Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cakes and caves

Our overnight bus journey to Aurangabad was far more comfortable than the previous one had been. This time we were in lovely reclining comfortable seats, and I was thus able to snatch brief minutes of sleep between the moments when the bus hit huge ruts in the road and launched me airborne. Being jolted awake with your arse 6 inches above the seat is not a particularly relaxing experience.

Still, we arrived in Aurangabad safe and sound. Spent that first day relaxing, and (during a moment of genius or insanity due to exhaustion, depending on opinion) came up with new names with which to introduce ourselves. From now on, I shall be known as Napoleon Tolstoy Salas, and Trev as Hercules Caesar Salas, my younger brother. Our father is a philosophy lecturer and our mother a not-doing-very-well writer, in case you're interested. The thought of introducing myself to fellow travellers under this assumed name amuses me greatly, as I'm sure you can guess.

The names were properly christened that very evening, when, again through genius or insanity, we purchased a kilogram of chocolate birthday cake from the restaurant in which we were having dinner (much to their astonishment) and requested that 'Happy Birthday Napoleon' be written on it. We then proceeded to eat said cake in one sitting. I was wished a happy birthday by most of the staff.

Don't worry, those of you who aren't fans of insanity, I have since slept well, and am aware that these actions could be construed as 'strange'.

On an unrelated note, the next day (duly rested) we went to the local Ellora caves. These are a series of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monasteries and temples intricately hand carved into the face of a cliff between AD600 and AD900. There are 35 caves, ranging from the bare to the ostentatious. The best Buddhist one has a ceiling carved to resemble wooden beams, as well as the obligatory massive statue of Buddha.

The best cave of the lot, though, is not really a cave. It's the Hindu temple of Kailasa. This is a huge temple carved out of the stone cliff. It is an awesome sight and I am amazed that I had never heard of it before. It is the second best thing I've seen in India, after the pretty much unbeatable Taj Mahal.

Kailasa is supposed to represent the mountain in the Himalayas on which Hindu god Shiva (or at least one of his aspects) is supposed to live, mythologically speaking. It is covered with carvings of Hindu mythological scenes, taken from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as from Vedic texts and other sources. The place is fantastic.

Tomorrow we go to the even-older Ajanta caves, a series of Buddhist caves with wall paintings from a few hundred years before the Ellora ones. It remains to be seen which set of caves will be the better of the two.


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