I get the honor of relaying to you all the events of our weekend spent with our special guests, Dr. and Mrs. Lambert. (For all the friends and family reading this who aren’t so Elon-savvy, Dr. Lambert is the President of Elon University.) Waking up Saturday for the eight other girls and myself living in the same room was like a bunch of toddlers waking up on Christmas morning. We were all so excited to meet Dr. Lambert and his wife! We finished packing up for the weekend, put on our best outfits and did our hair and hurried over to breakfast to meet our special guests. After I prepared my breakfast dish, I noticed that there was an empty seat across from Dr. Lambert so I worked up the courage to sit across from him. He kindly looked at me and smiled and said “Hi, I’m Leo Lambert. What’s your name?” He introduced himself this way to every student. We all had to refrain ourselves from replying, “Of course I know who you are!” We had a lovely discussion about his travels thus far through India and his experience at the Taj Mahal.
At 8:30 it was time to head out to the buses. All of us Elon students were traveling with our professors and Dr. and Mrs. Lambert to the Ellora Caves for a nice weekend excursion. It was about a four hour drive from the CRHP campus to the caves during which we came across 1 protest which shut down the highway in both directions, 6 cattle crossings, got stuck behind 3 different bullocks carts (on the highway), and only had 5 near-death experiences. Indians sure know how to keep things exciting! Near the caves we stopped at a nice little restaurant for a group lunch. The restaurant had a nice selection of traditional Indian dishes which we all enjoyed. One of my favorite foods we had there was the naan bread baked with butter and garlic on top. It reminded me a vaguely of the delicious Italian-American garlic bread I’m used to eating back home.
After some debate about which day to do the caves and which day to do the fort, we finally decided to head to the fort. Fort Devagiri is just down the road from the Ellora caves, in the city of Daultabad, Maharashtra. “Devagiri (Daultabad of the later period), 11kms north-west of Aurangabad, is a famous for its formidable hill fort. The fort is situated on an isolated cone-shaped hill rising abruptly from the plain to the height of about 190 metres. The fortification constitutes of three concentric lines of defensive walls with large number of bastions. The noteworthy features of the fort are the moat, the scarp and the sub-terranean passage, all hewn of solid rock. The upper outlet of the passage was filled with an iron grating, on which a large fire could be used to prevent the progress of the enemy. “(http://www.maharashtratourism.gov.in/MTDC/HTML/MaharashtraTourism/TouristDelight/Forts/Forts.aspx?strpage=DevagiriDaulatabadFort.html)
[I tried to discretely get a shot of Dr. Lambert during our tour of the fort]
The guide explained to us that the different levels of the fort leading up to the top all contained different traps meant to kill off any invaders. The guide failed to mention that in the dark tunnel a few scary creatures still remained. As we were sent on our own to walk through the dark tunnel we all began to hear some squeaking noises. My friend Katie, who had visited the fort last year informed me that this dark passage was filled with bats! Luckily, she let me hold her hand and protected me from the scary creatures (I do not like rodents…especially rodents that can fly). The whole time we were in there I kept thinking, ‘I didn’t get my rabies shot!!’. Luckily, we all made it out of the Tunnel of Death alive and un-bitten. Our next challenge was to climb to the top of the mountain to see the King’s palace.
Some of us continued to climb up to the absolute highest point where a huge cannon was situated. We were told that to this point was about 400 steps, but it felt like a million! I almost gave up at one point, but then I pictured all the Indian women I have seen walking along the highways carrying big pots of water or logs on their heads and thought that if they can endure, I can too! We ended up timing the hike perfectly; we were at the peak of the mountain in time to see the gorgeous sunset.
When we arrived at the hotel we were all exhausted and looking forward to a hot shower and a good meal. The hotel was very luxurious compared to what we’ve become used to these past couple of weeks. My roommate Sarah and I excitedly jumped on our queen-sized soft, white beds and placed our heads on our luxuriously soft pillows. Dinner was in the hotel’s elegant restaurant where we dined buffet style on various traditional Indian dishes. Our group encountered a couple of cultural differences at the hotel. A few students tried to purchase a wifi access card but were told that the hotel had “no more wifi”. We couldn’t understand how they had only a limited amount of wifi. The second difference was that the whole city we were in was completely dry that day…no alcohol, no beer, no wine. Apparently it was out of respect for a religious holiday. So we just enjoyed relaxing and watching Indian television. Sarah and I enjoyed watching the show “Dance, India, Dance”. It was very entertaining.
We woke up from an amazing night’s sleep excited for the day. The Ellora Caves are absolutely beautiful and fascinating. The caves are an archaeological site, 30 km (19 mi) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty . Well-known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. Caves is actually a misnomer. The 34 “caves” are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples and viharas and mathas were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The layout of the caves are as follows: 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves. What is so fascinating about them is their proximity to one another. Their close proximity represents that at one time in history, in one part of the world, different faiths were able to live harmoniously with one another. (some facts taken from http://www.wikipedia.com).
Our tour guide brought us to the last group of caves first (to try to beat the crowds). This group of caves belonged to the Jain religion. It’s fascinating to think that people made these intricate carvings out of the stone with only limited technology.
The second group of caves belonged to the Hindu religion. The enormous size of their main cave, Cave 16, was unbelievable. Carvings throughout the cave depicted the history of their gods.
The third group of caves belonged to the Buddhist faith. Their caves were very modern looking with three levels and perfectly spaced out rows of columns.
After the caves we went back to the same restaurant we had eaten at Saturday for lunch. The girls I sat with and I ordered four different dishes and enjoyed the tapas style. Then we piled back into the vans to visit the silk factory. The silk factory was a shopper’s paradise! So many gorgeous fabrics for under 50 American dollars! We all stocked up on gifts for ourselves and our loved ones back home.
We all survived the 3 ½ hour drive back to CRHP. I sat in the back of the bus this time so that my nerves wouldn’t get completely shot! We enjoyed some spaghetti and got ready for bed. I can’t believe there is only 1 week left here! I am excited to learn as much as I can about the organization and to get to know the people here at CRHP as much as possible before heading to Delhi and then finally back to America.