The voice is loud. Loud and far to frantic for this early in the morning. His words smash through the bus.
“Arungabad, we are at Arungabad”
Jesus thats our stop. Cursing we throw our stuff haphazardly together and fall out of the bus into the hot rising sun.
Still reeling from sleep we are surrounded. Six men in the khaki uniform of rickshaw drivers everywhere. The air is filled with voices.
“You wan’ Rick”
“Where you going mister?”
“Hotel I take you to hotel very cheap sir best rates.”
“You want breakfast.”
“Breakfast yes. And then can you take us to Ellora.”
“Ellora very far sir, 500 Rupees.”
“Done, but first breakfast.
The breakfast is a kind of pancake made from rice called a Dosa. It’s served with this spicy potato sludge. We drink a greasy cup of coffee order some water for the road and leave.
The driver wasn’t lying about Ellora being far. We drove for about an hour. Hurtling round cows, motorbikes, buses and all the random objects that seem to litter every road in India.
Our room at the guest house is surrounded by vicious monkeys. We leave our bags and head to the Ellora caves. The Ellora caves are man made, carved over hundreds of years into the side of a great hill.
The Buddhists came first. Around one and a half thousand years ago. They created temples, monasteries and living quarters in the rock.
Then as Buddism fell out of vogue and Shaivism (the sect of Hinduism devoted to Shiva “the Destroyer/Transformer”) began to establish itself in the region the caves changed. Instead of the beautiful minimalism of the Buddhists you have the incredibly complex structures covered in intricate carvings.
Janism, their caves looked like a mashup of the first two. Combining Buddhist sensibility with Hindu extravagance.
That first day we went first to the buddhist caves. The earliest ones were just deep cuts into the rock. They went deep and were supported by wide pillars. As we moved along they got progressively more confident in their ability to make bitchin’ caves we came across a temple.
From the outside it looked like the two caves flanking it. Except it wasn’t. As we moved closer we were told to take our shoes off by a small, stocky, mustachioed man. He told us in broken English that he would show us the temple and introduced himself as Deepak.
We moved inside, feet gently kissing the cool stone floor. Deepak started chanting. Deep, hypnotic chanting. It reverberated about the temple amplifying it. When he finished he led us around the temple explaining the meanings of the various statues.
I took a photo of him. He asked for the camera wanting to take a photo of us. He was very particular about making sure we were stood directly infront of the main statue. He told us to hold hands then said something in Hindi, backed off and took the photo.
Outside the temple he beckoned for us to share his lunch with him. We ate talking in broken English and Hindi. At one stage he pointed to me.
“Husband.” He said.
“Oh no, not husband, partner.” Sarah said.
“No. Now he’s husband.” He said smiling to himself.
Holy shit………Did a small mustachioed Buddhist just marry us in the temple. The insistence of how we posed. The short prayer. The sly smile.
We finished our lunch said goodbye and thanked Deepak for showing us the temple. Moving on through the cave complex we entered the Hindu section. The most impressive temple in the area, the Kailas Temple, was there. It is the largest monolith structure in the world (suck it Petra!) the sheer vision of the people who made it was insane. This thing is huge and intricate and made all the more impressive when you think it is a single carving!
Walking around/inside/on it people began to ask for photos with us. We would stand awkwardly surrounded by an Indian family. One guy came up to me with his small son, he wanted a photo with me and the son except I don’t think he explained this to the boy so the photo is me awkwardly holding this small boy who is trying to get away.
This got old fast and we headed back to the guest house. Our room surrounded by a gang of angry looking monkeys.
The next morning, in the room, going through the bags I find some Pop-Tarts because, lets face it, I am a 6ft five year old. We decide to share them with Deepak.
First we go and check out the final area of the Ellora caves. The section made by the Janists. These seem more complex then the other two types. The caves cut deep and branch off in small corridors winding their way to other rooms. There are bats slicing through the darkness as we inadvertently disturb their slumber.
We head back to the Buddhist caves to go and find Deepak. We find him and again he takes us to chant in the temple. We then sit outside and give him the Pop-Tarts. His face lights up as he succumbs to the sugar high. He asks if we have any more and pulls out a phone calling his wife to come and try them too. She brings normal food and we eat lunch together again. giving him the rest of the Pop-Tarts for his kids.
We then say goodbye and take a rickshaw back to Arungabad and the start of the next night bus.