangzeb’s tomb. It was a wrong choice to have a tomb as the first stop; that too belongs to a tyrant. Jaggu asked Easwar to avoid the local attraction as he wanted to spend time at Ellora.
The high way was like any other Tamil Nadu highway (of 2007). It had pits like the dents of Moon. There were mountains, ridges, and bushes all over. Jaggu was wondering, if there were a bunch of mountains, it would be surprising only if Ellora had not been constructed!
Daulatabad was another town on the way. It had a fort with artillery. It became the capital of Mohammed bin Tughluq. Later that place was abandoned due to water scarcity. Devagiri was its old name. Changing Devagiri into Daulatabad is secular and renaming it back to Devagiri is communal in India!
Jaggu avoided that port, as his time did not allow him. The road contained different entrances; they might have been the entrances to the old fort. The ghat road starts immediately after Daulatabad. Ridges of fort walls were seen even on the hills.
This place was not in Jaggu’s plan. Still, he respected his driver’s choice as he insisted “How come you come to our place and refuse to see this?” :-). That was one of the 12 Jyotirlinga Lingam temples. It is located in the village of Verul, very close to Ellora.
They went down and down like a cobra moves among piles of straws to reach Ellora at 11am.
Upon entering, Jaggu saw the Kailasanatha cave and screamed in joy. But Easwar did not stop the car.
“Hey, Stop Stop. where are you going?” Jaggu shouted. Easwar got worried if he would jump out of the window.
“Wait. Look the way I suggest you” Easwar replied with a determination. He stopped the car in one place. Jaggu will look at the nearby caves and return. Both of them will drive to the next cave. Thus he was able to see all the caves in 4 hops.
A total of 34 caves. Hindu caves, Buddhist caves and Jain caves. It is a treasure trove of art.
It will become a book, if the caves are explained one after the other. Readers can enjoy the pictures below.
What made me so excited was the grandeur of it!
Floors and canopies in the cave.
Very fine sculptures.
And, its size! WOWW!! Massive!
To this day, Kailasa Temple is the reminiscent of the Ellora caves. Why? Because of its beauty? But everything there was beautiful! Its structure made the difference. It did not belong to West Indian architecture. The temple belongs to South Indian architecture. The big temple was carved out of a single rock, from top to bottom. Not from bottom to top! Remember the monoliths of Mahabalipuram.
The Kailasa Temple is a fine example of South Indian-Rashtrakuta temple architecture. Rashtrakuta King Krishna-I – ruled in the 7th century – extended his rule until Karnataka. It is said to have been built in the form of the Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal.
The awful work of rock carving. South Indians may feel at home, on alien soil. As if in a trance, you may be wandering in and out of that temple. It may be one of your enchanting moments, in which you burst into endless soliloquy.
Did those caves get carved into the rock, or were they sculpted in our minds? Jaggu’s mind was overwhelmed with Ellora. This is our address, our identity, our ancestral home. Jaggu’s desire was that everyone should go at least once in their life time. Perumal thirumozhi renders a beautiful line ‘கோனேரி வாழும் குருகாய்ப் பிறப்பேனே’, that expresses the poet’s eagerness to rebirth as a stork in Venkata hill (Tirupati). Jaggu wondered, what if Ellora rejuvenate itself with all the monks of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism pursuing their duties. If that happens, he wanted to rebirth as a rat, that can steal the ghee of the lamps of these cave temples and eat it secretly 🙂
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z 2022 with theme Yātum ūrē!