The Buddhist caves at Kolvi

It is a little after 10 am on a November morning in 2016 when we arrive at the base of the hillock that houses the Kolvi Caves, one of the three Buddhist rock-cut cave sites in Rajasthan. A board displaying some rather sketchy information about the caves reassure us that we are in the right place.

It says that the Kolvi Caves was a monastic complex of about 50 rock-cut caves, most of which have collapsed today and details have disappeared due to natural weathering. The presence of a big rock-cut stupa in the shape of a structural stupa, as we know it today, is considered to be an important and notable feature of the Kolvi Caves. It has been suggested that the absence of Bodhisattva figures at the site indicates that this was a site of Buddhist monks of the Hinayana (or Theravada) sect. The board doesn’t mention an important detail — the age of the Caves.

Apart from my friend Niti, our car driver and me, there is no one else around at the site. I take a minute to appreciate the surroundings and the location. The blackish red Kolvi hillock, which is entirely composed of laterite, rises quite suddenly and dramatically from a flat landscape.

A flight of steps, probably built over a pre-existing path, leads to the top of the hill where the Caves are located. A short climb later, Niti and I are opening the gate that leads into the cave complex.

Kolvi Caves, Buddhist Caves, Indian Art, Indian Aesthetics, Mahayana, Rajasthan. Travel, Hadoti Trip, Hadoti, Laterite
The approach to the Kolvi Caves – steps and a railing have been provided for easier access.

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Ajanta Caves: Where all the fine arts converge

The world-famous, rock-cut Ajanta Caves is one of those places where background reading or research doesn’t help. At least, it didn’t help me.

Prior to visiting the caves in December 2013, I had read up on the best time to visit, the must see paintings in the caves, etc., but my first look at the Ajanta Caves spread out before me like an arc, and I forgot all that I had read. So, when I walked into Cave 1 and saw the shimmering painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani (see photo below), I was surprised and delighted. Arguably, the best known Ajanta painting, I was as surprised and delighted as the 3 villagers who were standing next to me, and who had perhaps neither seen a picture nor read anything about the Ajanta cave paintings before.

Ajanta Caves, Buddhist paintings, Murals
Bodhisattva Padmapani

The Ajanta Caves is also one of those places, which has been very difficult to write about. More than a year and countless drafts later, I finally wrote this post — my nth attempt. I have written it with the full knowledge that it does not do justice to what I saw and experienced. Hopefully, the photographs in this post will try to convey what my words cannot.

Continue reading “Ajanta Caves: Where all the fine arts converge”