Friday, March 05, 2010

The Caves

A few days ago, I hit the part of the trip where it was not deeply strange to be in a foreign country. I caught myself at times having to remember – oh yes, I’m in India.

Now, we have only 4 days left, and it feels like it’s all but over, even though we haven’t even seen Kerala/Kochi yet. The last half of a trip always seems to fly by, whether it’s a car ride to Florida, a trip to India, or life itself.

We are in Mumbai now, being taken care of and pampered by the many branches of the Barwale family (Usha's extended family).  We are all agreed that the Barwale family should somehow be involved in every vacation we take. Luckily, they seem to be spread out all over the world, so our options would still be pretty open.

We leave tomorrow for the green, lush coast at Kochi, but I want to get caught up with yesterday’s activity of viewing the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves near Aurangabad.

The caves were cut into the side of a mountain by monks using only hand tools of chisel and hammer.  There were 34 caves built between the 5th and 11th century AD by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carving out temples or artifacts for their religious tradition.

As with most things in India, the pictures don't do them justice.

What's amazing about them is that they were carved from within the mountain, from the top down, so what might look like a large statue placed in a cave or a concrete pillar holding up the ceiling is actually all a big, connected, solid block of rock that was carved starting at the top.

The amount of planning that went into must have been tremendous.  One wrong chisel and you'd have to go find an alternative mountain to start over.
Unfortunately, the caves have suffered over the centuries from vandalism, and even some intentional subterfuge. At one point, Taliban-ish Muslims broke some of the sculptures because they considered them idols. Note the broken elelphant trunks below. 
Not as bad as Christians killing Muslims during the Crusades or by Hindus killing Muslims, or Muslims killing Christians and Hindus, all because extremists hate each other so much. Fundamentalists from any religion can just suck sometimes.

But speaking of idol worship, here is Thom rubbing the belly of a Jain God of something or other. It was either prosperity or fertility. I hope it's fertility, because our church could use some new babies.
Thom was also caught expressing admiration for Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. The three main Hindu gods are Bramha (creator), Vishnu (preserver/sustainer) and Shiva (destroyer), thus completing the circle of life.  Destruction is not seen as death, but as necessary for new life.
We'll know if he has secretly become a Hindu if he starts saying that God told him to kill something.  Oh wait.  That could just as easily make him Christian or Muslim.  Dang extremists.
Here's me attaining tourist enlightenment (the lowest form of nirvana) in front of another Jain something or other.

The Jains put Mennonites to shame when it comes to pacifism.  They are not just vegetarian, but don't even eat anything that is below the ground (like onions or potatos), because it might disturb living things.  They put cloth over their mouths in case they breath in an insect and kill it. For obvious reasons, they have not found many converts in the west.

Here's Nikita and Addy, two more delightful Barwale cousins. Addy went to U of I and we talked about C-U and his secret love of fried chicken patties, which are not so available here. They were wonderful guides through the caves, and kept annoying our real guide by explaining things more coherently than the guide did. Also, Addy perfomed a miracle by makiing cricket comprehensible to me.

The Indomitable Usha with her older sister (mother of Nikita and Addy), who also showed us great hospitality when we stopped by on the way to the caves (I need to get a lot better at writing everyone's name down):

Finally, some folks in our group got henna tattoos. I won't say who, but look for one on the next issue of Pastors Gone Wild!!!!


Frances said...

I am living vicariously through your blog! I love India! I want to go there so bad! Thank you so much for such lovely posts and pictures! What a wonderful family you are staying with! Do you have more pictures of the food?

Christopher said...