In the Presence of the Past - Ancient Caves of Odisha

Just outside Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India monks carved out a cave complex from the stone mountain and made it their home. Today, I am here, in the same point in space but separated from the monks on the 4th dimension 'time' by a few hundred years. As I enter the cave, I first take time to experience the cave with my senses - my eyes take in the carvings, my ears take in the echoing silence and my skin can feel the drop in temperature. And after my senses have had their fill, I shut them down, close my eyes, tune out  the sounds of the few tourists around, and allow my mind to take me on a journey across time. My imagination skills are strained to create visuals of what might have been. But as I keep my eyes closed and breathe very softly to cut out the sounds of my own breath, I begin to 'sense' the life that might have been. The hum of chanting, the naked frugality of their chosen monkhood and their passionate belief in their ideology all come to me as inexpressible feelings. It feels like I am surrounded by them - all them going about their business ignoring me. I wonder whether, in our attempt to glorify them we have completely forgotten the challenges of their lives. I wonder if they were faced with doubt, and squabbles of the unique form of their community living. I wonder what was done to calm their individual desires and their conflicts. The spaces they have left behind deliver evidence of their lifestyle to us. But they reveal nothing of their souls. I wish more than ever that these walls could speak. A view of the caves that left me so dreamy.... IMG_2775 IMG_2776 IMG_2778 IMG_2779 IMG_2780 IMG_2782 IMG_2783 IMG_2784

IMG_2786The back of the cave is raised in a slope to act as a pillow

IMG_2787Channels for water drainage

IMG_2790 IMG_2791 IMG_2792 IMG_2793 IMG_2794 IMG_2795 IMG_2796 IMG_2797 IMG_2798 IMG_2799 IMG_2800 IMG_2801 IMG_2802 IMG_2803 IMG_2804 IMG_2805 I left the 2nd century Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves feeling wistful ... and couldn't shake off that experience of being immersed in an era, a lifestyle that I was so far away from. jm Jan 2013  


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