When your daughter’s middle name is Ellora, you have to go visit the Ellora Caves in India, especially if you got the name from finding the caves on an atlas.
You go, even if it means taking an overnight train that leaves Mumbai ridiculously late and arrives in Aurangabad (the ugliest place we have been in India so far) ridiculously early. And do the same on the return.
After arriving in Aurangabad just before dawn, we booked one room to crash in for a few hours before heading to the caves for the day. We arranged for a driver to take us to the caves, wait for us, then bring us back to our hotel. Our driver dropped us off at the parking lot and we took a shuttle bus up to cave at the far end of the park.
Before us stood temples carved into a hill. Through columns of stone, we could see cavernous rooms where once there was just solid rock.
Carvings of various Hindu gods covered the walls of the rooms. Stairs led to a second story.
The skill and time needed to create these caves must have been immense. We stood in awe, gazing at these masterpieces.
We had the area mostly to ourselves so Kali Ellora took the chance to dance around her namesake caves.
As we made our way down to the lower caves, the tourist crowds grew. At Kailasanatha temple, the biggest and most elaborate cave (named after the same mountain as our oldest daughter, Sierra Kaila), bus loads of tourists milled about admiring the man-made spectacle.
Despite the awe inspiring surroundings, we found ourselves to be almost as big of a tourist attraction. We must have been asked to take photos with dozens of groups of Indians. We almost always agree and laugh at how “famous” we are in India.
One of the coolest caves was this arched corridor with a Buddha statue.
We had so much fun exploring the Ellora Caves. Rand even compared them to the splendor of Angkok Wat.
We considered going to the Ajunta caves, but found out they were farther away from Aurangabad, and therefore more expensive to get there than we thought. We decided that it wasn’t worth spending the several hours in the car and the extra money.
Then we thought about going to the mini Taj Mahal, but decided against that, too. After 8 months of full time travel, we don’t always have motivation to do touristy things everyday.
But the Ellora Caves were well worth the inconvenient trains from and back to Mumbai and staying in the armpit that is Aurangabad (Seriously, it is dust, covered in gravel with some square gray buildings scattered about, with a large sprinkling of garbage, of course). The city was even less sanitary than most. We all returned to Mumbai with stomach troubles, my first case of Delhi Belly so far.
Still, it was worth it to see the man made wonders craved into the hillside. The caves turned out to be just as beautiful as the name we stole for our second daughter.