Saturday, November 22

Must See in Maharashtra

Gateway of India
Built in the Indo-saracenic style, the Gateway of India is meant to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Darbar in Delhi in December 1911. The foundation stone was laid on March 31, 1911 and George Wittet's final design sanctioned in August 1914. Between 1915 and 1919 work proceeded on reclamations at Apollo Pier for the land on which the gateway and the new sea wall would be built. The foundations were completed in 1920.

The Gateway is built from yellow Kharodi basalt and reinforced concrete. The central dome is 48 feet in diameter and 83 feet above ground at its highest point. The whole harbour front was realigned in order to come in line with a planned esplanade which would sweep down to the centre of the town.

The cost of the construction was Rs. 21 lakhs, borne mainly by the Government of India. For lack of funds, the approach road was never built, and the Gateway now stands at an angle to the road leading up to it.
The construction was completed in 1924, and the Gateway opened on December 4, 1924 by the Viceroy, Earl of Reading.

The last British troops to leave India, the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, passed through the gate in a ceremony on February 28, 1948.  

Bibi Ka Maqbara
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, in Agra, in loving memory of his wife Mumtaz. His son Aurangzeb, who overthrew him, built the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as a mausoleum to his wife Rabia-ud-Durrani.

This is the monument for which Aurangabad is best known, probably because it was obviously intended to rival the Taj Mahal, which it imitates. The comparison with the Agra monument has unfortunately somewhat denigrated the Aurangabad tomb which in itself displays a worthwhile architectural design, with much distinguished surface ornamentation in the late Mughal style.

The mausoleum dates from 1678 and it was erected by Prince Azam Shah, one of Aurangzeb's sons, in memory of Begum Rabia Durani, his mother. It stands in the middle of a spacious and formally planned garden, some 457 by 274 metres, with axial ponds, fountains, and water channels, many defined by stone screens and lined with broad pathways. The garden is enclosed by high crenellated walls with bastions set at intervals, and open pavilions on three sides.

In the middle of the south wall is an imposing gateway with brass-inlaid doors; these are inscribed with the name of the architect, Atam Aula. The central focus of this vast enclosure is the tomb itself. This is raised on a high terrace to look out over the garden plots and waterways. Access to the octagonal chamber containing the unadorned grave at the lower level is from a flight of steps that descends from the terrace. The grave is enclosed by an octagon of perforated marble screens. The chamber above is a high square structure presenting identical fagades on four sides. Each is dominated by a lofty portal with a pointed arch, flanked by smaller arched niches of similar design. A great dome, with a pronounced bulbous profile and a brass pot finial, crowns the whole composition while four lesser domes mark the corners.

Doorways lead to an inner octagonal gallery, defined by stone screens, that overlooks the grave from an upper level, an architectural innovation unicfue, to this monument. Corner squinches carry the lofty dome that roofs the chamber. White marble is used throughout, interspersed with delicately moulded stucco. There is, however, no use of semiprecious stones. Exactly like the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum is framed by four lofty minarets that stand freely at the corners of the terrace, their part-octagonal bases continuing down to ground level.

They have diminutive square pavilions in red sandstone at their summits. To the west of the tomb is a small mosque with finely worked cusped arches and corner minarets. Small recesses, rosettes, and arabesques embellish the faqade. Mention may also be made here of the Sunheri Mahal, situated to the north of Bibi ka Maqbara, which is a notable building in the late Mughal style. It is of interest for the patches of old painting and goldwork that adorn the walls.
Ajanta Caves
About 107 kms. from the city of Aurangabad, the rock-cut caves of Ajanta nestle in a panoramic gorge, in the form of a gigantic horseshoe.

Among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, caves-paintings and sculptures, these caves comprise Chaitya Halls, or shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas, or monasteries, used by Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings.

The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents from the life of the Buddha and various Buddhist divinities. Among the more interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as Bodhisattva, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha.

Occupied for almost 700 years, the caves of Ajanta seem to have been abandoned rather abruptly. They remained shrouded in obscurity for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British army officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. The 'View Point' from where John Smith first glimpsed the caves, provides a magnificent sight of the U-shaped gorge and its scenic surroundings. Cascading down the cliff is a spectacular waterfall, which at the bottom feeds a natural pool called the Saptakunda.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra Travel Vacations Ajanta has been designated as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come 

Aurangabad Caves
Aurangabad Caves are artificial caves, dug out of the rather soft rock during the 6th and 7th century. This caves are found on two separate locations, called Western Group Caves (caves 1-5) and Eastern Group Caves (caves 6-10), about 1km from each other. Each group has five caves. The architecture and iconography is influenced by Tantric Hinduism.

Cave four of the Western Group Caves is the oldest cave. It is a Hinayana Chaitya with a ridged roof like the Karla Cave near Lonavala. Hinayana (Sanskrit: Lesser Vehicle) is the more orthodox, conservative schools of Buddhism. Chaitya (Sanskrit) is the word for a funeral monument. There is a stupa in front of it, now partially collapsed.

The other four Western caves are viharas, which are an early type of Buddhist monastery consisting of an open court surrounded by open cells accessible through an entrance porch. The viharas in India were originally constructed to shelter the monks. Cave 3, the most fascinating cave of the Western Group, is supported by 12 finely carved columns. They show sculptures portraying scenes from the Jataka tales.

Cave 6 belongs to the Eastern Group Caves, and shows very well preserved sculptures of women, which are notable for their exotic hairstyles and ornamentation. There is also a large Buddha figure and an idol of Ganesh located in this cave.

Cave 7 is the most interesting of the Aurangabad caves. Most impressive are the sculptures, figures of women which are scantily clad and ornately bejewelled. They show the rise of Tantric Buddhism during this period. To the left of Cave 7 is a huge Bodhisattva praying for deliverance from the 8 dangers: fire, the sword of the enemy, chains, shipwreck, lions, snakes, mad elephant and demon (representing death). 
Ellora Caves
The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 26 kms. north of Aurangabad. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas, or halls of worship, and Viharas, or monasteries, Hindu and Jian temples.

Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5th and 11th century AD, the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (cave 29). The most imposing excavation is, without doubt, that of the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) which is the largest single monolithic structure in the world. Interestingly, Ellora, unlike the site of Ajanta, was never 'rediscovered'. Known as Verul in ancient times, it has continuously attracted pilgrims through the centuries to the present day.

Ellora has been designated as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.

Cave 1: This is the first monastery at the southern end of Ellora. It has four residential cells cut into the side walls. The cave is devoid of any carvings or sculptures.

Cave 2: This has a verandah, with a recess at the right, housing images of Panchika, the god od wealth, and Hariti, the goddess of prosperity. The entrance is flanked by guardians, next to whom are figures of the Buddha and other divinities. Each of the lateral walls in the hall has sculptures of five seated Buddhas flanked by celestial figures and by Bodhisattvas, or saintly beings who are destined to become Buddhas. A similar but larger figure of the Buddha can be seen in the sanctuary. The porch to the right of the sanctuary depicts the Miracle of Shravasti when the Buddha manifested himself in a thousand forms.

Cave 3: This cave has an unfinished image of the seated Buddha in a shrine. Pot and foliage motifs adorm the columns of the hall.

Cave 4: A two-storeyed excavation, this cave is now mostly in ruins. At the lower level is a plain hall, with a columned asile leading to a shrine where a figure of the seated Buddha is accompanied by attendants. A similar but smaller shrine is located on the upper story.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra TourismCave 5: Excavated at a higher level, this large cave consists of a spacious hall divided into three aisles. Porches in the middle of the side walls have small cells on either side. Columns are decorated with medallions and other motifs surrounded by intricate foliage. Several benches are carved out of the floor. The entrcane to the central shrine is carved with Bodhisattvas bedecked with intricate headgear and jewellery. In the shrine is a figure of the seated Buddha.

Cave 6: The rectangular hall in this cave has columns with pot and foliage capitals. The walls of an antechamber in the rear of the hall, which leads into a small shrine, are covered with figures of the Boddhisattva and the goddesses Tara and Mahamayuri. The doorway of the shrine is carved with elaborate sculptures on other side. On the left is Analokiteshwara holding a lotus and a rosary in his hands, with a deer-skin draped on his left shoulder. On theright is the sculpture of Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning, within the shrine is the figure of the seated Buddha, flanked by multiple smaller Buddhist figures, attendants and devotees on the side walls.

Cave 7: This is a simple hall with four plain pillars.

Cave 8: This is the only monastery at Ellora, where the sanctum is isolated from the rear wall, with a circular passage around it. The passageway has three cells on the left, an incomplete columned gallery at the rear and two columns in the front. Sculptures of the Buddha adorn the hall.

Cave 9: This consists of an open terrace with a balcony and a shrine housing figures of Buddhist divinities. The embellished façade has, among other motifs, an unusual scene of the goddess Tara rescuing devotees from the perils of a snake, a sword, an elephant (left). Fire and a shipwreck (right).

Cave 10 (Vishvakarma): Named after Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, this cave marks the culmination of Chaitya architecture in India. The hall has porticos on three sides, raised on a basement carved with animals. A long frieze depicting a hunting scene appears above the brackets in the hall. A Stupa in the middle of the rear wall has a seated Buddha figure. A flight of steps in the verandah leads to the upper gallery. The façade behind this gallery consists of a doorway flanked by Chaitya window motifs, flying celestials, and Bodhisattvas with female attendants. On either side of the doorway, to the inner gallery, are recesses housing the figures of female deitied and the Bodhisattva. A large figure of the Buddha , in the teaching position, is carved on to the front of the central Stupa accompanied by flying attendants and Bodhisattvas.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra TravelsCave 11 (Do Tal): A three-storeyed excavation dating back to the 8th century. Do Tal, or two storeys, was the name erroneously given to this cave when its ground floor was buried under debris. The lowest level has two cells and a central sanctuary withg figures of the Buddha in the teaching position. The intermediate level consists of five excavations, the first being incomplete and the last being a cell with a rock -cut bed. The remaining three have images of the Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas the uppermost level has a long columned hall with a shrine in the cenntre. On the rear wall are images of the goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha , indicating that this cave was later converted for worship by Hindus. 
Elephanta Caves 

Elephanta Island was known in ancient times as "Gharapuri" or The Place of Caves. The Portuguese took possession of the island and named it Elephanta after the great statue which they found on the seashore.

There are seven caves of which the most important is the Mahesha-Murti Cave. The main body of the cave, excluding the porticoes on the three open sides and the back aisle, is 27 m square and is supported by rows of six columns. The gigantic figures of Dvarapalas, or doorkeepers are very impressive.

The cave temple, which is the pride of Elephanta, sprawled over an area of approximately 5000 square metres, is reached by climbing a flight of more than 100 steps, to the top of a hill. Inside the temple, is a large pillared hall with rows of columns, that appear to hold up the roof of the cave.

Cross beams complete the illusion of a ceiling. One's attention is immediately drawn to the series of marvellous sculptured panels, nine in all, which are set like tableaux on the walls. Little is known about the architects and sculptors, who worked on this gem of ancient architecture. What is almost tangible is their intense faith, which seems to create an energy field in the cave premises. Each of the panel captures the volatility of Shiva's essentially paradoxic nature, and the magical interplay of light and shade, only intensifies the overall effect. 
Mahabaleshwar was the summer capital of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. A popular town, with an air of unspoilt beauty, it meanders leisurely for 5 kms. at an altitude of 1372m.

While away the hours boating or fishing at the placid Venna Lake. Explore the walks or the thirty points that offer panoramic views of the valley and the sea. Bathe in the crystal waters of the numerous waterfalls.

Discover Pratapgad Fort 24 kms. away, where Shivaji dramatically bested General Afzal Khan. And the gorgeous ninehole golf course built on the edge of a cliff! Or simply idle through the tiny lanes of the bazaar, shopping for everything from shoes to luscious strawberries, blackberries, jams and jellies.

Taxis and rickshaws are easily available though a bicycle, which you can hire by the hour or for the day, is the best way to get around.

Temperature vary from 13oC in winter to 29 oC in summer with a yearly rainfall of 663 cms.

The best time to visit is October to June.

Getting there: Pune is the nearest airport, 120 kms. away.

Pune is also the most convenient railhead, though Wathar at 62 kms. is the nearest.

Mumbai is 290 kms. away by road via Pune and 247 kms. via Mahad.