Exploring India's Ellora Caves

Exploring India's Ellora Caves

One of India's must-sees are the 34 caves in Aurangabad, cut completely out of rock.
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In January, 2014, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in India under the direction of two CSULB professors, Dr. Norbert Schürer and Prof. Tim Keirn. One of the most memorable experiences during this trip was seeing the Ellora Caves in Aurangabad. A huge tourist site, the 34 caves were cut out of rock to create Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu temples and monasteries, and were built between the sixth and ninth centuries.


On my trip there had been extremely hot weather, but the drive up to the caves was comfortable enough in our little van, passing by fields of mustard seed.

The heat was uncomfortable, and I remember feeling in a sort of heat-induced relaxed state; excited, but definitely less sociable and outwardly peppy. The day before we had been to the Ajanta caves, where we saw multiple caves with a guide explaining each and every thing we saw; at the Ellora caves, however, we proceeded on our own in groups, deciding to regroup after less than an hour or so.


I can’t remember the exact number of the first cave we went to, but I remember the two enormous elephants inside of its entrance, and going into the separate alcoves and marveling at the various stone statues and carvings. It was interesting being able to draw the parallels between the caves at Ajanta and the ones at Ellora, and silently recognizing what was Buddhist and what was Hindu, which was really all I knew how to do on my own. I kind of wandered off on my own often, not too far from a friendly face from the trip, but with enough distance that I could look at everything at my own pace and really enjoy what I was seeing.


When we gathered together again, we stopped quickly for some popsicles at a stand outside the caves to cool down from the heat, and the sugar helped wake me up a little bit before we continued on further away to Cave 16, one of the famous Hindu caves of Ellora that was carved from top to bottom out of one single rock. We were given a few hours’ time to explore, and like before, I wandered off a little on my own – not exactly the smartest thing for the youngest woman on the trip to do, but it was hard not to want to get away from the bustle of the groups’ agenda and see things by myself for once.

It was absolutely breathtaking walking up the steps to the mosque and fully realizing how much time and effort went into building this particular cave, let alone the countless others built out of the mountain’s rock that surrounded Cave 16. I loved running my fingers along the edges of the carved walls, and looking down at the different people walking below and wondering if this was a holy place for them, or just another stop on the World Heritage Sites Grand Tour.

A few Indian families and men asked for some pictures (not an uncommon request for a white woman tourist, as I’d come to realize), which I awkwardly posed for. I didn't notice until later that my lips and teeth were stained bright red from my popsicle I had finished off earlier.

The sun was bright and emanating so much heat, but escaping into the sides of the cave, I found it was much cooler. I climbed up to a solitary spot, where bats were hanging in corners and screeching every few minutes, reminding me that this was their holy place, now.

It was just me and no one else in the dark recesses of a cave, with idols I couldn’t name or recognize carved out of cool mountain rock, with a view of the whole Cave 16 from above. The stench of bat guano was not enough to ruin the feeling of peace I could feel run through me as I looked down at people posing for pictures, couples laughing, groups of young Indian men walking fast and excitedly, pointing at all the elephants and enjoying some inside joke. It was nice to be able to enjoy a piece of India’s history alone. Content in my solitude, I climbed back down, wondering if anyone from the group would run into me and force themselves into my personal exploration, and hoping I could think of some way to avoid them.

Around the perimeter of the caves was an open walkway carved into the mountain, with enormous idols carved into the walls. I saw a few of the CSULB college kids, all broken up into twos and threes across the cave taking pictures, some laughing. A few waved from across the way, but didn’t come over, and kept on exploring with each other. I felt comforted in the fact they didn’t feel the need to come join me.

After deflecting a gaggle of Indian boys’ endless photograph requests, I ran into Soo, a member of my group, going the opposite direction of me. I noticed she was also by herself.

“You exploring alone, too?” I said.

“Yeah,” Soo replied with a smile. “I love you guys, but sometimes we all just need some time to be without each other. And this is my time.”

We laughed and walked past one another. I looked at the idol on the wall in front of me, and I had no idea what it might have represented. It was definitely Hindu, but was it a God? Was it Vishnu? What era was this cave from again? I had no real idea. But I didn’t mind being alone and without a mile-a-minute talking guide, not exactly knowing where I was going or what I was looking at.

I guess I really like not knowing.


Want to study abroad in India this upcoming January 2016? Learn more about the upcoming trip by looking at the program here.

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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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Stop Cussing Damn It!

Why society needs to be less aggressive in response to foul language.

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Well shit, here we go again. In a world of constantly changing language in our everyday society, we need to take a step back on the censorship of words. Foul or vulgar language is frowned upon in most social settings, more specifically in public settings. Language has been created for us to communicate with one another. The fact that there is a whole group of words that are completely disregarded because they are "Cruel" or "Unnecessary" strike me as odd. Language and lexicon was created to allow each person to freely express themselves, their feelings and ideas, openly to everyone. Words like damn, shit, hell, and phrases like son of a bitch and fuck off are overly addressed as negative and foul.

As with any way of speaking, it is all about your deliverance of such language. Yes, is directing a "Fuck you" openly to someone in public a great idea, not really. But, in a general context, there shouldn't be a censorship on such phrases. If these types of words are not being used in derogatory ways, then I see no issue with them. Words help express us and our emotions. Foul language can emphasize our excitement, frustration, or anger with any situation. These words and phrases are just the natural evolution of our language. More so, there is a huge acceptance gap generation to generation.

This acceptance gap is huge from Generation X to Generation Y, or the Millennials, and even more of a gap with Generation Z. Things that offend Gen Y and are disgraced by Gen X don't always phase Gen Z individuals. Saying shit and damn have become natural filler words, sometimes used as verbs, most of the time as adjectives. It's actually quite interesting to hear people from different generations speak. Most people nowadays don't even register how much they swear because of how natural it is to them. I myself cuss a lot, a part of me in what society has labeled as a "bad habit".

Cussing, swearing, using foul language, or however you want to label it, is just something that has been integrated into our society more and more. Like anything, the time and place should always be taken into consideration before dropping words like bitch and fuck, but most of the time there isn't a bad time to speak with these choice words. Another thing is, if society accepted, and even mainstreamed, words that are frowned upon into natural conversation, they no longer would hold much power. If everyone "talked dirty" or used a "foul mouth" all the time, then no one would be cursing. We would all be simply speaking.

We as humans are constantly witnessing change. Our language has been changing and evolving since the very first grunt in history. We will continue to evolve our language and words that are viewed as "bad" now probably wont even be spoken by the end of the century. There will always be "bad words" and sayings that can be taken offense to, but like stated earlier, it's all about deliverance. I say who gives a shit, go ahead and cuss all the damn time, I don't give a fuck. Nothing in that sentence is rude or offensive. Is it the most professional sentence? No, of course it isn't, but nonetheless, sentences like that shouldn't be disapproved by society. We, as a society, should embrace the way our language and communication levels are evolving, and if we properly teach people how and when to use such "disgraceful phrases", there won't be an issue.

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