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Old 2nd December 2009, 18:04   #1
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Thumbs up The Deccan Odyssey

Our recent visit to Pune was just mind blowing. Pune is well known as the 'Queen of Deccan' due to its scenic beauty and rich natural resources. Pune city is known for its educational, research and development institutions. Pune is the most industrialized district in western Maharashtra and a famous IT hub in the country.

We started from Bangalore on 5th November by Udyan Express and reached Pune on 6th by around 4:30pm. We were received by relatives at the Pune railway station and we reached my relatives home and got refreshed. Then we planned to go to some nearby places like Lifestyle Mall, which was the nearest one from where we stayed, and just went through the stalls and had food from McDonald's. So the plan for next day was all set, an all were really excited to visit all the places in the list.

It was 7th November morning 4am, and everyone got up and got ready, and by 5:30am, we all left from Pune by a Qualis to Aurangabad; the northern part of Maharashtra. All were fresh and passed our time chatting, watching the sunrise through the grassy plateaus, Ranchan Gaon (where TATA, LG, Whirlpool etc factories can be seen on the roadside). And by 7:30am, reached an important city Ahmednagar and since all were hungry, had food from the Food mall which was about an hour drive from this city.

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And at last we reached the most awaited city Aurangabad by 10:30am, and had to drive for about 10-15min searching MTDC rooms, which we had already booked. We loaded our luggage in the rooms, got refreshed and started our journey to Ellora by 11am.

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Aurangabad, located in the northern part of Maharashtra is considered a city that preserves a rich cultural heritage. Aurangabad is generally referred as the gateway to the ancient caves of Ajanta and Ellora. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled the country from the place till his death, is credited of building many architectural gems that still adorn the landscape of this historical city of Maharashtra. Moreover, Aurangabad gets its name from Aurangzeb itself and is famous all over the country for the hand woven brocades of gold and silver known as Himroo.

On the way to Ellora, one can see Daulatabad fort, which was planned to be seen back the way from Ellora. Ellora caves were about 30km from the city and we had to climb several deccan plateaus to reach there. By about 11:30am, we reached the car parking area of Ellora caves. They mainly consist of rock-hewn temples and monasteries. In all, there are 34 cave temples, 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves (550-750 AD), 17 Hindu caves (600-875 AD) and 5 caves of the Jain faith (800-1000 AD) 22 more caves, dedicated to Lord Shiva, were recently discovered.

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Kailas Temple (cave16), the central attraction at Ellora, is the most remarkable. Chiseled by hand from a single massive rock, it includes a gateway, pavilion, courtyard, vestibule, sanctum, sanctorum and tower which bear testimony to the excellence of Dravidian art. It is believed to have taken 7000 laborers, working in continuous shifts and 150 years to build. How amazing!

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Cave nos. 2, 5, 10 & 12 are of the Buddhist group; Cave nos. 14, 15, 16, 21 & 29 are of the Brahmanical group and Caves 32 to 34 are of the Jaina group. Thus, by visiting these caves, one can have a glimpse of the representative art of Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism.

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Since it was hot sunny day, walking all over these caves for about 2-3 hours, we were really tired and hungry and had Gujrathi thali from a nearby hotel, and then climbing down the deccan plateaus reached Daulatabad fort by 3pm. Once known as 'Devgiri', this magnificent 12th century fortress stands on a hill. It was given the name Daulatabad, the 'city of fortune', by Muhammad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi. It has been passed through the hands of several dynasties in the Deccan. One of the world's best preserved fort of medieval times, surviving virtually unaltered, Daulatabad yet displays the character that made it invincible.

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A series of secret, quizzical, subterranean passages lie coiled like a python amidst the fort called the Bhoolbhulayayya where enemies could be trapped and there are guides to help you pass through these passages now. The Fort lies in the body of an steep hill – the sides at the base falling very sharply. The deep moat with mechanical drawbridges were once teemed with crocodiles. One would really feel that the pictures from the story books have come true.

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The other notable monuments here are the Chand Minar and the Chini Mahal. The Chand Minar is a tower 210 ft high and 70 ft in circumference at the base, and was originally covered with beautiful Persian glazed tiles. The Chini Mahal, or China Palace, is the ruin of a building once of great beauty.

Since all were walking from morning, it was all for the day and we went back to our MTDC rooms and took rest. And the day was over with a wonderful dinner from a restaurant at MTDC itself.

It was 8th November and plan for the day was Ajantha caves, which was about 100km from Aurangabad. By 8:30am we started our journey and on the way we could see sugarcane, sunflower, cotton seed etc cultivations on both sides of the road. Also one could find several numbers of dhabas on the way. And by 10:30am, we reached the Ajantha caves car parking area, and from here we had to hire a bus to reach the caves.

The Ajanta Caves are a series of 29 Buddhist cave temples, some of which date from the 2nd century BC. Encompassing both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the Ajanta caves preserve some of the best masterpieces of Buddhist art in India. The caves are numbered from east to west, 1 through 29. Today, a terraced path connects the cave, but in ancient times each was independently accessed from the riverfront. I cannot imagine how people used to reach here, as we were all tired even using the shortest distance through the terraced path!!!

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A viewing platform across the river affords an excellent view of the entire Ajanta site. The natural beauty of the area makes it clear why the monks chose the site for their spiritual pursuits.

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The caves are divided into 'Chaitya-Grihas' (stupa halls) and 'Viharas' (dwelling halls). The caves 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are 'Chaitya-Grihas'. The rest of the caves are 'Sangharamas' or Viharas (monasteries). The viharas consisted of a broad verandah.The caves 1, 2, 16 and 17 are important from the art point of view. These caves have exotic paintings illustrating the life and incarnations of Buddha.

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Above all, it is interesting to know that the enchanting Ajanta caves were discovered accidentally by a company of British soldiers in the 19th century. Before the excavation of these caves they were hidden under the thick vegetation for a long time.

Before hiring the bus back to car parking area, we had good lunch from the MTDC restaurant. We also did shopping from the small stalls near the car parking area like jute bags, single-stone craved candle stands, flower pots etc…

And the final place in the list was Bibi-ka-Maqbara. Bibi-ka-Maqbara, built by Prince Azam Shah, son of Emperor Aurangzeb, in the late 17th century as a loving tribute to his mother Rabia Durrani. The monument's name translates literally to 'Tomb of the Lady', but has earned the nickname 'poor man’s Taj' because it was made to rival the Taj Mahal. It is also known as “Taj of Deccan”. But since it was raining, we couldn’t enjoy its beauty.

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While returning from these places, one would recall their school history classes, history teachers. and we finally realize India is incredible indeed!
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Old 3rd December 2009, 12:06   #2
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Nice report and beautiful photos, Manu. Do continue posting details of the rest of the trip.
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Old 3rd December 2009, 12:37   #3
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Wow, manu, nice narration, you have made it interesting by adding snippets of history. Pictures are also wonderful. Do we have more coming?
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Old 3rd December 2009, 14:53   #4
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@Chevy_lover: I'm glad you liked the snaps. They are from DSLR, no wonder.

@Majic: Thank you. If you are interested in more pics, I shall share them.
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Old 4th December 2009, 09:38   #5
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NO excuses please post them!
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Old 4th December 2009, 10:03   #6
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Here you go, my little collection.

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Old 4th December 2009, 12:48   #7
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Hey man, where were you hiding these photos,really beautiful please bringout more of these.
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Old 4th December 2009, 12:52   #8
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Hey manu.. thats really nice photos that you have got and I never knew about these cool places that we can visit.
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Old 4th December 2009, 13:12   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElantraGT View Post
Hey manu.. thats really nice photos that you have got and I never knew about these cool places that we can visit.
Yes they look cool in photos. But you need a bit patience and willingness to walk/climb for more than two hours in burning sun to cover all these places in real time.

Still the experience is worth every effort!
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Old 4th December 2009, 13:18   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Majic View Post
Hey man, where were you hiding these photos,really beautiful please bringout more of these.
You wont let me inactive, will you?

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Old 4th December 2009, 13:26   #11
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Wonderful ! GIVE ME MORE!!!
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Old 4th December 2009, 14:47   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Majic View Post
Wonderful ! GIVE ME MORE!!!
Even more? Sorry to disappoint you mate, that's all I have got.
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Old 7th December 2009, 10:02   #13
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Nice photos. Although I have been living in Pune for so many many years I have never ever hit Ajanta / Ellora. But now with your detailed photo-blog I will be definitely exploring that too. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 7th December 2009, 10:14   #14
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Cool pics. So they are allowing photography inside the caves ha ? They weren't earlier.
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Old 7th December 2009, 17:14   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ambivalent_98 View Post
Nice photos. Although I have been living in Pune for so many many years I have never ever hit Ajanta / Ellora. But now with your detailed photo-blog I will be definitely exploring that too. Thanks for sharing.
I'm glad you liked the snaps. Please arrange a trip over a weekend, 4hours of drive from Pune. I'm sure, you wont regret loosing a weekend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by prince_pervez View Post
Cool pics. So they are allowing photography inside the caves ha ? They weren't earlier.
Yes, photography is allowed, but without flash. So until and unless you have a steady hand or a tripod, your camera makes no sense within the caves.
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