Out of all the caves that we visited, Kailasanatha was the most overwhelming. It’s outside appearance was very deceiving, for it did not allow me to properly gauge the size. Unlike most of the other caves that we visited, Kailasanatha was more of a wide open space and was not what came to mind when I thought of a cave. Furthermore, after seeing the large amount of people that were present there at once, I can only imagine that it must have been a very busy place of worship in comparison to the other caves of Ellora and the Elephanta caves. What first caught my attention at Kailasanatha was the large detailed figures of Hindu gods, but ultimately, I found the smaller carvings most interesting. I remember standing in awe as Professor Kaimal told the story depicted in one of the freezes as after a friend and I completely misinterpreted it. It was amazing how such a small part of the cave could tell such a detailed story. This visit made me wonder just what I should be taking away from these temple visits and if it would even be possible during my short stay in India.
Another important takeaway that I got from this temple visit is that the celebrity life is not the life for me. Though it would have been ideal to walk about the cave in peace, we were constantly stopped by children, couples, and families requesting to take a photo with us. I did not realize until that day how much we stood out as foreigners. I had to keep reminding myself that not everyone is from a country where people are expected to look different, so their actions were pretty reasonable. Also, these encounters were some of the best opportunities for me to freely socialize with Indian citizens in an environment where it was acceptable to discuss our differences.
For most of the morning before our trip to Ajanta, my mind was wrapped around the presentation that I was going to give later that day. I spent that morning and part of the bus ride going over my thesis and annotated bibliography deciding what I was going to say, but by the time the bus stopped, I still did not feel confident in what I was going to present. I later realized that the reason I did not feel ready for my presentation was because I had never actually seen the Ajanta caves in person. Luckily seeing the amazing view calmed my nerves and made me excited to explore.
Even after seeing the view and exploring the first cave of Ajanta, the moment did not truly become real for me until I saw Buddhist monks. REAL BUDDHIST MONKS! After studying and practicing Buddhism for the past couple of years, I thought very highly of Buddhist monks, so it was kind of like seeing celebrities. Although I felt as excited as an Indian child when they see Re, Gabby, or Connor, I felt that asking for a selfie might not have been entirely appropriate; so instead, I made a mental note and moved on. I was also amazed by the godlike Buddha statues in most of the temples. Upon entering a cave, the statue, which was sometimes illuminated, would immediately steal my gaze and draw me closer. I would have to say that my favorite Buddha statue out of the many that I got to see yesterday was the statue in Cave 11. If anyone needs a reminder of which one that was, refer to my previous post or checkout the background on my phone.
Aside from my interest in Buddhism, I think the reason that I enjoyed our visit to Ajanta so much was because it had been my research topic. This allowed me to move about the caves with more of an art historian’s perspective than I did any other day, paying special attention to cave maintenance and water damage. I also found that as we moved from cave to cave, I was able to recognize more Naga depictions, which made me more comfortable for my presentation. After experiencing the caves leading up to 16 and gaining clarity from Professor G(I can say it but I won’t even attempt to spell it) regarding the things that I already knew, I was able to give a confident and stress-free presentation. To top off my Ajanta experience, we all got to turn the unfinished cave into our play house, which is a moment that will always bring me joy when remembering Ajanta.
As of right now, it has not even registered in my brain that by the end of today, I will be on a flight heading to India. I could have been overthinking it a bit, but there has been so much to do in preparation, that I cannot get myself to even think about actually being on the trip. For the past couple of days, my attention has mostly been focused on my checklist. One of my biggest fears for this trip is that I will somehow forget something of the utmost importance, such as pills, money, or underwear. Even this morning I find myself looking through my suitcase, checking for things that I know I already packed. While I’m on the topic of fears for the trip, I have to say my biggest fear is getting sick somehow while in India. This past week has been my first healthy week all break after having pneumonia, so the last thing that I want is to be sick again. A surprising coincidence is that my mom actually has a friend who is in Mumbai right now, and he has been updating her about his trip. Unfortunately, he got very sick from some food that my mom did not specify and now he has to “wear two pairs of underwear just to be safe.” With that in mind it would really be quite unfortunate if I forget to pack underwear.