Every year we celebrate Diwali with much excitement and fervour. We decorate our home with flowers, lights and little Deepaks (earthen lamps).
I have always wondered on the relationship between Dussehra (when Lord Rama killed Ravana) and Diwali(when he returned home to Ayodhya 3 weeks later).
I am fascinated that in the present day, while Dussehra and the preceding Navratra/Durga Puja are focused on celebrations out of one's home; Diwali is firmly entrenched as celebrating in and for one's immediate abode. To me it's a beautiful feeling of celebrating with the whole, that constitutes and culminates with celebrating for oneself.
After all many ones make the whole! One needs to be happy and prosperous for the whole to be such!
Fire and Ice!
When opposites come together, it's always a spectacle! Isn't it?
Now looking at this picture I took at Kuta beach Bali a few years ago, I am desperately in need of another beach vacation!
Soonish. I have to plan the spectacle with my opposite number..
Cave number 10 at Ellora was a grand culmination to one of the most enchanting trips we had had in some time. Ajanta and Ellora were like a trip down the collective memory lane of ancient Indian history, culture, art and architecture.
This cave is a chaitya (temple) hall, with a 15ft seated Buddha in sermon/lecture pose. There are pillars on both sides, behind which are seating areas and rooms for monks. There is even a 2nd tier on the sides for observers. Think of today's Parliaments. The roof has been designed to mimic wood work.
The hall faces west, and the interiors gleam in golden sunlight as the evening approaches.
Another notable attribute to this cave is the amazing acoustics. After all it was a temple/prayer hall. Look at the 2nd one(video). Isn't this chanting just full of bliss?
Buddham Sharanam Gachchhaami
Dhammam Sharanam Gachchaami
Sangham Sharanam Gachchhaami
As she stood by the entrance of the shrine,
That lay somewhere within the maze
I had an epiphany
Had I travelled this far
To look at a stone, that had been carved out of a rock?
The stone that had no personality earlier,
And now was supposed to look after me, bless me, fulfil my desires?
Had I travelled this far
To look at the carving of a man and a woman making love unabashedly?
Had I travelled this far
Only to click every nook and corner
And claim I had seen it all, understood all, mastered all?
And then she looked at me, smiled, and said,
"Come here inside the dark shrine
It's so cool in here
Touch the deity
It feels personal, it's powerful, it makes me feel part of the whole"
And my eyes lit up
In that dark cocoon
That hid the absolute truth in plain sight or lack thereof.
The universe is one entity, one life, one soul.
That stone brings me closer to god,
The god that is within me.
That carving depicts all that is beautiful about this world, about me.
She was there, holding hands with me. I was her and she was me.
I could look through the deity. I was the deity and she was me.
I could look at the world inside and outside. I was the world and it was me.
There was no duality. I saw my arrogance melting away.
[Ellora Caves #1 ] long post alert!😋
Do you see anything within those rocks at the back? Look closely. Are you stunned at the camouflage of this magnificent structure? I was.
Look at the 2nd picture. You can probably make the outline of a temple housed within the rocky hill with its rounded top (Shikhara).
A local legend goes that circa 6th Century AD, the local king was severely ill. His queen prayed at the nearby Grishneshwara Shiva shrine, that if the king gets well, she would get a magnificent Temple built for Shiva. She commited to fast until the top of the temple got constructed (meaning the entire structure).
No architect would agree to build this temple for the queen was certain to have died of starvation by the time the temple would get completed.
However, one architect named Kokasha agreed to build the Shikhara within a week. Amazed as the king was, he granted the work to Kokasha.
Kokasha chose the site of the Cretaceous period volcanic Basalt rock formation which was almost vertical at Elapura (now Ellora). He started carving the hill from the top starting with the Shikhara and styled it in the image of Shiva's abode Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. He completed that within the week, keeping his end of the bargain.
The Kailasa temple at Ellora is the world's largest monolithic rock cut structure. Over 200,000 thousand tonnes of rock was carved out to build this multi-story masterpiece.
And this is merely Cave number 15 at Ellora, which sprawls over 100 caves, 32 of which are open for public viewing!
The caves were built by the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Pallava and other royal dynasties over 300 years. These comprise Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves clearly depicting the communal harmony and coexistence amongst India's ancient faiths.
Sadly a lot of outer sculptures were defaced, broken, cut down by invaders in the 12-13th centuries. But what stands is poetry gliding on top of tonnes of deep rooted prose.
Magnificent is an understatement!
Do you want to know more about Ellora caves? I will be posting a few more times over the next few days.
I feel great joy participating in Indian Festivals. Dussehra is one such great festival depicting the victory of Dharma (Truth, Duty, Righteousness & Justice) over Adharma (opposite of Dharma). Rama represents Dharma while Adharma finds shelter with the 10-headed Ravana.
Among the many theories regarding why Ravana had 10 heads, I especially like this one:
Once after Ravana was defeated by the great king Bali, he was advised to focus on his great intellect and rein in the other emotions. Ravana, proud as he was, dismissed Bali and said he felt like a complete man with all his emotions and would wear them up his sleeve, quite literally.
His 10 heads represent the 10 base emotions/negative forms of love:
1. Kaama (Lust)
2. Krodha (Anger)
3. Lobha (Greed)
4. Moha (Delusion, Attachment)
5. Mada (Pride)
6. Irshya (Envy)
7. Ghrina (Hatred)
8. Bhaya (Fear)
9. Jaddata (Insensitivity)
10. Ahamkara (Ego)
Metaphorically Dussehra represents cleansing one's mind from these forms of Maya that trap our being.
But we are only human..
India is a great place to be during festivals. There is such great joy in our festivals, and these are so layered. Simple for some, and with deep meanings for others who care.. It's truly incredible!
Travelling is a lot like looking out the window into light and knowledge, from inside a dark room.
You soak it in getting excited about what you see. And then you get intrigued at what lies inside that other dark room further away.. The world is surely not enough..
Do you also feel this way? 📷: @10straws
Tales from Ajanta #3 : 'Bodhisattva Padmapani'
This is probably the most famous of Ajanta Paintings. A perfectly outlined Padmapani (literally the one holding a lotus flower), with downcast eyes that lend an aura of sensuality along with the perfectly postured lips.
Padmapani is wearing a single pearl necklace with progressively smaller pearls from the centre as they go around his delicate neck. (these actually glitter when you look at them inside the cave).
There is opulence in this painting. Padmapani is surrounded by courtiers (look at the second image). Yet he seems to be in a state of meditation, with compassionate eyes.
It's a perfect blend of materialism and divinity; thus lending it an immaculate attraction and charm.
On the right side of the same wall is another Bodhisattva painted- Vajrapani (literally holding a divine weapon in the form of lightning; picture not included here). Both these paintings together create the perfect balance and harmony in the universe.
PS: The caves are dark with minimal lighting allowed. Camera Flashes and video recording are prohibited.
Archaeological Survey of India and UNESCO are doing a great job in preserving this immaculate legacy of humankind. In the 3rd picture you can see a conservator working in a room behind the wall on which Padmapani seduces onlookers.
Image 4 is not mine. It's a digital print I gathered from Pinterest. I have included it to highlight how the image would have looked with lesser damage through seepage and better lighting.
Tales from Ajanta #2
It's the 2nd Century BC. A few wandering Buddhist monks are looking for a safe haven during monsoon rains. Walking by a river in the jungle, they stumble upon an exquisite bend in the river. As the river takes a sharp U-turn, they are stunned by the magnificent horse-shoe shaped rocks jutting high above.
They decide to live there. Not above or below, but within those rocks. They summon their greatest sculptors and artists, and thus starts the genesis of one of the greatest human made structures ever.
But they were not happy with just cutting and polishing the rocks from inside in perfect shapes, carving rooms (Viharas) and temples (Chaityas). They go a step ahead and paint every nook and corner. These paintings are a triumph of human creativity and still some of the best works done ever.
This is how the caves look from outside. I do not have the full horse-shoe shaped view, but you get the idea.
Will delve inside in coming posts.
The Superhuman looks at you
His eyes benevolent
Lips betraying the bemuse
As he listens to your prayers
You ask for the world- Wealth, Power, Virility
His eyes slowly lift up, gleam
And he blesses you
He blesses you, so you could be a better human.
As he wishes some of his compassion, energy, stability and passion rub off on you..
I was at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ajanta & Ellora last week. And it was a once in a lifetime of experience. I came back mightily impressed and energised by the superhuman effort that went into creating these masterpieces.
I will be talking about Ajanta and Ellora in the coming days here.
Do you have any questions around these places? Shoot them my way now..
There's a whole world out there
A world that's on the move
A world that's distant from where you look
It wants you to come closer
But doesn't care if you don't take the first step
It reveals itself layer by layer
as you draw nearer
But only if you move forward with open arms
And when you do
It embraces you, pats you on the back, and says,
"Welcome to the World. Time you move ahead too.."
One that was god yesterday,
Is today but a moulding of earth, awaiting its dissolution into the elements it came from.
The soul stays with you, the body a mere medium.
There's nothing permanent, nothing you can't let go of..
In the pic: A washed ashore idol of Lord Ganesha, that was immersed in the ocean after the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in Mumbai, India.
Light tells many a tale..
Tales of workers who toiled
For the day that lay next..
And tales of masters who patiently witnessed their passion coming to life..
As well as tales of travellers galore, who stopped by, took a good look, nodded in agreement and moved on..
To tell their own tales..
Some of you asked where I was headed to, looking at my post from yesterday.
This was January, and I was returning to the boring plains having witnessed ethereal beauty (at Auli, Uttarakhand, India).
My photography skills are nothing to write home about, and I do not do even an iota of justice to how being in and around thick sheets of snow looks and feels like.
It snows pretty much through December and January at these reaches. Heavy, snow-laden clouds refuse to grant you audience to sparkling mountains that lay beyond. But when they do, you are spellbound. It's inked forever.
It's like you have broken into a higher plane, where heavens are busy with pompous displays for flirtatious earth below. Suddenly she meets them midway and whispers, "Shall we dance"?
Right then, clouds roar in approval and lighting glistens with joy.. You're totally in, hands braking free of gloves, heart racing through your favourite song..
Road to the high Mountain:
Mountains give me a dallop of courage, a fistful of excitement and tons of hope.
The air is crisp; Vibes chilled.
And there's that snaking road, that looks like it'll take you far. May be it will. May be it won't.
But when did the road put a cap on my vision?
I'll go. Faster, Higher, Stronger.
In the pic: The world's 23rd highest peak of Nanda Devi (7816 m) can be seen from the quaint little town of Gobind Ghat in Uttarakhand India.