Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Picture a horse-shoe shaped valley thick with vegetation enclosed by a near-vertical rock face. One end of the horse-shoe is a seven-stepped waterfall that then leads to a stream running right through the valley. On the cliff are caves that have been engraved into the rock which served both as viharas - resting areas - as well as places of worship and ceremony. The caves still have intricate carvings inside and at their peak, over a millenium and a half ago, would also have contained spectacularly executed wall paintings, some of which have survived even to the present day despite being exposed to the elements. The setting seemed like the work of an overzealous art director working in a big-budget south indian movie, and yet there it was before my eyes. 

It made me think about what this valley would have looked like in its heyday. It made me contemplate the power of a school of thought that drove people to literally reshape mountains. It made me wonder about the level of scientific knowledge and sophistication that enabled people to plan and execute such architectural marvels that look set to last a few more millenia. 

I came away also with the appreciation of how well the monuments have been preserved too. Their designation as UNESCO heritage sites may have something to do with the level of preservation. Visiting the monument on a cloudy day with only a thin weekday crowd in attendance, and the previous week's rains having fed the streams and perked up the vegetation, may have heightened my experience but very few places compare with Ajanta. 

1 comment:

Uma Rajanna said...

Amazing pictures and description! Can't wait to see them!