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.
Images of amorous couples adorn the outer entrances to several of the caves. These couples are understood to be auspicious symbols of good fortune, fertility and prosperity.
A view of the series of caves from the perspective of the earliest caves in the group. Though not visible in this photo, the builders constructed small channels through the caves to guide water from the waterfalls into and through the living areas for the convenience of the monks.
A staunchly religious man, Aurangzeb enforced Sharia law for all, forbidding drinking and gambling in his realm, and reinstating the hated jizya tax on non-Muslims.
The last in a series of painted buddhas and bodhisattvas framing the doorway above one of the caves, the royal Maitreya, buddha of a future age, is seated in a lotus position. His right hand may be held in the varada mudra, the gesture of compassion.
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.
At the entrance to the shrine, visitors are instructed to remove their shoes and sandals (chapples). The sign in English and Hindi indicates that while you are expected to remove your footwear at this shrine, the shrine takes no responsibility for their care. In other words, perhaps you might want to pay the man at the entrance to watch them for you. It's interesting that the sign is only in English and Hindi, not in Urdu or Marathi.
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.
These local men rolled out a white canvas cloth to create a pure space on this verandah on a cool afternoon in January to sing a qawwali concert for several guests. Qawwali songs inspire listeners to remember the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the lives of early saints of the Chishti order like Nizamuddin Awliya, and the Deccani saints, Zar Zari Zar Baksh and his brother Burhan ud-din, both discisiples of Nizzamuddin Awliya.
Just outside the entrance to the dargah, a man sells bright colored cloths some with gold-embroidered prayers Pilgrims have these cloths blessed inside the dargah and then save them to be used as funeral shrouds.
At the Tomb Shrine of the mother of Zar Zari Zar Baksh, women tie glass bangles over the door lintel into the shrine room as symbols of their petitions.
Singers from the Rama Temple in Ellora sing devotional songs (bhajans) to Rama, Krishna, and other Vaishnava deities. Accompanying the singers are musicians playing the harmonium, hand cymbals, and drum. As this gathering was on a cool January evening (2003), the singers are wrapped in woolen scarves and sweaters.
Mata Ganga stands in this shrine niche on top of her vahana, the makara. A representation of the River Ganga, she stands next to two other river goddesses, Yamuna and Saraswati.
Magnificent banyan tree near Sona Bai's well.
A brightly painted image on an inside pillar in the area outside the inner sanctum presents a lively image of the dancing Shiva Nataraj. In some parts of the temple, the ancient pigments seem to have been preserved, probably due to their placement in areas protected from the elements.
On a pillar of the temple, a lingam sits between the horns of a bull.
Auspicious figures of amorous couples in small stone niches adorn the magnificent Kailash Cave Temple, cave #16 in the series of Ellora Caves. These figures represent fertility and good fortune for all who see them.
This sign says that this is a Shri Parshvanath Digambara Jain Temple. Digambara Jain monks take a solemn vow of non-violence. In order not to take any life, they wear no clothes but instead are sky-clad, or digambara. The sign also includes two prominent Jain symbols: om and the swastika. Om signifies a deep wisdom, while the swastika (Sanskrit: su + astika) indicates well-being, good fortune.
The god of desire, Kamadeva, and his consort, Rati, are carved on the inside of the couryard wall for visitors just entering, or just leaving the temple complex. Between Kama and Rati is the god's weapon, a sugarcane bow, which is sheltering them with its bower of leaves.
Familiar scenes from the Indian epic, the Ramayana, cover one outer wall of the main temple. The parallel wall on the other side tells the story of the Mahabharata in carved vignettes of well-known episodes.
Confucian statue, found in the Confucian temple directly across from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Beijing.
Seated opposite her male counterpart, this protective yakshini, Siddhayika, acts as an entrance protector to the second floor shrine to Mahavira. She sits on a lion under the canopy of a mango tree heavy with fruit. Identified with the fertility of the earth, this female earth spirit holds a child on her lap (now missing its head).
At the doorway to the shrine of the temple, men are asked in Marathi, Hindi, and English to remove their upper garments and leather belts out of respect. Everyone removes their shoes at the door.
Photograph of series of white stone gates behind the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, Temple of Heaven, Beijing.
A building at a shrine in Nagasaki. Note the traditional rice-rope decoration hanging above the doorway.