We took a seven hour train ride from Mumbai to Aurangabad, arriving just after midnight. Along the way we sat next to a nice man named Matloob who explained to us which seats were ours. It was our first time on a sleeper class train and it can be confusing at first. Matloob and the three of us conversed for quite a while and after he answered many of our questions we became Facebook friends.
I stared out the window, taking lots of pictures, until it was dark. Later I was talking with some more locals and one man was very interested in American movies. I told him some of my favorites are from the Jason Bourne series and I found it hilarious when he said, without any accent, “Pamela Landy”. It sounded just like the movie!!
Thankfully our train was on time and we had a driver waiting for us at the train station to take us directly to our hotel. The following morning we got up early and headed out for the Ajanta caves which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site estimated to be as old as 480 BC. It was a breath of fresh air to be in a smaller city (1 million) than Mumbai (21 million). The caves are 100km from Aurangabad so we hired a driver for the day. On the way we saw many interesting things including cows pulling carts, cows sitting in the middle of the road, dogs, goats, water buffalo, horses and pigs.
As soon as we stepped out of our car, we were swarmed by a group of about eight men all asking us to come check out their shops after seeing the caves. It is really amazing how the caves are laid out, there are twenty eight of them and they follow the river in the shape of a U. Each cave has it’s own unique identity, although many follow a similar pattern of large stone columns along the outside of the room, with intricate paintings on the walls and a large Buddha statue opposite the entrance.
It is astounding when standing inside of one of these caves and thinking about how much rock had to be chiseled out to form a hollow structure. On top of that they used primitive tools to create amazingly intricate work.
DINNER IN AURANGABAD
That night in Aurangabad we went to a restaurant that was suggested to us called Bohj. It was the most interesting dinner experience of my life. We were seated and immediately they brought each of us a large platter with five small bowls arranged around the outside. We had four servers bring us different sauces and spices until the platter was almost full. After the last server brought us three different types of bread, dinner was served. I think we finished eating in fifteen minutes, paid our bill and we were done. The whole experience was a whirlwind but awesome at the same time. Everything had tons of flavor and it cost each of us about $3.50!!
The next morning we headed to the Ellora caves, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Once again we encountered some unusual obstacles in the road including a pack (or whatever you call them) of about 100 goats and we saw our first camel (no picture 🙁 ) The Ellora caves were also very impressive, they represent three different religions; Buddhist, Hindu and Jain. Many of the caves are similar to the Ajanta caves, except cave number one which is the most spectacular.
We followed up the Ellora caves by climbing up to the Daulatabad fort near in Devagiri.
The fort was founded in the 11th century under King Bhillama the 5th and was used in many victorious battles. It sits on top a large hill overlooking the city of Aurangabad. Our driver dropped us off at a parking lot at the bottom and escorted us to where we start the short but daunting climb. When we first entered the fort we walked along a stone pathway lined with gardens, small temple looking structures and monkeys! Lots of monkeys!
At the end of the pathway we entered a huge wooden castle gate with a small door within it called a wicket gate. As we continue climbing up stair after stair the views of the area become more spectacular. We weaved through dark narrow hallways, crossed a bridge over a moat and entered through doors with huge metal spikes and as tall as two Andre the Giants! Finally at the top we could see the details of the fort structure and surrounding walls now covered with greenage. A beautiful and spontaneous addition to the day!