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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 Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26 (close up)
    Parinirvana of the Buddha, cave 26 (close up)

    A close up of the head of the Buddha at his parinirvana, reclining peacefully on an ornate pillow, with his face toward his disciples and followers.

  • 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 Bibi ki Maqbara, entrance sign
    Bibi ki Maqbara, entrance sign

    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.

  • 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 Ajanta Caves, panorama view from the vantage of the earliest caves
    Ajanta Caves, panorama view from the vantage of the earliest caves

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Aurangzeb Mosque, ritual ablutions before prayer
    Aurangzeb Mosque, ritual ablutions before prayer

    Before praying, all Muslim worshippers must purify themselves by performing ritual ablutions. Mosques provide fountains or individual water spigots so that each person can carry out this ritual cleansing.

  • Thumbnail for Painted Maitreya Buddha
    Painted Maitreya Buddha

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad, tomb of saint, Jalal al-Din or Ganj-i-ravan
    Khuldabad, tomb of saint, Jalal al-Din or Ganj-i-ravan

    In Khuldabad, a town of many Sufi tombs and dargahs (shrines), the shrine of Jala al-Din, also known by his epithet Ganj-i-Ravan (Flowing Treasure), is a pilgrimage site favored for its miraculous powers. In the courtyard of the dargah is a tree said to have been planted in a miraculous way by the saint. Just outside the dargah is a spring-fed pond known as the Fairies' Tank (pariyon ka talab) which is understood to have healing properties.

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah, black yoni
    Khuldabad Jalal al-Din Dargah, black yoni

    In the courtyard of the dargah is this black stone yoni with a hole where a linga would have been attached. According to local legend, this dargah was erected on land that had previousy supported a Hindu Temple. The Muslim builders were able to remove the linga but the yoni base was too heavy and too firmly entrenched in the ground to move. The dargah was built and this Hindu symbol of female divine energy remains in the courtyard as a reminder of past history.

  • 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 and Tomb, sign
    Aurangzeb Mosque and Tomb, sign

    This sign in the courtyard of the mosque complex explains that this area contains the Shrine of the saint, Zainuddin, and the tomb of the son of Aurangzeb, Azamshah. The sign is written in English, Hindi, and Urdu.

  • Thumbnail for Qawwali at the Dargah, evening performance
    Qawwali at the Dargah, evening performance

    The senior singer, Taj Muhammad, prepares for an evening qawwali in the inner courtyard of the dargah. Men of the town join him to sing or to listen to the captivating melodies. In Khuldabad, qawwali performance is an almost exclusively male affair. Men sing and play the instruments, while others listen and offer money to the musicians. Small boys hang around the dargah during qawwalis, as well as at other times, to run errands or sit quietly and listen. Here, several foreign females also sit in the audience.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Teen Tala, long view
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Teen Tala, long view

    One of the most impressive caves is number 12, called Teen Tala, fashioned as a vihara with three levels of monastic living quarters positioned around a central prayer hall. Accomodating about 40 monks, Teen Tala gives the viewer a sense of the large monastic community that was active here.

  • Thumbnail for Qawwali singers, Khuldabad
    Qawwali singers, Khuldabad

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Hindu Caves, Ravana shakes Mt. Kailash
    Ellora Hindu Caves, Ravana shakes Mt. Kailash

    In this well-known scene, Shiva and Parvati sit close together in their abode on Mt. Kailash while the demon Ravana shakes it from below. Shiva puts his foot down to calm the shaking of Ravana and continues to fondle Parvati.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Kamadeva and Rati with Apsaras and Gandharvas
    Kailash Cave Temple, Kamadeva and Rati with Apsaras and Gandharvas

    God of desire, Kamadeva, and his consort Rati are flanked by their assistants, a sensuous apsaras or heavenly nymph and gandharvas who are charming celestial musicians.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall, seated Buddha in stupa
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall, seated Buddha in stupa

    Inside Cave #10, the Buddha is seated on a lion throne within a stupa. The Buddha is shown in the teaching posture in this hall. Celestial beings surround him and bodhisattvas stand at his side.

  • Thumbnail for Khuldabad, Sona Bai's well, banyan tree
    Khuldabad, Sona Bai's well, banyan tree

    Magnificent banyan tree near Sona Bai's well.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, entrance sign
    Ellora, Jain Temple, entrance sign

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, inner sanctum doorway
    Kailash Cave Temple, inner sanctum doorway

    This doorway leads into a small shrine room with a lingam carved in a yoni, symbol of the union of Shiva and Shakti, the divine male and female. The light of the candle, the only illumination in this inner shrine room, is visible through the doorway.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, amorous couples series
    Kailash Cave Temple, amorous couples series

    This depiction of a series of amorous couples in different poses brings the fertility and good fortune they represent into the minds of all who see them.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, stylized peacock
    Ellora, Datta Temple, stylized peacock

    On a pillar of the temple is this stylized peacock. The peacock is sometimes associated with the god Brahma and his consort, Saraswati.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Ganapati Temple
    Ellora, Ganapati Temple

    Performing puja to the deity of the temple, Ganapathy, the priest offers the flame.

  • Thumbnail for Tibetan Monastery
    Tibetan Monastery

    Photo of a man with a cart in the interior of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Yonghegong, Beijing.