Category Archives: Architecture

Ajanta caves

The thing to remember here is don’t come in March, that is unless you really like heat. The landscape is a stunning conglomeration of central Texas meets eastern Washington. Add in monkeys, peacocks, and cobras, and you’ve got it.

Ajanta is inserted into this rugged landscape, carved into basalt cliffs and the whole thing would look like Shangrala except that all the grass is dry and brown. The idea of raging fire wanders through my mind as I notice my guide throwing his still lit cigarette into to brush. India refuses to react to such small slights. A forest in Oregon would already burnt to the ground.

Here I have to apologize. The heat along with jetlag along with my newly acquired bronchitis have resulted in completely antipathy about delivering a solid account of Ajanta’s history. It’s old, very old. All Buddhist temples and some with very poorly maintained paintings from BC some time. It’s a tragedy. And not to be offensive but personally I’m tired of looking at Buddhas in various finger poses. When we gig to the Buddha lying down, it wasn’t without a little relief. Buddha himself was happy too, samsara being over.

Again read this with the heat in mind, but if you compared religions to amusement park riders, and the Buddhists seem to be the ones yelling: stop the ride, I want to get off!”


Haj Ali Mosque Mumbai

While in Mumbai a few days ago I had the opportunity to visit one of the places I missed last time I was here. Right now I’m struggling with finding time to write and having a dependable internet connection.

As I write this I’m in Ellora at a hotel walking distance from the caves, which by the way are still amazing.

So I’m not going to be all correct and give you a proper historical run down of this mosque. Architecturally speaking, this mosque first began to interest me when I learned it was actually built pretty much in the Indian Ocean. There is a walkway that is consumed by the tide every day, so timing is everything when visiting. The area is known for pickpocketing and my guide told me I had been followed. I was completely unaware.

Otherwise it’s a very peaceful place, and so far holds top rank for the best cup of masala chai I’ve had to date. Not an easy feat.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai

I think that when you travel to Mumbai, this hotel is a must see. A landmark in its own right, the Taj was built in 1903 by a man who was not allowed in other hotels because of the color of his skin. He vowed to build the grandest hotel in Mumbai and surely he accomplished that goal.

People who have stayed here or graced these grounds are numerous and humbling. Duke Ellington, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ghandhi were all here.

I suggest staying in the Tower wing. It is newer and cheaper but most important it gives you an excellent view of the older part of the hotel which is stunningly beautiful.

Vipassana Pagoda

This is the Buddhist temple that none of my Mumbaikar friends knew about. It is within view of Esselworld, the amusement park located in the northwestern part of the city. It is quite a drive to get here. Worth it? If you are a Buddhist, I would say yes. After all the tightness of the main part of the city, the openness and cleanness of this area is a great relief.

The Caves at Elephanta Island

Located 9 km into the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai, is the small island known as Elephanta. Formerly, as with most things in Mumbai, it used to have a different name, Gharapuri, which means the place of caves.

These caves contain magnificent statues carved from rock and are thought to date back to approximately the 5th century AD. The caves are named after the basalt elephant that the Portuguese saw as they approached the island. This Elephant now resides at a museum in Mumbai.

Spoiler alert: I did not see all the caves. There is one primary cave that the Portuguese did their best to destroy back in the 1600s. The others are much more “Spartan” and after seeing three caves, I was good, what with the heat and the tourists, stray dogs, monkey families, and random young men approaching for photos, plus the prospects for a ladies room looking pretty slim, I decided not to be a hero about this tourism stuff. And, since the 20 hours of flying I had just done, both my feet have swollen up like balloons with the swelling crawling up my legs toward my knees.

Regardless of the defacement performed by the mindless idiots several hundred years ago, proving once again that humanity’s stupidity is timeless, regardless, the cave sculptures were pretty cool.