A Trip to the Kumbhalgarh Fort

02.25.2013

The road to Kumbhalgarh already gave me that big impression that I see India as I expected it to be. Local women in sheer, flowing, colorful sarees, balancing pots, twigs, and cow feeds on their heads. Local men donning big turbans, cows and camels wandering slowly just everywhere in our sight.

Kumbhalgarh fort is not just another fort we visit in India. It is the second largest wall next to the Great Wall of China. It is a fantastic, remote, fulfilling romantic expectations and vividly summoning up the chivalrous, war-like Rajput era. The fort’s walls are too long that it will take days to walk around it.

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The Magnificent Ajanta Caves

We stayed a day in Aurangabad to visit the Ellora Caves and now, in Jalgaon – so we can also see the beautiful historical paintings in the Ajanta Caves. Jalgaon is a dusty and loud city but is really well connected to both the caves. But we just chose to stay the night in Jalgaon, just so we can catch a train to Udaipur the next day.

We arrived to Jalgaon late at night and struggled to find a place to sleep. Amazingly, we didn’t find any touts offering us accommodations – we could’ve used one. With our ever-dependable Lonely Planet, we finally found a place to stay the night – at the Hotel Plaza (possibly the cleanest budget accommodation ever in all of India, a clean freak’s dream!)

The journey started early in the morning. We took the bus to Ajanta which is about 56m away from Jalgaon. It was a very pleasant way, the bus was almost empty, at least at the beginning, so we could observe the beautiful sights above the surrounding hills. The bus don’t reach Ajanta, it leaves you around 4 km away from it, in a crazy place called T-junction. Why is it crazy? Well, to get to the bus which takes you to the caves, you need to pass through a kind of souvenir market, specially created for western tourists. What’s really funny about it is that you need to pay a entrance fee of 5 Rupees, just to pass through, which can be a difficult task if you’re not good enough in saying “no”, the vendors are really skilled.

I really can’t find suitable words to describe how amazing the Ajanta caves are. First of all, it is situated in a magnificent place, a kind of canyon looking river valley, so the landscape is just breathtaking. The caves themselves are all Buddhist caves and they’re much more ornate than those in Ellora.

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Cave 1 – Spectacular illustration of Ajanta

The first cave of Ajanta is situated on the first end of the horse shoe shape. It is one of the latest caves to have been excavated, also one of the best caves, but never worshiped by the dedication of the Buddha image in the central shrine. This cave has one of the most imposing carved facades, with luscious sculptures and ridges. Most of the surfaces are ornamented with decorative carvings.

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Many princesses have also been carved on the walls of this first cave. They are heavily sprinkled over with a delicate tiara on their hair. Some of the are groups’ scenes which are intricately painted in such a manner that shows the  dancing with the musicians.

Animals of that time are also painted very well, like the golden geese, pink elephant, and bullfights. It suggests that all living things are one.

So, the incarnating images in this cave are skillfully designed and they are the prettiest pictures.  They reiterate the happiness. Lots of travelers are attracted to this cave.

Cave 2 – Known for its majestic ceiling paintings.

My favorite cave.

This second cave is another adorable excavation, famous for its paintings, walls, ceilings and pillars. The skill with which painters lay down on shafts for long years, to paint these pictures is greatly admired.

3Aj 4AjThe noteworthy feature of cave 2 is the heavy limbed, but swaying Avalokitesvara, with a flywhisk, who flanks the Buddha image.

Thousands of Buddha’s paintings are painted on the walls in a very creative manner. The rhythmic movement of the princess starting of the movement of the swing is on the wall of the right hand corridor. The innocent faces and the bursting youth of the girl, shows the change. Physical vitality leads ultimately to illumination.

6Aj 7Aj 8AjSo, this cave is heavily painted by the painters of that time and has been widely published. They depict the stories of Buddha’s life in enumerable ways. These paintings are didactic in nature, meant to inform the community about the Buddha’s teachings and life through successive rebirths. Most of the crowd moves toward it to get the experience of a real heritage site.

Cave 3 – Incomplete cave. The third cave of Ajanta is an incomplete cave that resembles a monastery.

Cave 4 – The largest monastery of Ajanta.

This cave is the largest monastery having a pillared veranda, sanctum sanctorum and a grand hall. It was once painted, even the traces of that can be noticed. Ceiling of the hall provides an illustrative impression of a lava flow.

12Aj 11Aj 13AjCave 5, 6, 7 & 8

Cave 5 is like the Cave 3, the excavation doesn’t go beyond it. This cave is also an unfinished one. Porch, doorway and female paintings on Makaras are exceptionally good ones.

15Aj 14Ajj 16Aj 17Aj19Aj 20Aj 21Aj  23Aj 24Aj 25Aj 26AjCave 6 conjures everyone towards it. Buddha is seated with his feet squat in its preaching attitude. Saravasti and temptation of Mara are some of the important paintings.

Cave 7’s carving of sculptures of Buddha is very simple.

Cave 8 once again an unfinished monastery similar to cave 3 and 5. It is the oldest of the monasteries of Ajanta.

Cave 9 consists of an entrance door, two side windows, central hall, and a stupa of worship. It has sculptures of Buddha and layers of paintings. These paintings are basically of Animals and herdsmen, giant horseshoe window, Naga worshipers, etc.

27AjCave 10 is similar to Cave 9. It is also another hall.

Cave 11 contains six cells and a long bench, a pillared verandah and a sanctum sanctorum. Little Buddha is carved on one of the walls. Paintings available in the cave are depictions of Bodhisattvas, figure of Buddha, etc. These paintings of Buddha are one of the earliest paintings at Ajanta.

Cave 12 is a monastery dated back to 2nd-1st century B.C. but later that Cave 10.

22AjCave 13 is a small monastery having an astylar hall with seven cells on three sides. These cells are provided with rock-cut beds.

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The Golden City of Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is beautiful, golden city that changed my impression about India. Here, locals are literally living inside the fort where the Maharaja palace is situated. It is dusty, and same as everywhere in India, cows are slowly wandering on the streets, or sometimes too lazy to move.

First day in Jaisalmer, we met Deepak, a coffee shop owner slash Couchsurfer. His cafe is located on the west wall of the fort – has the best sunset view in the whole of Jaisalmer (except the desert). A very honest guy giving out tips on how to get the best camel safari tour operators, guest houses, and everything else you need to know about the city. He makes really good cold coffee too.

Find KUKU Coffee Shop in Jaisalmer!