Coming to Symbiosis more than half way into the term, I didn’t think I would be able to participate too much in class. But, fortunately for me, I still had the opportunity to go on my Archaeology class’s field trip! There were about 15 kids, mostly bubbly Indian girls, a couple international students from Germany that are attending Fergusson College in Pune, me and one other rotary exchange student, our Ma’am and her husband and son, and the driver of the non a/c bus. We all headed off in the morning (at 7am!!) and arrived at our hotel just outside of Aurangabad after about a million hours of the bumpiest, hottest, most uncomfortable, and dirtiest ride I’ve had in all my days in India. But the view from our hotel, out across a wide valley, gorgeous and lush with greenery and up the side of a grassy mountain to the caves we were about to visit, immediately made the trip worth it. After getting unpacked and cleaned up, we ate some lunch at the hotel restaurant and walked over to where our tour would begin.
The first day: Ellora Caves, Monkeys, Chillin’ at our Hotel with Fresh Lime soda.
The caves were spectacular! There was loads of information shared about how they were created, by whom, at what time, etc..Mostly it brought me back to my Intro to Art History class at Carleton when we were studying these sorts of structures, paying close attention to the Architecture of creating such a masterpiece. And in this case, there were like 12 masterpieces! We visited only five of the most decorated, absolutely ginormous caves that were covered in carvings, of which, both Hindu and Buddhist gods were depicted. It was quite a heavenly view. looking down into the valley from up on the outcrop of carved rock..I enjoyed the feeling of all the peaceful energy that was left there by so many people visiting/praying to/worshipping the gods over all the years. When our tour was over, we had the pleasure of visiting with some monkeys out in the parking lot. I was pretty excited about that. My first Indian monkey experience! Haha. They just ate their bananas and went about doing their monkey things, hanging around (and on) the parked cars. Back at the hotel that night we were all fairly wiped out from the busy day, so we stayed at the hotel drinking fresh lime sodas and telling each other funny stories while sitting out on the lawn and looking out over the awesome views as the sky grew dim.
The second day: The Fort, a heavy Lunch, the Mini Taj, and a Religious Water Fountainy thing.
We got up way too early, and headed out directly after breakfast. We had no idea what was in store for us that day, but as we drove past the never-ending curves of the road, we gained access to a view of some flatlands, all basically empty, except for a big hill/mountain in the middle with a teeny tiny little structure at the very top. As we came around the hill, we could see old brick walls surrounding a few more structures and a big red tower. This is the fort we were to visit that day, and it covered a huuuuge area. Good thing our group was so young and full of energy! Heh. We went through each section of the fort, slowly making our way up the side of the hill. It was quite open and very green, with lots of vegetation and nature. My favorite were the peacocks. Or the monkeys. I can’t choose. Anyway, we climbed and walked and climbed and walked, all the while our guide was informing us of the history of the place. Imagining people residing in this place, particularly with all the wars and battles that were going on at the time, was quite a challenge. Apparently there were hundreds, if not a couple thousand people living there, mostly workers for the wealthy and the royals. I don’t know how they did it, always traveling up and down the hill getting to different parts of the fort. It took us a good two hours to get up and another one to come back down after we had conquered the hill. Our guide was completely shocked that we all made it to the very top! It was a gorgeous site. The big, tall red tower that we were underneath in a picture taken only an hour or so previous was now a tiny speck in the background of the pictures we took at the top of the hill. The palace at the top was pretty run down, but still had the most amazing view from its empty windows. Needless to say, when we were finally back down at the bus I was starving. So we went for a huge lunch at this “hotel” and promptly went to our next venue. The Mini Taj was…a mini Taj Mahal. Not all that spectacular. But we took some cool pictures, and the afternoon light was nice and warm, so we stayed there and watched people play badminton in the courtyard and took pictures of cute little boys. This was also the location of the Evil Bathroom, the one in which I dropped my phone directly into the hole of an indian style toilet. It was a sad moment. I cheered right up when I heard we were going to a nice water fountain place (that had shopping) before we headed home, though. I took only one cool picture of that. You can see all the pictures of this trip here.
It was late when we got back, around 11pm, and we were all wiped out (and filthy from the non a/c bus ride back). It took me a few days to recover from that busy weekend, I tell ya!
So the Archaeology trip I pictured going on even before I left for India wasn’t exactly as I had imagined. I had dreamed of going to some sort of dig in the middle of the jungle, taking elephants to get to the site where I would discover the last piece of bone in a human skeleton the archaeologists had been looking for most of their careers…yeah right. But after seeing what I saw, it definitely gave me a new perspective on Archaeology as a whole. It has a huge part to do with the history around finding ancient artifacts, not just the finding them part like Bridget does in that desert in TSOTTP. That would be cool too, though. :)