Ellora Caves and around Aurangabad

After a day’s washing, sleeping, getting cash and finding our way around the city we headed out for a day in Dalautabad. Catching the bus was a bit of a nightmare. Feeling a little ropey from food the night before, we managed to squeeze through the massive pushing match, screams and kids being crushed so people can get on the bus, finally on I find a bag halfway on the seat and so put it in the baggage area above and sit down. A guy then comes up immediately shouting and pointing at us, to which the bus start debating the merits of the situation. Turns out that Indian people throw their bags onto a bus as it is pulling into a depot to “claim” their seat. Obviously we didn’t know this, but as a religious (Muslim) person didn’t expect to be shouted at without some reasoning first- so much for religious people’s tolerance. Things didn’t improve when the bus driver took our money and failed to give us a ticket. I asked him if we can have one, “No…. Senior Citizen” he says, well strange then that everyone is getting on. We insist and by the time we get a ticket out of the conductor he kicks us off as we have missed Dalautabad. Landing in a nowhere place in the baking sun isn’t great. The nearest sign tells us we were off by 10km. Laura this time is fuming instead of I. The Ellora caves are only 4km away so although we try to avoid them as much as possible took on to regain a sense of momentum to our day.

Ellora was a treat that made up for the journey there. Built in 700- 900 AD these cave temples are in such good condition due to the hard stone hill they are excavated from (200,000 tons of rock removed to build them). There were 3 sets of caves representing the Buddist, Hindu and Jain faiths, in a period of religious tolerance (clearly we are digressing in this respect!), the largest temple called the Kailesa temple was massive and the oldest temple still in use today.

The best in my opinion was the Buddhist “Music Hall”, where the incredible acoustics were demonstrated by a standby guide. The massively echoed chants he produced in this chamber that is reminiscent of church roofs (curved to amplify sound) was truly mesmerising, which clearly was designed to put followers into a trance- it worked on us.

The next day we relax as we decide to have one day of sightseeing and one day not. So today was relaxing and catching up with washing and other chores that are necessary when travelling. Also writing this blog takes a fair amount of time, especially considering the slow connections and need to upload a lot of photos. Ensuring you find and stick to a trustworthy Internet cafe is a must!

Next day was all about heading to another of the areas key sights. Daulatabad was a fortress thought to be impenetrable due to its immense strategic position of being on the top of a lone hill. It was captured a few times however throughout its 500 year odd history. It was even the capital of India in the middle ages as Aurangabad is in the middle of the country. The place was a military enthusiasts dream and the various layers of walls, murder holes and moats are truly impressive. However just check out the video below to see for yourself!

The following day we again hung around the dusty, sweaty and smelly delights of Aurangabad and I finally get in touch with a business contact I have made and meet up over lunch just after moving to a hotel (the hostel closed due to refurbishment work) and we found the best value for money place to eat yet; good quality and yet not expensive. The Thali I learnt means plate in Hindi and why the dish is named as such. Faiz is a gregarious man who quickly starts creating a daily timetable for us to see everything that Aurangabad has to offer. As we were not really into the planning style this is over facing, but it is good to know what a local thinks of the various sites.

After a bite to Faiz invites us to some of the sites around town, so we head off in his decrepit car and are shown around the university as well as the university history museum. I ask whether he thinks that keeping 700 AD stone sculptures outside was ok, but he seemed to think it wasn’t a problem- I am not so sure considering they were kept in a cave for millennia previously. Either way seeing the medieval weaponry and artifacts was fairly interesting.

Next however we headed out of town into the hills where we are told that the Buddhists when they arrived came to produce the temples, but the rock was not good enough quality (too soft we concur) and so they moved their efforts to Ellora. We do not go in, but have a quick picture moment of the cityscape below and caves from a distance, enough due to seeing Ellora a few days previously. It is absolutely baking at this point and even the wind feels like it from a furnace. The landscape is baron, arid, dusty and dead, but even then a lone guy in the middle of nowhere is pushing a wheelbarrow somewhere!

The last step with Faiz via a lime soda (the best for rehydration, which Laura needs at this point, looking very hot and red) is Bibi Ka Maqbara aka the “poor man’s Taj Mahal”. This is a sand and limestone version of the Taj built by the grandson of Shah Jahan (the person who built the real Taj Mahal), after Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s son killed his father and marched everyone to Aurangabad (what a family!) The detail is not amazing due to erosion, but a good effort to say the least. The only trouble we experienced was mock-celeb status that we have been getting to an extent, but nothing like this. Girls following me and guys staring Laura up and down, pictures taken of us without permission and the one sit down before we look around we are circled, I have a baby placed on my knee and at least 8 cameras snapping away. Laura isn’t feeling great but they don’t care, as long as they have “one for the album”, for what meaning exactly I am still not sure.

Now the heat has completely drained us we head back to sleep. This is where Laura’s trouble starts. I suspect sickness is the result of a combination of overheating, sun exposure, eating and then being driven across the bumpiest roads ever. Lucky the next day was a rest day as Laura slept all day, unable to eat or even leave the room.

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