If you were to ask tourists to India to name their greatest sights, or the one that they would like to visit, the chances of anyone saying ‘Ajanta‘ or ‘Ellora‘ are remote. In fact, I would argue that most Indian tourists themselves might not have it high on their bucket list. And that is a shame, for I believe that these are the greatest treasures in India.
I admit that there are lots of places in India that I am yet to see, but the caves at Ajanta (and Ellora) were easily the most awe-inspiring and moving sights of all the places that I have visited. The mind boggles to think that some of these caves were excavated, carved and painted over 2,000 years ago! They should rank high on the list of must-visit sights in India and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen them.
For people who would like to read and know more of these stupendous sights in Western India, here are a few resources that I came across recently:
The Life and Times of Walter Spink – Walter Spink was an American researcher and professor, who dedicated over 60 years of his life to the study of the Ajanta Caves. This page provides details of his work. There is also an excellent film on the same site.
The Chennakesava temple at Somnathpur was built by rulers of the Hoysala dynasty in the 13th Century. It is located on the banks of the river Kaveri, about 20 kilometres to the South East of Mysore. Along with the more famous temples at Belur and Halebid, this temple forms part of the magnificent Hoysala temples of Karnataka.
I recently revisited this temple (more a monument as active worship does not take place here anymore) while on a visit to Annamalai Tiger Reserve. The intricacy and profusion of carvings is simply stupendous. I know it’s a cliche, but words really cannot do justice to the beauty of this monument.
I recently came across an article that spoke about a school in Kerala, designed by the eminent architect, the late Laurie Baker.
Originally from England, Laurie Baker settled down in Kerala, finally becoming an Indian citizen in 1988. He received numerous awards in his lifetime, including a Padma Shri and a nomination for the Pritzker Prize. His style was to incorporate local elements to design buildings in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
I hadn’t realised, though, that one of his works included a school. Reading further, it turns out that the school was started by Mary Roy, a social activist who, incidentally, is also the mother of famous author, Arundhati Roy.
Interestingly, one of the conditions that Laurie Baker imposed while agreeing to the project, was that Mary should admit his daughter into the school!
Photos on the school’s website reveal structures with a red-brick frontage. They have numerous small holes to let air and light in, a typical Laurie Baker design.
Located near Kottayam town in Southern Kerala, this is a little know piece of architecture that might be worth checking out if you are in the region.
Digital marketer, travel / culture / heritage enthusiast