Few in this world today have the luxury of owning absolute time. Time that is free of schedules, time that is free of mundane needs, time that is free of responsibility and time that is not entangled in relationships.
And then if you have someone generously enabling you to spend that time any which way you want, consider yourself blessed royalty, that is, if you don’t give in to conceit and consider it your good karma.
So with time and money taken care of all I needed was to pool in my latent energies, dig up my buried enthusiasm and set out to tick off the only item on my bucket list – Travel.
Thus begins this discovery of places, not some unexplored, exotic destinations, but places that everyone has been talking about forever – yeah, kind of like watching ‘Godfather’ forty-five-and-half years after everyone’s watched it – to show my gratitude to time that gives and preserves. Loosely, I would call it a heritage trail but along the way if I find something meaningful, I’ll tag it under “Purpose found.”
There’s also this sudden sense of urgency to visit these places – places that clock history, places that stand testimony to time, places that I could easily have belonged to. The urgency stems from an innate sense of distrust of the age and era that I am living in where human fickleness is enough to wipe out my inheritance as a human being.
So, stretching the theme of unbounded time, I set out to gallivant across India first, landing in whichever part that works out best, but sticking to the intent of touching every state, with no purpose other than to feel and experience. The jottings are to be nothing in depth, just the first thoughts, a whispering journal, if you will.
So here I go….
Ajanta & Ellora Caves (Maharashtra – India)
In understanding German philosopher Immanuel Kant even peripherally, one can concur with his theory that a thing of beauty has no purpose other than being beautiful. Beauty, I paraphrase Kant, is the form of finality in an object, when perceived separately from the representation of an end.
So it didn’t matter to me that the beautiful sculptures in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora nestled in the western mountain ranges of Maharashtra represented the revival of Buddhism or Hinduism or Jainism, but simply that they came from a rather fertile part of human creativity called aesthetics. From the gigantic to the intricate, the caves and the carvings are simply fluidity in rock.
The scale and scope of human imagination, the pure mathematics of structural design and architecture, and sheer strength of human endeavor that one witnesses in these caves is mindboggling. From a time perspective, some of the Ajanta Caves range in antiquity between second century BC to second century AD and others are from fifth and sixth centuries. And of the Ellora Caves, the Buddhist caves date back to 500-700 AD, the magnificent Kailash temple (of the Hindu excavations) to 760 AD, and the caves with the Jain sculptures date back to the ninth and eleventh centuries.
Besides being wonder struck at the physical strength of the men (and women?) who carved such beautifully lyrical sculptures out of hard rock mountains, what made me wonder was the survival over the centuries, and consistency in narration of the great epics and puranas, be it the Ramayana or Mahabharata or stories surrounding the innumerable gods and goddesses of the Hindu scriptures or the Buddhist lore, all of which are depicted on the walls and ceilings of these caves.
A critique, if at all, would be of the Indian authorities who, at some recent point, found the worth and usefulness of preserving these treasures.
As for my take away from Aurangabad, the point of stay to reach the caves (a town Kant would otherwise have found no inspiration from): Families first, super helpful friends of friends, hurda party (please google it), and a dozen rich versions of the humble paan from Tara Paan Center.
The images here don’t do justice to the feelings they evoke when you see them in the caves.
Until my next discovery in time…