Today is Holi and this morning we celebrated it in the hotel garden with staff and other guests. The hotel provided colours – bright red, green, yellow and purple – and we began to play. I understand the conventional and courteous way to commence operations is to take a handful of powdered colour in each hand and apply it gently to either side of someone’s face. This is quite a seemly approach and unlikely to cause offence. Needless to say, it took our group about 20 seconds to pass this point. Vikram, our excellent guide, duly pasted my cheeks with colour before rubbing a handful into my hair. It was game on! A lot of fun, very colourful and a very cheerful event which ended with music and some dancing.
Vikram has assured us the colour will wash out of our clothes with no effort. He has also advised us to wear white shirts so the colours show to best effect. I suspect this is a man who never does domestic tasks as it took a 20 minute shower to get the powder off my skin – and although I’d shampooed it twice, my hair was still streaked with green in the afternoon. I wasn’t alone – a fair number of women wandered around with variations of pink, green or yellow hair. We all agreed we were mortified by the mess we’d left in the hotel showers and towels. The colour flooded down the plug hole and clung to any roughness in enamel surfaces.
I think we all sagged a bit as we drove to the Ellora caves. Yesterday’s visit to Ajunta was wonderful – but it was also gruelling and extremely hot. Temperatures are now 26C at night and 35+ during the day. Secretly none of us were that keen on another round of cave temples.
How wrong we were! The first couple of caves we visited were straight forward, the main difference between them and the Ajunta cave is that these are Hindu or Jain – Ajunta being exclusively Bhuddist.
The third temple we explored was extraordinary. The Kailish Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is an entire temple, but out of the rock. The builders started digging down from the top, shifting some 200 million tonnes of rubble, to create this masterpiece. In other words, they didn’t dig a hole, and then build a temple in the crater. They carved it from the rock they were excavating. Any mistake would have been a disaster. Remember this is 9th century AD, and took 200 years to complete. Some mastermind must have had a vision of what it was going to look like, and worked out what needed to be left, and what removed at each level.
Later we flew to Mumbai. Security is still tight, and I’ve got used to hassles at check in. We arrived at our hotel in Mumbai at 11pm and were all grateful to fall into our beds.
Our guide, Vikram
Our guide, Vikram
Kailash Temple - showing the massive overhang that they dug out