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India, 2008 – Day Thirteen

On the thirteenth day in India, we visited the Ajanta Caves.  Unlike the Ellora caves, these are strictly Buddhist, without the Hindu and Jain caves.  What makes Ajanta stand out, is not so much the caves themselves, but instead it is the paintings.

Nowhere else in the world are there Buddhist Frescos.  And the Japanese have recognized this to the point that they have funded a new airport in Aurungabad combined with a new highway from the airport to the Ajanta caves.  Furthermore, they are funding much of the restoration work on the paintings themselves.

You might say that we were the lucky benefactors of the political unrest in Mumbai.  The riots were so bad that most people stayed home and we had a relatively peaceful experience at the caves with light crowds.  In some ways, I wish that more time had passed between Ellora and our visit here to Ajanta, as I felt much more like a tourist and less like a pilgrim here.

It was akin to the difference between visiting a church and a museum.  In one you are a spectator, whilst in the other you are a participant, however minor.  Some of the paintings were truly exquisite, but I feel more of a connection to the stone somehow.  And never fear, there are plenty of amazing sculptures here.  They have a Buddha lying down (portraying death) that is beautifully lit (piped in through fiber optics according to the guide).  As all of the artwork here depicts the life story of the Buddha (according to the guide) this is the story of the end of his life.  Interestingly though, this is from the branch of Buddhism that is more aligned with Hinduism, where the Buddha has been recognized as a Hindu god.

This was something that the Buddha always denied, but several hundred years after your death, it is hard to argue a point.  At any rate, the dedication and devotion to a simple man is immense.  His presence must have been quite a thing to behold, as he has influenced so many.

Quickly though, we were ushering our way onto a bus to the parking lot and then rushing, I mean RUSHING, in our taxi to catch our bus on to Pune and the modern world.  I had figured that once we got to the bus the rush would be over, but…

The driver soon belied that, as we wove in and out of traffic, even venturing into oncoming traffic for a few miles (on the freeway) to pass people.  In a BUS!!!  He was good at his job though and before 10:00 PM we were safely in Pune sitting down to dinner with Shreyas and Pooja (his wife).  Within about 15 minutes of our arrival, Pooja and Sridevi were fast friends!

Posted in Business, India, Photos.

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