Ancient monuments are like classics. Each time you return to
them they give you something more . More to notice, understand, question and
think about. What meant little when young becomes meaningful with age. Old
mysteries are solved and new ones present themselves.
This was the case on a recent visit to Ajanta and Ellora.
Even though we have been to see these magnificent sites several times before, usually
to accompany friends from overseas, I was completely astounded by them again. What
richness of detail, what colour, what form , what balance!
There was gratifying evidence of an increased care in their
upkeep and maintenance. Ongoing efforts to
record and document the murals in their present condition and to revive some of
their former glory albeit
with help from the Japanese government.
While hordes of children too young to know what they were looking at, swept like
locusts through the caves, touching the frescoes where they were in reach,
custodians yelled and bellowed to restrain them from wiping their grubby hands
on the precious paintings. Their voices reverberated through the dark halls but
they could not drown out the hum of devotion or visions of dedication that these glorious temples evoked.
We had driven there through a pleasing countryside, some
areas of black cotton soil were covered with cotton and sunflower fields.
Others more parched, grew sturdy crops like
jowar (sorghum). On our return we were treated to another classic.
Hurda ‘parties’ were taking place at
every possible jowar farm which bordered the highway. We stopped at one which was
really well organised. Welcomed by the farmer and his family, rugs had been
spread out in the shade of the subabool trees,
each seating area cordoned off from another by hedges. Our orders were taken
in weight. One kilo or two kilos of tender green jowar. Cut fresh from the field the stalks were heavy with the
Small heaps of cow dung had already been placed in shallow 2 ft
wide circular holes in the ground. As we sat there the cow dung was lit.
fire became strong and the jowar
sheafs were placed under the burning dung where they began popping and
crackling like corn.
A few seconds and they were whipped out, threshed on a
gunny sack to take off the grain and
-then sieved to remove any remaining dust,
leaves or extraneous matter.
Served with a dried chilli and peanut chutney and a small
bowl of buttermilk the Hurda was utterly
luscious. Nutty, milky, sweet and redolent of the warm fields around us it was a
perfect reminder of all that is timeless in this country.