The upper berths of Indian railways are like attics without a window! He appreciated himself for his philosophy and lying with crossed legs in his ‘attic’ of Devagiri Express bound for Mumbai. Travels – especially traveling alone – were the moment of dhyana for him. He used to get dazzling ideas during such travels. But he will forget all of them when he gets down at his destination. Disturbing his contemplation, TTE knocked on his legs and asked for his ticket.
His chauffeur Easwar had dropped him at Aurangabad station after visiting a bustling attraction – Ajanta. He was so punctual since Saturday morning. He came at 8am sharp on Sunday morning, too, to take him to the promenade that day! The driving time to Ajanta was more than that of Ellora. Instead of any distractions, they went to Ajanta. The view point on the way to Ajanta was an important attraction, he did not visit.
If we look at the very old Indian paintings, we have no significant evidences. Paintings of Sigiriya of Sri Lanka, Kanchipuram of Chennai, Sittannavasal of Pudukkottai and Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur belong to 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th centuries AD. The paintings at Ajanta help as evidence of Indian painting from the 2nd century BC till the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
The discovery of Ajanta is an interesting tale. John Smith, Madras Presidency Officer, went out for a hunt in Ajanta hills. He might be an explorer like Jaggu. But Jaggu hates hunters, but that is not our topic of discussion today. John did not find a tiger. But he find a rock-cut-cave on a distance from a hilltop in the midst of the dense forest; there must have been the light of the Buddha – glowing on the banks of a Waghur river, flowing in a horse shoe shaped path – identified itself and asked him to bring to the attention of outer world. The art treasure was later nationalized and became a feast for our eyes and topic of research for our minds.
Jaggu reached Ajanta around 11:30. He needed to escape from the ‘compulsion selling’ of tourist shops from there. Easwar had warned about them earlier. He just kept quiet and passed through the shops. Still, there was one rogue who tried to pull him out to sell something.
By the time he entered Ajanta, he felt as if he had done a time travel and reached the 10th century. The view was breathtaking.
Caves have been carved here during the time of the Satavahanas (2 BC) and the Vakatakas (AD 6, 7). All are Buddhist monasteries. Their side-walls, canopies or wherever you touch them were filled with impeccable paintings. Buddhist Jataka stories were painted as well. Are you interested in Jataka stories and archeology? Mark my words, you will not be able to visit Ajanta in one day.
Despite the morals of Jataka tales, many granular details, such as costumes, musical instruments, and birds, continue to amuse researchers even today. Analysts are amazed at the continued tradition since the Ajanta painting period till the contemporary period.
The first two caves themselves will show the most important paintings to fill your mind with immense pleasure. That was a place of humble Buddhist monks. Those caves, sculptures and paintings are where their souls are frozen, though they are deceased already.
Bodhisattva is any human being who is on the way to enlightenment or path towards ‘Buddha’. Padmapani is a Bodhisattva with compassion. Jaggu was familiar with this painting through books.
Similarly, Vajrapani – holder of thunderbolt – is a God of protection.
Large symmetrical caves could be seen here, like a tall palm tree, dating back to the 2nd century BC. One of these caves, number ten, was what was discovered by John during the colonial period.
It is awe-inspiring to see the paintings of the caves of 2nd century BC. Yes. Really. Those paintings have the most perfect measurements for face, makeup, jewelry sets, despite being very old!! Who’d drawn this? What’s his/her name? Was he/she short or tall? That was the land where so many intellectuals lived at those times!!
In addition to the paintings, beautiful sculptures could also be found there. How decorative the arches were! How perfect the elegance of the sculptures were!
When someone dies, his/her unresolved karma passes on to a new birth instantaneously. However, when a person attains nirvana, they are free from rebirth. When such a person dies, it is the end of his/her rebirth. He attains the mahaparinirvana, the eternal divinity.
This cave 26 is the result of your search; the rise of your soul.
Was there no one to disturb the Buddha?! Mara was there. He was known to be a king, who had the contrasting view of life to that of Buddha. Buddha pulled the people towards eternity. Mara liked to pull them towards worldly pleasures. Mara was drawn in cave 1. He has been sculpted in cave 26.
For Jaggu, who hails from Tamil Nadu – the land of small-rock-cut temples carved out of granite rock – Elephanta, Ellora and Ajanta are like swargapuri (heaven). If someone can go with some preparation, like gathering a quick knowledge of Buddhism & Jainism, Indian paintings and Jataka tales these places will be wonderful.
The Mahan Buddha born on this earth, left his kingly life, abandoned Rahula, and Yosodara, to demonstrate us…. the compassion! Let’s be compassionate with each other! Om Mani Padme Hum!
End of travelogue – Jaggu’s search for cave temples.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z 2022 with theme Yātum ūrē!