The weather is misty; the clouds bounce on the roads; the hillocks that otherwise look barren turn lusciously green like an untouched countryside. This is Maharashtra in monsoons, nature’s delight. It is a sin not to explore the ghats and the spontaneous little water falls that spring out of nowhere in this season.
During one such trip to a busy, bustling with tourists, Lonavala, we explored a dusty gem. There were no hopes of finding one though. The place is done to death by tourists and the commercialization is disturbingly rampant. But this piece of history was so luminous that we couldn’t take our eyes off it. Amidst the rain spells and the clouds revealing the mighty green hills, there was a high, distant set of windows cut and carved in stone. Windows to heaven, we thought. Someone told us, they were caves. Karla caves, the amalgamation of Buddhist and Hindu philosophies. As we climbed a steep set of stairs, cursing under our breath, the intensely intricate main entrance of the cave made up for all the upheaval in the body. Untouched, splendid in all its original glory, a horseshoe shaped arc and a huge Ashoka pillar stood there as our eyes tried to measure the length and breadth of this marvel. Thankfully, Archeological Survey of India had taken this monument under its wings at the right time so it was best possibly preserved.
As we moved a few steps, a 14 meter high and 37 meter deep cave or prayer hall, as the security at the entrance pointed out, waited for us in all its magnanimity. The carvings at the entrance reached till the top with figures of curvaceous women and meaty men alongside huge elephants. What life these people would have known and lived, with such great artistry in their hands, a skill to dig and cut the whole mountain side and carve it with such intricacy? No modern tools, just a chisel and a hammer.
The design must have been flawless as the structure has endured the wrath of weather for almost 2000 years. The whole chaitya was lined with giant pillars, engraved and carved on the top with figures of men and women riding on elephants and horses, on both sides that led to a huge dome. A big sun window made sure that there was enough light that filled such deep cave with brightness. I was left wondering what wonderful view it would be when the first rays of sun would hit the cave and light the entire pathway slowly but serenely taking away all the shadowy grimness. There were darker aisles on both sides just behind the pillars with no explanation to why they existed. Some kind of architectural significance?
There is a strange relationship between art and religion in India. Some of the finest works in the history are found at the religious places. The women, somehow, in all these works, are always dressed in just a tiny piece of cloth, large enough to make two bikinis. That’s how the women must have lived in those times or why else they would be portrayed so scantily clad, that too at the places of worship. Then how, in this era, Indian culture is equated with women being covered from head to toe? A knee-length skirt raises a storm bigger than hurricane Katrina. The transition raises curiosity, isn’t it! If only one of those sculptures could speak. If only I could time travel. If only I could just stand near one of the pillars and see their day to day activities.
Sadly, nothing that I imagined happened. The sculptures stood there as they were, the elephants didn’t raise their trunks, the chanting didn’t fill my ears. But I returned back with the images which still remind me of a world, so different from the one we live in. Here are some shots that enthrall me every time I see them.
This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program where the aim is to post at least once a day based on the prompts that they have provided. Today’s prompt is, “If you could pause real life and spend some time living with a family anywhere in the world, where would you go? ”]
I am one of the guest authors at We Post Daily for the month of September.