Monday, 14 December 2015

Ajanta,Ellora etc.

When I decided to make a trip to Mumbai to meet my aunt Hema, the senior most living member of my family, before entering the eightieth year of earthly existence in this body and take her blessings personally, I planned to combine it with a visit to the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora.  Fortunately there was a weekly express train to Aurangabad running from Chennai on Sundays.  Boarding this train on 15th November, I reached Aurangabad on Monday the 16th in the morning.  After freshening up in Hotel Pritam, where we stayed for two days we made our way to Ellora caves in the afternoon.

Ellora caves are 18 kilometres from Aurangabad,  Opposite to the car park is Cave no. 16, Kailashnath Temple, a beautiful piece of Hindu Architecture. Built in 760 AD under the Rashtrakutas, this is the largest monolith in the world. The temple is covered with exquisite sculptures depicting scenes from the great epics of Hinduism, Ramayana and Mahabharatha.  This dwarfs every other cave here. There are 34 caves in all in a 2 km stretch of mountainous path with lots of ups and downs, not counting the steps in individual cases. Of these 12 are of Buddhist, 17 of Hindu and 5 of Jain religion. Of these a few are not worth visiting. An important Jain cave is cave no.32 which is called Indra Sabha.  Here we have the figure of Mahavira seated on a lion throne. Cave 12 is an important Buddhist cave with an imposing huge figure of Buddha.  Photos taken at  Ellora caves can be seen in my Flickr album “Ellora caves” @

Near the Ellora caves is Ghrishneswar temple, which has one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.  From there we went to nearby Khuldabad where we visited Bhadra Maruti temple and tomb of Aurangazeb.   Aurangazeb’s tomb is a simple one, as he had left instructions that his resting place should be built only with the money earned by him by stitching cloth caps and that it must be covered simply with earth.  In Bhadra Maruthi temple which is dedicated to Hanumanji, the imposing idol is seen in a rare posture of lying on its back, as if sleeping.  By then darkness had set in and we retired to the hotel in Aurangabad.

The next morning we started for the Ajanta caves, which is about 140 kilometres from Aurangabad.  Ajanta caves like Ellora caves is a world Heritage site and a protected monument and is renowned for Buddhist paintings some even dating back to second century B.C.  All vehicles are to be parked a few kilometres from the site and we take the special buses that are run from the car park to the site.  There are 29 caves and they are situated in a horse-shoe shape overlooking a deep gorge where flows Waghora river. Some of these are Chaitya halls or shrines, where we   have to leave the footwear outside.  There are paintings on the ceilings as well and most of them are faded.  As we had carried torch with us we could make out some figures.   Flash photography is prohibited within these caves.  Others are Vihars. monasteries used by Buddhist monks for study and meditation.  The paintings are either narrative scenes from Buddha’s life or illustrations of Jataka tales.  As we were going round the caves we met a group from Malysia in which a few were Tamil-speaking and they were very happy to interact with us and had also photos taken with us.  Photos taken in Ajanta caves can be viewed in my Flickr album “Ajanta Caves” @

That evening we visited Bibi ka Maqbara, also called  “Mini Taj”, which is a tomb built by Aurangazeb for his wife Rabia Durani, modelling it after Taj Mahal.  It is a pity that there were not enough lights there after sunset.  The next morning we vacated the hotel and started our journey to Shirdi.  On the way we first visited a local attraction, Panchakki, a water-mill from Mughal times situated in a garden attached to the tomb of a Muslim saint, Baba Shah Muzaffar.  After visiting Panchakki, we made our way to Daulatabad fort. The fort has an interesting history. It was originally called Devagiri, built by a Hindu King.  Later it fell into the hands of Muslim rulers.  Muhammed bin Tugluk renamed it as Daulatabad and made it his capital, ordering all the inhabitants of Delhi, young, old and sick to march to Daulatabad.  After a brief period of reign from here he changed his mind and ordered a march back to Delhi.  Both these transplantations of population caused huge loss of lives and suffering.

The fort houses a palace situated on top of a 200m hill and 210 ft. tower called Chand minar, a 17ft. long cannon, a moat 40ft. deep, and a large water tank, close to its top, fed by an underground natural source.  As the climb was quite steep and stairs dark, we did not go beyond the subterranean passage. Photos of the fort and tomb among other things can be viewed in my Flickr album “Monuments etc., of Aurangabad” @

We stopped again at Sani Singanapur where there is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Saneeswara.  There is no regular temple or a priest to perform daily pujas.  The idol is on a raised platform in the open ground and male devotees in wet clothes after bath can ascend the platform and perform puja and abhishekam.  Others can stand below and have Darshan. Another unique feature is the houses in the village have no doors as Lord Saneeswara is supposed to guard them.  Nowadays a few have a screen for privacy.  Not only the old houses but even the modern constructions like toilets in the premises have no doors which Rajam found quite embarrassing to use. We had a sumptuous lunch here in the Devasthanam hall which was provided at a subsidised rate of Rs.20/- per head.

We reached Shirdi in the evening and rested in Hotel Yog Palace where we had booked a room through   That evening we had Darshan at Samadhi Mandir making our way there through the special entrance for seniors.  The next morning we went to Nasik where we visited first Mukthidham, a beautiful temple in white marble where idols of all deities find a place.  From there we went to Panchavati where we entered sliding, Sita Gumpha, a small underground cave where Sita Devi lived in Vanvaas. and crawled with difficulty to the end of passage.  From there we went to Ram Kund and Lakshmi Ghat of Triveni Sangamam where rivers Varuni and Tharuni  unite with River Godavari.  We wetted our feet at the place used by Lord Ram for bath during vanvaas and splashed the sacred river water on the head and left for next destination, Trimbakeswar temple that is about 28 kilometres from Nasik.

This temple devoted to Lord Siva, is another temple which has a Jyothirlinga.  There was a big queue and we had to wait for one and half hours for Darshan of Lord and there too we were not allowed to go down to worship Lord.  We had to be content with Darshan of the reflection in the overhanging mirror and that too hastily as we were pushed in "jaragandi" style of Tirupathi.  But we managed to enter a second time through exit gate due to a misunderstanding in communication with the sentry there and had a good darshan of the reflection as we were then not looking for the original. We returned to Shirdi from Trimbakeswar straight and that day being Thursday we could have a glimpse of the Palki procession as it made its way from Dwarakamayee Masjid to Chavadi.  Then we retired to hotel to leave for Mumbai next morning bringing to an end the nice interlude in our trip to Mumbai.  Photos taken at Sani Singanapur and Nasik can be viewed in the Flickr album “Sani Siganapur and Nasik” @

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Ordeal by water

It was the evening of Monday 30th Nov. 2015.  We had just returned from Pallavaram after escorting my niece Shyamala to her in-law’s place.  Right from Friday the 27th we had been busy in connection with her marriage, what with the pandakkal, bride anointment, bridal party welcome, Mappillai azhaippu. and the actual function of marriage. As we rested that night, the rains started and was pouring continuously all through next day.  I cancelled all my idea of going out to attend to some work before leaving for Palani which was planned for that weekend and concentrated on completing the uploading of Photos to Flickr and to Facebook when suddenly the lights went off.  Thank God I could complete the work on hand running the laptop on battery, for electricity supply came back six days later only. With no electricity, mobile phone could not be charged.  So when the land-line went dead next morning we were cut off from the outside world.  We could not bother about it at that time; for in the meantime the thoughtless act of the authorities of opening the lake waters. without giving us any prior warning had presented a bigger menace threatening life and property even in otherwise safe places.

For the previous night, Government had increased to ten times the release of water from Chembarampakkam Lake and that too at a high tide time.  The gushing waters breached the barrier wall in the banks near Jafferkhanpet and waters rushed out of the breach inundating Jafferkhanpet, parts of Ashok Nagar, K.K.Nagar and West Mambalam. The swirling waters from the 11th Avenue of Ashoknagar were rushing down the Kodambakkam lane and this raised the water level in our street so much that water entered the ground floor flats of our building. As the water started raising, filling the lift well and the first three steps of the staircase, one family from ground-floor, moved to our flat in the first floor and another family to a flat in the second floor.  The third family had fortunately vacated on 30th Nov. to a new flat in second floor in an adjoining area. The family that moved with us consisted of a young couple Rajamani @ Ganesh and Jaishree and Ganesh’s mother as their two daughters were with Jaishree’s parents in a first floor flat nearby. Ganesh’s mother, Lakshmi, who already knew Rajam, was a good company for Rajam diverting her mind from the shortages and TV-less, Telephone-less loneliness of darkness while Ganesh and Jaishree helped me to know other residents of the building as I had been so far treating my flat as a retreat during the days I stayed there. Further they brought with them the provisions they could salvage from their flat before leaving, which pooled with ours could help us to tide over the initial period without any serious problem.

We all watched from our balcony the rising level of water with fear, anxiety and concern. As water slowly rose covering the tyres, then doors and then the bonnet with only the windshield visible in a parked car in our compound, our BP also rose. And lo ! it stopped at the ceiling of the car covering the wind-shield, but without drowning the car though we could hear still the sound of the rushing waters in the street as if we had been standing on the  banks of a river in torrents. Blissfully the darkness fell and the torch was of no help to determine whether the level is static or raising or receding. So after a candle-light dinner that consisted of Upuma only and a short time of chit-chatting we retired to bed, outwardly hoping for the best and inwardly fearing the worst.

When the next day dawned, we rushed to see whether we could see the car and were relieved to find it has not submerged and water stood at ceiling level only. The relief was all the more when in the course of the day we could see the wind-shield  of the car and also noticed that the water had given up its attempt to climb the stairs and retreated to the level of first step.  The feeling of relief on this front was overshadowed by shortages in other fronts like water, milk etc. We decided to skip bath and bring rain water from the street for use in the toilet.  We conserved milk by drinking black coffee, saving it for buttermilk next day.  The next day as we were running out of drinking water, one Mr.Christopher from the second floor, offered us his can of water, as he was leaving for his native place. Using the hand-pump downstairs, Ganesh and Jaishree could also bring a few buckets of water for general use.  Further water has run out of our building by this time and so they also started the job of cleaning the slush left behind and took stock of their losses.  It was quite a heavy loss as the cot and mattress had soaked, fridge had toppled down and all the books and clothes in the storage compartment of the cot rendered unusable, Still they kept their cool and brought water for us, managed to get milk from somewhere, moved their mother to her daughter’s place and helped Jaishree’s parents as well with supplies braving the knee-deep stagnant water in the street.

The first big relief after deluge came when land-line telephone started ringing.  It was my niece Sandhya from T.Nagar who had been trying repeatedly and was successful then in contacting us.  Through her we sent message to our daughter, Suchy in Australia, that we were safe and the landline was working.  She promptly contacted us and it was a big relief talking to her ourselves. Rest of the day was mostly sent in receiving and making calls exchanging notes.   Our servant-maid, Mariamma, whose house was flooded and had been housed in a school also came for work and helped us by getting water from the sump downstairs and we could take bath after three days.  As Ganesh managed to bring milk and vegetables going round the few open shops, the dark days of our ordeal was slowly coming to an end.  It was complete when electricity was restored next evening and we felt like celebrating.  I was then reminded of a Mullah story.  He was struggling walking in tight shoes.  People asked him why he does not change to a bigger size shoe.  Mullah countered  saying how he can then savour the relief and joy that he gets when he removes the shoes.  So as the simple act of removing a shoe gave Mullah joy and relief so the simple act of restoration of electricity gave us great joy as now the fridge can be operated, motor can work, lift can fuction, TV can be seen, laptop can be worked, mobile phone can be charged, WI-FI can operate and what is more important than all these, we need not struggle in the dark as the sun goes down.  Though the ordeal was not over, we could now clearly see the dawn of its end