Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Daulatabad Fort and the Ellora Caves

Today I accompanied a group of 14 Fulbrighters on a visit to this fort, about 20 kilometers from Aurangabad and on the way to the world famous Ellora caves. It was a moving, at times breathtaking, experience. The fort was built in the 12th century AD, a good 100 years before the Chandragiri fort near Tirupati that I visited in January and told you about in my blog of January 20.

At the fort, there were plenty of black-faced monkeys to keep us amused. There also is a 14th century minaret--the second highest minaret in India.

The Ellora caves are spectacular. Like the Ajanta caves that we visited yesterday, the Ellora caves were carved out of the mountainside during the 7th to 9th centuries, by the monks, using nothing but chisels and hammers. There are some 34 caves in all. Some were worked by communities of worshipping Buddhists, others by Hindu monks, and the most impressive by Jains.

The resulting sculptures and structures leave one awestruck by the technical, architectural, and artistic skills that the generations of monks must have had. The most impressive temple is a Jain temple, carved from the top of the mountain down and from the front of the mountainside in. Most of the Ellora Cave pictures above were taken at this site.

One of the Fulbrighters with us, Aparna Keshaviah, is an Indian Dance specialist (she also has a Masters in Biostatistics from Harvard). She wanted pictures taken of herself posing against the background of the ancient monuments. I think you'll agree that the form of her body appears perfectly in place amongst the timeless beauty of the architecture.

Another Fulbrighter, Roopa Mahadevan, is studying, and specializing in, improvisational aspects of Carnatic music. In one of the caves, where the resonance of the chamber was particularly full and reverberating, she sat in the center and we gathered around while she sang a soulful rendition of an ethereal song.

That's Roopa in the red-orange top and blue jeans in the pictures above, standing next to the moat that runs along the cliff face at the fort.

I'll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves.

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