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  • Thumbnail for Ajanta Caves, bridge over dry Waghora Riverbed
    Ajanta Caves, bridge over dry Waghora Riverbed

    The Ajanta Caves were carved out of the rocky hillside surrounding a bend in the Waghora River. During the dry season, the riverbed becomes a footpath but in the rainy season, people wade through the stream over slippery rocks.

  • Thumbnail for Bodhisattva figure
    Bodhisattva figure

    Bodhisattva figures adorn the outer walls of the caves. These bodhisattva figures represent the ideal of leaving one's family, wealth, and social standing to take up the life of a wandering Buddhist mendicant seeking enlightenment

  • Thumbnail for Buddha seated in teaching pose
    Buddha seated in teaching pose

    Seated in a throne-like setting, the Buddha is depicted with his hands in the teaching pose. His feet rest on a lotus, symbol of enlightenment, and supernatural beings are carved around him, ostensibly also attending to his teachings. The throne was constructed in the shape of a stupa within the cave, with ample room around it for monks and pilgrims to circumambulate the image.

  • Thumbnail for Auspicious figures on cave doorway, woman in Tribunga pose under tree
    Auspicious figures on cave doorway, woman in Tribunga pose under tree

    This female yakshi represents the auspicious fertility of the earth as she stands under the canopy of a fruit-laden tree, possibly mango. Auspicious symbols surround the entranceways to the caves, making these caves also auspcious places to dwell.

  • Thumbnail for Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26
    Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26

    This carving of the parinirvana of the Buddha Sakyamuni includes figures of monks receiving teaching from the Buddha, emphasizing the importance of the Buddha as a teacher even as he was dying. Cave 26.

  • Thumbnail for Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26 (close-up 2, without flash)
    Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26 (close-up 2, without flash)

    A close-up view of the head of the Buddha at his parinirvana in Cave 26.

  • Thumbnail for Zar Zari Zar Baksh Dargah, ritual of thanksgiving for child, weighing baskets for ritual
    Zar Zari Zar Baksh Dargah, ritual of thanksgiving for child, weighing baskets for ritual

    These two metal baskets used for the child weighing ritual are connected by a thick rope positioned over the strong limb of a tree in the courtyard of the dargah. [For description of the ritual, see cbind0043.]

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad, Aurangzeb Mosque, Mehrab
    Khuldabad, Aurangzeb Mosque, Mehrab

    The niche in the wall, the mehrab, is placed in the direction of Mecca so that all facing the mehrab for prayer will also be facing Mecca. On the wall are the names Allah and Muhammad representing the creedal statement, the Shahada: There exists only one God and Muhammad is his messenger. Also, on the wall is the clock, a reminder of the 5 daily prayer times.

  • Thumbnail for Aurangzeb Mosque perfume kiosk
    Aurangzeb Mosque perfume kiosk

    Outside many mosques in India, small shops sell perfumes and small ornaments. Before prayer, all must perform ritual ablutions to purify oneself. From an early period, perfumes have been associated with the idea of purification.

  • Thumbnail for Qawwali singer, Taj Muhammad
    Qawwali singer, Taj Muhammad

    Taj Muammad, Khuldabad's senior qawwali singer in January 2003, left Khuldabad as a young teen to study and live with a respected qawwali teacher in Bombay. His Khuldabadi family had recognized his gift as he sang with the local qawwali performers as a boy, and so supported his move to Bombay to learn with a master, an ustad. In his sixties, Taj Muhammad was still singing the somber and spirited melodies in a clear voice, praising God, the Prophet, and early Sufi saints.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Assembly Hall
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Assembly Hall

    This cave appears to have been excavated as a gathering places for the monks. Along the middle of the cave run two long stone benches where monks would have sat to eat, listen to teachings, chant, etc. Like others in this series, this cave demonstrates that large numbers of monks congregated in this area.

  • Thumbnail for Aurangzeb Mosque, multiple clocks
  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah Masjid, inside view
    Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah Masjid, inside view

    On the wall of this small masjid or place of prayer and prostration is the mehrab marking the direction of prayer and a green plaque with the shahada written in gold lettering: There is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet. A clock designates the times for prayer and a carpet preserves a pure space for prostrations.

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah, tree branch, close-up
    Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah, tree branch, close-up

    The saint, Jalal al-Din, is said to have thrown a stick which stuck in the ground and began growing into a tree. As this now magnificent tree is associated with the saint and his healing powers, pilgrims tie colored fabric to its branches as a symbol of their petitions. In particular, women who have been infertile come to this shrine to pray for the blessing of children.

  • Thumbnail for Qawwali singers, Khuldabad
    Qawwali singers, Khuldabad

    Getting ready to sing qawwals on the verandah of the Dargah guest house, these local men prepare their head coverings and the harmonium.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Ganapati Temple, inner sanctum doorway
    Ellora, Ganapati Temple, inner sanctum doorway

    The small inner shrine of the temple is set off from the rest of the temple by this decorated doorway. Devotees ring the bell to announce their presence to the god and then step over the door frame to perform their puja and receive darshan. Barely visible just inside the door is the image of the elephant-faced deity.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Ardhanarishvara
    Kailash Cave Temple, Ardhanarishvara

    Ardhanarishvara, the Lord who is Half Woman, has been carved into one of the many niches on the outside of the temple. The sculptors depicted many of the well-known stories of Hindu gods and goddesses on the walls of the temple. Pilgrims walking past these depictions are reminded of the tales and their teachings.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, silver makara
    Ellora, Datta Temple, silver makara

    On a pillar of the temple is this gray makara, a mythical aquatic beast associated with the Ganges gharial, a species of crocodile. The makara is associated with Kamadeva, god of desire, as well as the goddess Ganga and the Vedic god of the sea, Varuna.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Shiva linga with no beginning or end
    Kailash Cave Temple, Shiva linga with no beginning or end

    The wall sculpture illustrates the tale of Vishnu and Brahma who find they are no match for the mighty Shiva whose power symbolized in his lingam has no beginning or end.

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah Masjid plaque
    Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah Masjid plaque

    On the wall of the masjid, over the mehrab or niche designating the direction of prayer is this blue-green plaque with the shahada written in gold lettering: There is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet.

  • Thumbnail for Makeovers
    Makeovers

    Four women got new hair-cuts in January's issue of "Lee".

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, guru poster photo
    Ellora, Jain Temple, guru poster photo

    The guru of this temple, a digambara monk, is shown on this poster with the broom he uses to brush small animals and insects from his path in order not to harm any living being.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, tirthankara with animals
    Ellora, Jain Caves, tirthankara with animals

    Demonstrating the Jain practice of non-violence, this tirthankara is depicted with animals and insects at his feet. Near his right leg is a scorpion. Refusing to take life, even in microscopic forms, to make cloth, he lives throughout the year as a "digambara" monk, clothing himself with the sky. Bits of ancient red paint remain on this figure.

  • Thumbnail for Eikan-do Shrine
    Eikan-do Shrine

    A building at Eikan-Do shrine in Kyoto.

  • Thumbnail for Subway platform
    Subway platform

    A subway platform in Tokyo.