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Deep in the Caves of India
May 24, 2000

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The bowed down position of  this huge stone-carved kneeling elephant was a symbol of welcome to the monks and visitors at Ajanta.
I'd spent the day at what some call the most magnificent temples in all of India; the cave temples, carved into the stone cliffs at Ajanta and Ellora. Deep valley forests, serene and mystical, seemed a world away from the hectic, noisy streets of India. The caves were stunning, each unique in design, some dating back over two thousand years.


hectic - busy activity
rickshaw - three-wheeled taxi pulled by a man

Back in the city, there were car horns blowing, raging rickshaw drivers, and hawkers trying to sell almost anything. It was a world away from the temples.

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Can you imagine carving such a temple 2,200 years ago!
It wasn't until 1819 that an Englishman, hunting tigers, stumbled upon these rock-carved temples which had been lost to the world for over a thousand years. His first sight of a cave was the oval shape from the top of cave ten, the largest and oldest of all of the Ajanta caves. Upon investigation he found clearly cut stairways through the jungle that had grown up around the caves and immediately reported the find to authorities. (But not before carving his name, 'John Smith April 28, 1819 - Calvary', inside the cave.)

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Buddha carved laying down just before he died:
I was amazed when I saw the famous Ajanta paintings that decorate the insides of the caves from ceiling to floor. You would never believe that you were standing inside a cave! It looks a lot like graffiti! The mountains have been carved and sculpted into huge statues of their god, Buddha.

Related Link

The UN World Heritage List
Clues can be found in the paintings that show the way people lived. Over 100 different hair styles are depicted in the women. And they were very color coordinated with a great fashion sense.

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This once plain mountainside was sculpted into intricately designed works of art!
The most stunning of the Buddhas is very famous. Built in the 5th century, this larger than life statue of Buddha, defended by cobra guardians and angelic helpers, changes facial expressions with different angles of light. When the light is shining straight on the front of the statue, Buddha's expression is one of peaceful calm. When the angle of light comes across the right side of the statue his lip curls up before your very eyes and he is a smiling Buddha. Then when the light is shown from the left angle, Buddha looks sad, as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders.


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