Ajanta caves. Ancient! Dating from the 2nd century BCE, the massive Ajanta site includes Buddhist temples, monasteries and worship halls–all carved out of the solid rock hillside. It was once forgotten. But, covered in jungle, the caves were rediscovered in 1819 by a British tiger hunter.
The carvings and paintings at Ajanta influence the colours and forms of modern India art. Especially the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai which intentionally looked to Ajanta for inspiration. We saw some JJ school examples back in Mumbai at the restored Victoria and Albert Museum (now, the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum).
A Mini Taj
The Mughals were strategic, brutal fighters who amassed wealth through conquest. In turn they built massive forts, palaces and gardens across India. We visited a Mini Taj, constructed by the grandson of the Muhgal Taj Mahal builder. In memory of his mother (and, I like to think, no less heartfelt despite its size), it’s a popular place for local families and young people to visit.
Beautiful beaches on the Arabian Sea. Goa is a global destination resort. Beaches. Cheap alcohol. Palm trees. Sunsets.
Goa, India’s smallest and richest state has the highest standard of living in the country. Governed by the Portuguese from the 16th century until 1961, India took military action to persuade them to leave. It took until 1987 to complete the paperwork, but Goa finally became an independent Indian state
(This is likely the last itinerary-based post I’ll make. Linearity doesn’t quite work here.)
With driver and guide we explored a 14th century hill fort (Daulatabad Fort) and the Ellora caves.
The fort was started at another location. But the builders decided it was not to their liking so abandoned it. The original partly-built construction was repurposed in antiquity as a shrine.
It’s said the fort was never conquered. Does that mean it was supremely constructed for its purpose or that it was never tested in an attack? I do not know.
Invaders would have encountered dark mazes and misleading passageways, defenders poised in cul de sacs to attack. Once dispatched, to keep the passage clear, built-in chutes made it easy to drop their dead bodies into the moat.
Luckily, in the 21st century we only met friendly selfie requests.
Once we’d made our way down, we headed off to the Ellora caves. Caves of the human-built type.
Starting from either the top or the front, enormous shrines and temples–entire monasteries!–were carved out of solid rock. Just like, “Who was the first person to intentionally throw a back flip?” I wonder who was the first person who thought this might be possible.
Even though we’d had just three and a half hours sleep we were inspired by the people we met, the fort, the caves and the fascinating stories told by our guide.
Got up 2 a.m. to catch a 5:15 a.m. flight to Aurangabad.
Here’s the incredible Terminal 2 we left at Mumbai’s airport:
Wonderland! I sourced the photo online (thank you pakpassion.net!) since we had no time to snap our own. From the moment we got to the airport it was check-in, security (separate male and female queues), walk to the gate and get on the plane. All at a steady/unhurried Indian pace that I will try to describe in a future post.
Driver and guide arrived 8 a.m. and we set off.
Suba. Greg and I spent a day with you yesterday. And, thank you! With so much to say, so many details, a fascinating narrative, you brought Mumbai to life!
Elephanta Island: Shiva Temple
Once arrived, we took a small train, followed the path up the hill and after a tourist moment…
…Suba, you started.
Next stop: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. Another Raj leftover. We’d watched BBC’s Bombay Railway documentary on Netflix. A big surprise: seeing it for ourselves was thrilling!
Millions of commuters use the local train services in Mumbai EACH DAY! We saw the main station on Saturday, off peak.
We saw local markets, a garden built on a millions-of-litres cistern, the steps toward a sky-burial tower (with no vultures in the city, focused solar panels do the work these days), and more.
Our final good bye to Suba was at the last stop, a laundry. An image of hard work and hope, we saw men labouring over hotel linens while their children arrived home from school.
I met the house crow today. In cricket pitches, while dodging traffic, and at the sides of stinky sidewalks. Smart-looking and familiar except for the grey head, house crows are able to maintain their gloss even while hopping around in the dust. Immediate favorite.
Other birds I have known:
1. Magpies. Along with jackrabbits, the sassy scourges of indoor cats. Loud. An obnoxious squawk. But look at those feathers!
2. Raven. Tired of darkness Raven stole the light: lateral thinker.
3. Robins. Any type. Here’s a magpie robin! Thank you Google 🙂
Our day started last night when we flew into tomorrow.
Siraj, our Travelpals host and Irshad, our chauffer, met us at the airport. What a relief to hand the what-next questions to professionals.
A free day. Wandered around and found Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharsh Vast Sangrahalaya (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). Spent a few hours appreciating Indian and Himalayan antiquities. Also a Shakespeare First Folio that belonged to King George III.
Fell in love with some pashminas at Cottage Industries Emporium. Learned that goat chin wool is pricier than belly wool.
I thought Calgarians were a purposeful bunch. But, Mumbai is a place of high alert! I’m young again from a morning that included dashing about to stay out of the path of cars and scooters.
We have arrived 10 days too early for McDonald’s.
Tomorrow, a tour to Elephanta Island.
Ahhhhhh! First coffeeof the day, 5:30 pm New Jersey time.
We’ve been wrestling with THE WRONG VISAs for a few days. The final answer: Air Canada wouldn’t check us in this morning. Our 30-day visa didn’t cover our 32-day plans.
On advice we were headed to Mumbai’s FRRO–Foreigner Regional Registration Office –to sort it out in India.
Air Canada was nice about it, but adamant that we needed to fix it from Canada. So we rebooked our return flight.
Stressful start. Yes, that was us running to make our flight out of Calgary. To her credit, the Air Canada agent ran with us, using her magical powers of authority, waving us through all obstacles.
Next stop: Mumbai!
March 11, 2016: Posted online: a 43-second video showing a man urinating onto a Kellogg’s conveyor belt, clearly contaminating a Kellogg’s product. The video went viral and spread to mainstream media.
Kellogg found itself responding over social media at the same time it was learning the facts.
CBC Radio’s Ira Basen explores Facebook’s dominance of the social web in his documentary, Facebook: What’s Not to Like?
The 12-year-old social network has solidified its status as the colossus of the online world.
Listen to it online at the Sunday Edition.
Animation: Robyn Fox