September 30, 2023

Proud of what heritage?

Independence day pleasantly spent at Karla caves near Lonavala. Well, mostly pleasantly. A drive on the Mumbai Pune expressway. A nicish climb up a hundred or so steps to reach the caves. Getting drenched in the rain all the way up and down.

And then the magnificent chaitya(chappel equivalent – Buddhist) at the end of the climb.

The chaitya - chappel or prayer hall

The principal cave is the largest Chaitya among Buddhist cave in the country, Being 15meters wide and 16 meters high. The most remarkable feature of the cave is its arched roof supported by wooden beams which have astonishingly survived the onslaught of elements for more than 2,000 years.

The roof of the chaitya hall

Onslaught of the elements they have survived. What about the onslaught of the humans?

Not just the humans who have steadily and thoroughly defaced and destroyed the magnificent architecture in the caves through the centuries. Religious motivation? Part of the plundering of the vanquished? Or was it just timepass…?

No, not just them from the past.

Which is the not so pleasant part. The litter. And the noise. And the plastic. And the catcalls. And the beer bottles. And the utterly unimaginative bunty-heart-arrow-babli graffiti. And the stench of urine inside the caves.

And did I mention the litter?

Why this utter lack of pride in what is ours – our heritage, our past? Is it ignorance? Or just plain indifference?

And all this from people who took off their footwear somewhere towards the top of the hill – before they entered the ekvira temple just near the caves. And bent low before every stone that had a flower and a red and yellow mark on it along the way…

These caves have survived – are surviving these ‘elements’ too – for how much longer, I wonder…

There is a wonderful group on flickr called Ruins from India. If you liked these pictures, have a look at more pictures and the interesting discussions there.

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