[Day 11 was spent on a long, expensive and tiring railway trip from Sanchi to Nashik. We had to buy emergency tickets, and book the full ride from Delhi to Mumbai, in order to get a place on board. Then the train got late. We only arrived at our guest house around 1.00am. The guest house, however, turned out to be excellent.]
[Day 12] In the morning we rose early and stayed back for breakfast, before setting off for the nearby Trirasmi caves. We climbed the 300ft to the caves, which were interspersed along the way with very informative placards describing the caves. I was surprised by how many people were coming and going, but then it was a Sunday, and it seems many locals visit on the holidays.
The caves run around the ridge of the mountain, on two different levels and are quite extensive, but besides their number (around 20), they are also very interesting as they mark the change from the Hīnayāna phase of development to the Mahāyāna, with much more emphasis on the Buddha image.
The early caves contain many vihāras for the monastics and are fairly simple in design and execution, and the Chaitya hall, belonging to the same period, is also very clean and simple. The later development has less emphasis on living space, and more of shrines, with a cave having some Buddha images, or a few joined caves having many.
They are quite finely wrought, and interesting, and show all the signs of the later development, with less emphasis on Sakyamuni, and more on the later Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and their attendants. There is also one very interesting vihāra cave (no. 10) where the original Chaitya carved in relief on the wall has been clumsily replaced with a carving of a Bodhisattva, which has broken through to the cave behind.
There is also a poorly made and unfinished yoni for a Shiva linga set up in one of the caves, and as elsewhere there is lots of graffiti, including on the Buddha statues.
We were unable to finish the photography today, as the number of people was high, and we had to descend for the frugal lunch we could get before noon.
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At the foot of the hill is a large copy of the Sanchi stupa, which is hollow on the inside, and has incredible acoustics so that a microphone is unnecessary. When we entered the centre we were greeted by local Buddhists, one of whom was an English teacher, and they requested I do some chanting for them. We chanted the refuges and precepts, followed by Tiratana vandanā and blessing chants; and this is turn was followed by a long photo call, with everyone present, in groups and singly.