Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our Deccan expedition!

We are in Central India on a sight seeing tour of world heritage monuments of Ajanta and Ellora followed by a pilgrimage to Shirdi. As we visited the rock cut caves of Ellora and Ajanta, we were spellbound by the massive ancient architecture created using only instruments like hammer and chisel! While Buddist caves at Ajanta are carved out of a crescent shaped mountain ridge by the waghora river, with some of them dating back to 2nd century BC, the caves at Ellora are located mostly by the foothills, and belong to three different religious faiths : Buddist, Hindu and Jain that date from 5th to 11th century. While Ajanta caves are characterised by their beautiful paintings and tempra artwork, Ellora caves are best known for their intricate sculpture panels! Besides the architectural splendour, we were also amazed by the clean , well organised and pollution free set up at Ajanta caves that are comparable to the amenities at any tourist destination in the West! Okay... now for the most important part, how do you enthuse a seven year old to enjoy and appreciate something that may be a little beyond him? Well, you need to make an attempt with the aid of child appropriate content but don't expect a 100% success rate!:)

My attempt of course was through books and this one was indeed was an eye-opener for me as until now, I had no clue that the caves at Ellora are the legacy of the Rashtakutas, one the many dynasties that ruled over Karnataka. Amar Chitra katha's "Ellora caves" is as much a story of the glory of the Rashtrakutas as it is about an interesting tale around the carving of the Kailash temple caves at Ellora. Cut straight to the story of the making of one of the most important  Hindu caves of Ellora, the Kailash temple cave. On vacation at the hills of Ellora with his Queen, the Rashtrakuta king Krishna recalls that the erstwhile king Dantidurga had expressed a desire to build a temple of Lord Kailagnath in the Ellora hills. So the queen takes a vow that she will not touch a morsel of food until she sees the kalasha of the temple of Lord Kailasanath, much to the king's concern as temples cannot be built in days. King Krishna then summons the best sculptor in land named Kokkas, who promises to complete the temple in sixteen months with the help of 7000 craftsmen. When he learns of the queen's vow, he devises a plan. He identifies a single giant rock that will be carved out into a temple starting from the top with the kalasha and then working down therefrom. After fulfilling the vow of the queen, Kokkas sets his 7000 men to work to carve out what is now known as a must-not-miss Cave no. 16 called Kailas! Being an ardent fan of ACK comics, Abhay listened in rapt attention on the first night of our trip at Hotel Kailash, Ellora. Not sure how much of this he could relate to when we actually visited the caves, but he loved the story! Kids may not be able comprehend everything they see on trips like these, but you can't deny that even a little exposure to different experiences is  sure to make an impression on their young minds. We are aware that Abhay may not be able to take in everything he sees, but when he best remembers Ajanta caves for the sleeping Buddha sculpture, Ellora for the sculpture of Shiva's Rudraavatara and the friends he made at the hotel, best remembers our road travels for the giant effigy of Ravana and the Shirdi temple for the three-hours long wait that  was arduous even for adults, let alone kids -  we know that our Central India tour is completely not lost on our little one!

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