05 April 2009

Maharashtra Yatra - 1

In 2003 I had gone on a trip across Maharashtra. Here is the mail I had written describing the journey:

Yesterday morning I returned from a 5000+ km tour of Bombay, Ajanta, Ellora and Nagpur. The excuse was a friend's wedding in Nagpur (on 10th January). He was my classmate at IIT Delhi.

I left on 4th night by the Udyan Express, which takes 24 hours to reach Bombay. I enjoyed my first train journey since I came home in November 2001. The best part is after Khandala and Lonavala. The ghats are beautiful, and there are several tunnels as well. I got off at Dadar. Kaddi arrived there to pick me up. We went by train to his company flat in Andheri, which he shares with a colleague. We spent the night chatting. It was 2:30 am when we slept. He made a few calls to his friends to get the information I needed to see Bombay and go to Aurangabad.

6th January

I woke up as early as I could and left for the Gateway of India, from where I could get a boat to take me to Elephanta Island. I took a local train to Churchgate, the last stop on the Western Line. From there a cab to the Gateway. A slight delay there: the cops held me up to let Vajpayee and Anerood Jugnauth pass through first. I got off and learned to my great disappointment that Elephanta was closed on Mondays. So I took a Bombay tour instead. It was 11 am by the time bus left. The 140 km tour covered some 7-8 places. Most of them were useless, like World Trade Centre, Nehru Science Centre, Hanging Gardens and Kamala Gardens. But Aarey film city, Mahalakshmi temple, Juhu beach and ISKCON temple were better. Taraporewala Aquarium and Prince of Wales Museum are also closed on Mondays. Moral of the story: don't visit Bombay on a Monday. The bus dropped me at Dadar at 8 pm. I had dinner and boarded a bus to Aurangabad, to see Ajanta and Ellora.

7th January

Reached Aurangabad at 7 am. Very few autos were available – there was an auto strike going on. Took one to a hotel. Learnt that there had been some violence the previous day: auto drivers had pelted buses with stones. So all tours had been cancelled for that day :-( I had just 2 days to see Ajanta-Ellora. And Ellora was closed on Tuesdays (Ajanta is closed on Mondays). So I paid through my nose for a cab to take me to Ajanta, 105 km away. I left at 9 am and reached there about 2 hours later. Vehicles are not allowed near the caves. You have to park about 4 km away and board a CNG bus from there. This is to protect the cave paintings from pollution.

There are about 30 caves, all of them Buddhist, carved over a period of some 500 years, starting from the 2nd century BC. They line the outer bend of a U-shaped gorge, carved out of the rock by a river. The caves consist of both Chaityas (shrines) and Viharas (monasteries). Some of the caves have paintings, which are the main attraction of Ajanta. Most of the pictures have been ravaged over the centuries by heat, cold, dust, etc. Some have been ruined our own hands: one cave's paintings have been replaced by Hindi and Marathi grafitti. Restoration work is going on to save the few that remain. Well, it's never too late... It takes 2-3 hours to see the place. Take a flashlight with you if you are going: it'll help you see the details of the paintings in the dim caves. I then climbed to the 'View-Point', the spot from where the caves were discovered by 2 Englishmen in the 19th century. It's worth the climb!

Back to Aurangabad in the evening. I was relieved to find out that tours were on the next day. I booked a tour to Ellora and also my ticket back to Bombay.

8th January

The Ellora tour started at 9:30 am. The ITDC bus was only half-full. 50% were foreign tourists. Our first stop was Daulatabad (Devagiri) Fort. It turned out to be more interesting than I expected. It has quite a history, being associated with the Yadavas, Mohammad bin Tughlaq and Allaudin Khalji. It's an impregnable fort, with hajaar booby traps and mazes. Then we left for Ellora.

1 comment:

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