Ellora Caves – Hampi

Maharashtra & Karnataka State / Central&South India

April – May 2018

As my route was proceeding in the south direction, I left Rajastan and reached two new significant destinations in two different states. First is the Ellora Caves located in the Maharashtra state. Second is Hampi located in Karnataka state.

I left Udaipur and reached Aurangabad by a 22 hour bus journey. Ellora caves is located about 30km in northwest of Aurangabad city. I first chose a place to stay to leave my backpack and plan my tour to the caves. I am mostly choosing the cheapest place to stay but this time it surprised me as it was located at a highly conservative Muslim neighborhood. Especially the glances of men were so strange and severe that made me feel like a total stranger. Anyway I planned my trip to the caves and next morning I was there to discover this ancient land.
Ellora Caves is a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is one of the largest rock-cut monastery temple cave complexes in the world. Caves line along a 2km-long rocky hill and consists of 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves. All these caves were carved laboriously for five centuries between 5-10th century CE. They were built close to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India.

The Kailasha temple (Cave 16) in particular, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world. When you are walking in and around it you get mesmerised by its size and architecture. It is hard to believe that it was entirely carved out of a single rock over a period of 150 years. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it is clearly among the best ancient Indian architecture.

It is a multi-storey temple surrounded by numerous shrines laid out according to the square principle and it has an integrated space for circumambulation.

Hindu caves has many carved sculptures that have remarkably delicate details. They depict the mythologies, gods, goddesses like Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Durga, Krishna, Saraswati.

Buddhist caves consist of carved multi-storey monasteries with prayer halls, living quarters, sleeping quarters and kitchens. The monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints.

Notable among the Buddhist caves is Cave 10, the ‘Vishvakarma cave’ (above) that was built around 650 CE. Inside the cave the rock has been given a finish that has the appearance of wooden beams. And at the heart of this cave is a big statue of Buddha seated.

There are also Jain caves in the whole complex. The Chotta Kailasha (above) is the most remarkable one.

Jain caves (above) are smaller than the Buddhist and Hindu caves but nonetheless feature highly detailed carvings. Emphasis is placed on the depiction of the twenty-four Jinas (spiritual conquerors who have gained liberation from the endless cycle of rebirths).

I have explored the caves in the scorching heat of April and cooled myself in the shady dark corners of the temples. I opened myself to the wisdom that had been accumulated for centuries at these ancient temples. My body was tired, my heart was in grief and in deep pain due to a recent unimagined experience.
All I needed was a little rest in Gods’ embrace…

Then I left Aurangabad and set off to the south. My next destination was Hampi that is not just a remarkable ancient city but also a fascinating natural wonder. I arrived at Hampi in 1,5 days by a train and bus journey.
Hampi is situated on the banks of Tungabhadra river. By 1500 CE, it was the world’s second largest medieval-era city after Beijing and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Virupaksha temple (above) is the oldest shrine here and it is like the historical icon of the town.

This temple is the principal destination for pilgrims and remains as an active Hindu worship site. You can see many Hindus here praying and doing their rituals and ceremonies. The temple’s superstructure is a pyramidal tower with plastered storeys that have delicate artworks including erotic sculptures.

Lakshmi is this dear elephant living in Virupaksha temple. She is believed to be the incarnation of God Ganesha, so she is holy. You can watch her morning ritual every morning where she goes into the holy river. The caretakers help her to have her bath. I fell in love with her, she has adorably beautiful long eye lashes.

This great site hosts more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India. It includes forts, riverside structures, royal and sacred complexes, temples and shrines.

Hemakuta hill monuments (above) are easily accessible and provide views of some parts of Hampi. Keep in mind that good amount of walking is a must as the ruins are scattered over a huge area.

I have to mention about the well known beautiful people of India. With their sincere smiles, how loving and warm hearted they are. While wandering around the temples and complexes I met many adorable people, mostly women and children. When they see that you are a foreign traveller, they get interested in you right away. I am always amazed by the beauty of Indian women in their colourful sarees. I like the way they ornament their hair with fresh flowers.

River divides the valley; on one side there is the holy centre and on the other side agricultural fields. I settled in a nice and cosy hostel at the other side of the river. I was quite happy to have a terrace that has a view of big paddy fields (above).

Being at this side of the river enabled me to discover the surrounding more easily. Motorcycle is the best way to explore the little villages, jade-green palm groves, banana plantations and paddy fields.

Within this arid landscape lies many little oasis with some little lakes, palm, banana and mango trees. Farmers are grazing their animals in between fertile agricultural fields.

Hampi has another incredibly spectacular side that is its hilly terrains formed by granite boulders. When you visit this area you can find countless secret beautiful points by the river. The area is simply stunning and you will be in between millions of soft looking huge rocks. They are all you see whichever direction you look. Rock climbers frequently visit Hampi for this reason. There are also some little waterfalls in the area.

During all these explorations, there was a process going on in my mind and heart. I had been in a deep grief and with an extremely restless mind after an unexpected staggering experience that took place in my life about 2,5 months ago. (To understand the integrity of my story you can read my previous essays of India.) The days here were maybe the most extreme times of this process. As I was opening myself and allowing everything to be as it is, there were many things coming up to the surface from my psyche. Vicious thoughts of pride, jealousy, guilt, low self esteem, fears of abandonment, loneliness… I was picking myself up and then collapsing again and again in an unending cycle.
I guess I won’t forget my experience at that magical spot by the river (above). I sat for meditation but my body was shaking out of extreme disturbing emotions. I was breathing so deeply like a woman that is trying to give a birth. Then I asked myself sharply; “Which way do you choose? Suffering or freedom? Choose right now! There is no place to hide. There is no strategy left. You are aware of all the games of your ego. Choose Love and become free. Show this courage. Don’t seek the love you want to be, BE it!”
Then at that exact moment of checkmate, something extraordinary unfolded. It was like an opening, like a sudden transmission. A clear and bright moment of a-ha. When I opened my consciousness fully to be the love, a light became visible from inside. I suddenly realized the real power of love that is the highest source of inspiration ever. What a relief, what a freedom. I passed this big test with love. Then soon, in the next months in India I would realize that the gift of this real love is pure wisdom.
This was a moment of disassosication from the illusion where the wounds found healing. It was a profound realization and a precious stepping stone. When I would fail again, now there was a deeper knowing that I could remember which would show me the way. Every test you pass, your evolution accelerate. The result of such transformation in consciousness is priceless.

The Author