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Ajanta Caves- Art Beyond Imagination

Ajanta Caves- Art Beyond Imagination

It was the summer of 1819. Captain John Smith, a young Cavalry Officer, along with a party of British hunters, was tracking down a tiger. In the thick forest of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the animal’s footprints led them straight past a cavity in a rock face. They soon found themselves in front of a manmade façade, cut into the rock face. As the hunting party slowly made its way inside, a burning torch in hand, they were left spellbound. ’Coz what lay in front, was a long hall with octagonal pillars and a circular dome. All over the walls were murals and paintings –art beyond their belief. It was what we know today as the Ajanta Caves. It had been abandoned for centuries!!

Art beyond imagination

The Ajanta Caves, amidst the lush vegetation of Maharashtra, holds within it an experience unimaginable. These Buddhist rock-cut temples, with its Fresco paintings, speak volumes about India’s ancient culture and heritage. Ever since its discovery, considerable effort has been done in trying to restore and recapture these paintings.

A life dedicated to Ajanta

They say early childhood influences have a substantial impact on a person’s life, especially on his passions and career choices. Dinesh Baurkhandi’s early days were spent observing his father Shambhuprasad Baukhandi and his work on the paintings of Ajanta Caves. His father was a senior artist in Archeological Survey of India and also worked in The National Museum at New Delhi, when he was transferred to Ajanta Caves to reproduce the paintings. This reproduction is in display in The National Museum.

Dinesh Baurkhandi would visit the Ajanta Caves with his father every vacation. Observing his style of work, he would paint out lines and fill colors for his father. He learnt the technique and nuances of painting in water color, water paper and oil on canvas. It was after his father passed away, he picked up the brush and canvas to pursue the wonderful work. There has been no looking back since, and for 35 years, he has dedicated his life to Ajanta Caves paintings. Dinesh Baurkhandi’s paintings have been on display at the Ayatan Art Gallery in Pune.

Rock-cut monuments from a bygone era

The Ajanta Caves are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from approximately the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The theme of paintings here is mainly Jataka stories. As the caves were dwelling places of Buddhist monks, these paintings are religious in nature mostly depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The walls paintings comprise of murals and frescoes.

There is an extensive use of tempera style, i.e., use of pigments. The uniqueness of the art lies in blending of wet colors, layer by layer, on water paper. The outlines of female figures, the face effect and mood are distinctly portrayed. That’s what gives out the “fresco effect” in the Ajanta paintings. Emotions are expressed through hand postures. Graceful figures and mythical beings have been freely used to fill space. These paintings are a blend of physical beauty and spiritual strength, which is the hallmark of Indian style of painting.

Finest surviving example

The Ajanta Caves is today a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Truly, they are the finest surviving example of Indian art.

Travel to Israel to Experience Happiness, Faith and Life

Travel to Israel to Experience Happiness, Faith and Life

If there is one unique thing that stands out in Israel, it is the diversity the country holds within it. Exuberant in every way, the beautiful people and place seem as though they are all out of a grand epic. Vibrant cultures, traditions, art and culinary that fills your heart with joy. The desert and the sea, together, make it a surreal world for the tourist exploring it.

At the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa, lies Israel, a congruence of cultures, empires and religions since time immemorial. It bears the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. One can immerse oneself in the holy land and in its rich religious traditions.

  • Jerusalem- the cradle of the world’s three biggest religions

Truly Jerusalem serves as the landmark for the three biggest religions of the world. It has the great Western Wall. An important shrine, this Jewish site was initially a retaining wall supporting the outer portion of Temple Mount, upon which stood the Second Temple. Although the Temple was destroyed, its retaining structure remained and rabbinical texts maintain that the Shechina (divine presence) never deserted it.

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Jerusalem is also famous for its Byzantine-era synagogues adorned with sumptuous mosaics. Synagogues around the Sea of Galilee attract a lot of tourists. The sites are of importance as they are associated with the birth of Jesus (Bethlehem) and the crucifixion site. Mecca and Medina is Holy for the Muslims. The Dome of the Rock is yet another masterpiece and an enduring symbol of the city. It is covered by a slab of stone sacred to both the Muslim and Jewish Faiths.

That’s how magnificent Jerusalem is!

  • Tel Aviv- The vibrant city with tourists thronging it through the year.

Did you know Tel Aviv is often referred to as the party capital of the Middle East?

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Tel Aviv is a multicultural mix of people, cultures, and cuisines. You would find sky scrapers that adorn the beautiful skyline, neatly laid out bike paths, cafes and bistros with vibrant young and beautiful people. The sultry Mediterranean climate and the sea with its lashing waves make it an ideal place for a happening night life. The shores of the sea are a witness every night to the young and old alike, tourists and locals, who party till the break of dawn. It’s no surprise Tel Aviv is known as the party capital of the Middle East.

Tel Aviv also houses the world’s major centers of high-tech venture capital, the century-old city earned UNESCO World Heritage status by virtue of its 1930s-style Bauhaus architecture.

  • The Dead Sea- Truly one of the wonders of the world

The Dead Sea on the Israeli shore could be considered as the largest spa in the world. It is a must visit, as it lets you soak up the sun while you lie flat and float in the water. The sea is serene surrounded by mountains and hills, adding to its scenic beauty.

Sat Crystals, Floating and spa

The sea water rejuvenates your entire body and mind.  With the Dead Sea mud mask and salts, you could detox the body, increase your circulation, improve the skin texture and cure those aches and pains. Many tourists spend hours on the beach floating on the sea and benefiting from the rich minerals in both the mud and the salts.

  •  Cuisine- Surely you must have them and savor the unique flavors

Israeli food has some really distinct tastes and flavors. They greatly differ from European or Western food, but have a strong resemblance to many Asian and North African cuisine. Yet, with its own distinct signature taste.

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Something, which should definitely not be given a miss. Must tries are surely the Falafel – the king of Israeli food. It is a delicious mix of chickpeas and fava beans, along with the use of some generous spices. The Hummus is a kind of dip or spread made from crushed chickpeas and mixed with tehina sauce, lemon, olive oil, salt and garlic.  The Shakshooka is yet another fantastic Israeli food is a liquid dish made up of tomatoes, onions, plenty of garlic, and spices such as sweet paprika.

Israel – A Great Destination for Indian Tourists? Of course it is….

A country with a modern lifestyle and experiences, Israel is truly a great holiday destination from India. The country offers a lot more and caters to budget travellers, backpackers, and family holidays too. The weather is moderate and definitely enjoyable by Indian travellers. Tel Aviv is the coolest city in the Mediterranean. One can also travel to Gulf Countries, after having a Israel visa stamp on their passport. 

Israel is a perfect blend of faith, of life, of happy people, of a great lifestyle, culinary experiences, and much more. The country is safer than most western countries and a holiday would be worth every bit. From serenity to diversity, from religion and history to architecture, you get it all in one single land which is Israel. So go for it!!!

We Aren’t a Country of Just Snake Charmers

We Aren’t a Country of Just Snake Charmers

My family was excited. The “cousin” in the household was to wed a beautiful French damsel. The youngster had left the country to pursue his masters in the United States, and seek greener pastures in corporate America. It was here that love blossomed between the two and after a whirlwind courtship they decided to get married.

The family in India took it all easy. They were happy that their son had finally decided to “settle” down, and were excited at the prospect of interacting with a family that was not only foreign to them but also spoke a language that was fairly new. For some strange reason, the French side wasn’t too happy with the alliance. To them India was nothing but a land of snake charmers, a poor country where people weren’t all educated. But let’s face it. Isn’t this the common thought that exists among many in the West? India to them is the land of the Taj, where Maharajas ruled and a country from where you pick up elephants as souvenirs. Theres nothing more to it. Or is there?

India is a country of snake charmers
But the practice long left the country

Snake Charming is the practice of pretending to hypnotize a snake, thereby making it dance to the tunes that are emitted from a wind instrument called pungi or bansuri. Commonly a street performance, the practice has been prevalent not only in India, but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, the North African countries of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Today the practice has been prohibited under the Wildlife Act. The few who remain can be found in destinations such as Rajasthan, solely to attract tourists.

Indians aren’t educated
Come on now, how do you explain the increasing number of professional colleges that come out in dozens every year?

The fact is that a large percentage of our population today seeks education. Every year, the country churns out in thousands, doctors, engineers, management professionals etc… Doesn’t this go to show that we do place importance on our population being educated? Of course rural India still may seem way behind. But hey, this doesn’t qualify India as an uneducated country.

India is unsafe
Well, it is as safe (or unsafe) as any other country in Europe, Asia or America

Oh well! The typical stereotype. We sure have had terror attacks, rape cases or sexual assaults in the past. But these are issues that are present on a global level too. Parts of the country, though are far more sensitive, such as Kashmir, but when you look at the broader picture, the country is as safe as most other countries.

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We have other shades too! 

If you have seen the Taj, you have seen India. And aren’t all souvenirs in India elephants?
It surely has the Taj. But, the country has this and much more too

Of course we are proud of the Taj. And we are also proud of its pristine mountains, rivers, plains, beaches, temples and palaces. The art and handicrafts greatly vary from place to place. You need to travel its vastness to pick up souvenirs that are anything but elephants.

All Indians are in customer support
Indians are in customer support and other things too

It would be rather surprising if one didn’t speak to an Indian customer care executive over phone, when living in the US, Canada or even for that matter Europe. For these countries, it is just a job that has been outsourced. For many in India, it is an opportunity. Look at it this way, customer care, technical support, call center or software support, you name it and we have surely left a mark. Indian’s have the skill in technical jobs as well as in various other fields. There is a large number of Indians in the medical field too across the globe.

The country today sure has surpassed the tag of being one of snake charmers and tantric. Of course, like the two sides of a coin, the country has a side of despair, some not so nice social practices and a population that’s on the brink of explosion. But look onto the other side of the coin and you see that the country is well into the road of development.

It depends on which side you place upwards!

The family’s “Indo-French” wedding was a success, with its cross cultural ceremonies. There were exchange of vows between the couple and exchange of gifts between the families. We ensured the French took back with them India’s true picture and a goodie bag that was loaded- well not with elephants this time!

Featured image source: pinterest