[Day 19] This morning we went for the first day’s photoshoot at Ellora. There are actually three sites at Ellora, the earlier Buddhist site, somewhat overlapping in time, Hindus started to prepare caves alongside the older caves, and a couple of centuries later Jainas built some caves just a little distant from those.
Today we concentrated on the twelve Buddhist caves. We arrived early, as is our wont, to avoid the expected crowds, and were the first in. The entrance is not far from the Buddhist caves, so we made our way to the far end to begin the photography.
Cave no. 1 is a simple vihāra cave, which is unadorned. Caves nos. 2-4, on the other hand, are very rich in statuary, but of a very similar style: a central Buddha statue with bejewelled Bodhisattvas attending on him.
Cave no. 5 is a very interesting and huge vihāra cave, with a large open space, and seemingly places for taking meals. It may have functioned as a multi-purpose hall for ceremonies, the serving of dāna and as living quarters.
Caves nos. 6-9 seem to form a group, with two caves on top of two more, they are also decorated with numerous recesses holding Buddha and Bodhisattva images.
The 10th and 11th caves are both colossal works on three stories, and it is remarkable indeed how far the rock cut architecture had progressed by this time, so much so that someone asked me if aliens had lent a hand. I explained that astonishing though the work is, it can be seen as a direct progression from the earlier structures, which were built by dedicated humans.
The 10th cave is the only one that is a Chaitya cave in the group, and had a remarkable feature: a colossal Buddha statue fronting the Chaitya itself, which for me was symbolic of the development in the caves we have seen over the past few weeks: from simple unadorned caves, to the introduction of the Buddha image, and its proliferation, and then to its dominance over the Chaitya, or relic mound itself.
By this point the exertions of the past few weeks were catching up with me again, and although there was only one more cave to photograph to complete the set for the day I had to retire at this point, my legs being exhausted beyond what I could bear.