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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I Am A Millennial And I'm Proud

We're not dead yet. So we can't be that bad, right?
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This will most definitely be a controversial topic, but I feel like this needs to be said.

Today millennials are the most hated generation yet. Perhaps that's just because every generation prior to the one before has something bad to say about them, but I believe that we millennials get the worst commentary on our actions. And I honestly have to disagree with what most of the world has to say about us.

Millennials are great.

It's true. Many people are just so used to seeing the opposite perceived in media that they don’t think any different. There has been so much hate thrown at this generation and it's absolutely crazy. To think that the entirety of our generation acts like those that you only see in the news or other types of social media platforms is absurd. I understand that there are a lot of millennials that act disrespectful and ungrateful, but 90% of the millennials I know have a much different story compared to that in the media.

Millennials aren’t begging off their parents, laying around the house with no job, pretending as if they have no sense of responsibility whatsoever. No, most of the millennials I know are employed, sometimes with more than one job, going to college, and paying bills to help keep a roof over their family’s heads for those that still live with their parents.

The rest of us are just trying to survive. We aren’t lazy. The world and economy is too unstable for that. We are busting our tails trying to make a living while still being able to afford an outrageous amount for education (because you can’t get a REAL job without some sort of degree these days).

And for the way millennials seem to act is wrong too. We often get called disrespectful and “snowflakes.” I’m not saying all millennials are saints. That is far from the truth. We are all capable of mistakes, but it’s a far stretch to blame the entire generation for what a group or community get fame for.

Would you say that all Christians are back-washed and racist because the KKK was a group of “Christians” that also liked to murder and torture the black community? No, you wouldn’t because that is not accurate. Nor should you all assume we are all disrespectful like certain youtubers. *cough Logan Paul cough* So, therefore, you can’t all label us millennials as lazy kids who all still depend on our parents and party all the time.

And most kids act the way they do because that was how they were raised. So then, if that's the case, shouldn't you blame the ones who raised them? Just food for thought.

As for the “snowflake” comment, to that, I ask: What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a little sensitivity.

I find nothing wrong with a generation that seems to care about others and their well-being. We learned to care at times when others didn’t. We learned to care for those who had no one to care for. We learned to love those who were different and learned to be accepting of their differences whether or not they inflicted ours.

We are a softer generation and I honestly think that’s what our world needs right now. With all the heartache, don’t you think it’s time to just accept one another and worry about real problems affecting our country? Don’t you think it’s time to come together instead of dividing ourselves? To love one another?

Sensitivity shows that we care and that’s something to take pride in. I know people may hate the political correctness and other sensitive topics, but its just to show respect and acceptance. This is not to say that generations prior to us are not respectful or accepting. Perhaps they were taught another way or maybe it’s just another “tough love” thing.

Or perhaps we are just more vocal with our feelings nowadays. We all feel, but voicing our emotions is what really allows us to connect with other people and to feel normal. Maybe that’s why we are called “snowflakes.”

Other generations may have struggled, but we have our own struggles too. We are trying to survive with an unstable economy and market and we don’t take it out on you as some would suggest.

We have our faults, there's no doubt about that, but instead of blaming us, try realizing that you're not perfect either and throughout all the generations that have come and go, we're not dead yet. So we can't be that bad right?

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

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3 Reasons Why You Should Stand With The Nation's Children And Make A Change On Guns

Will you?
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I am a college student. I am a product of the public-school system. And for years, I have been terrified of the potential of a shooter coming to my school. This is my story, and it is shared by children all across the United States. It has become a part of our culture. And that is sickening.

This does not need to be a part of our lives. These senseless tragedies need to stop now. I believe I speak for all my peers and educators when I say we are not going to take this anymore.

The recent tragedy in Florida shook me to my core, and as I speak with those around me about the event, I feel helpless. Besides feeling angry, disgusted, and sad, what can I do? This repetitive cycle seems unstoppable, an insurmountable feat that I don’t know how to conquer.

It’s been a little over a week since the shooting in Parkland and while I’m sitting here feeling hopeless, those whose grief is not even fully comprehensible to the rest of us are taking a stand. In an article from the New York Times this Sunday, I read about how the survivors of the shooting are raising their voices while grieving. Please take the time to read it for yourself, so you too can have the experience I did.

Change is possible, but only if we work to make it happen. For those of you reading who are students, I believe it is our time to rise and demand some real changes in the legislation. Some real focus on what can be done to protect students and end these senseless tragedies. Because I don’t think there is just one answer to ending this. But I do believe we need to put our attention as a nation on this issue. The time is up, and we won't rest until there is no more.

Please take the time to consider taking these steps to make a change.

1. Contact your senator and ask them what they’re doing to address gun violence and school shootings.

202-224-312 will direct you to an operator that can connect you to your senator, or you can find further contact info here.

2. Sign the petition to participate in the National School Walkout on April 20th.

And then follow through.

3. Keep the conversation going about gun violence in schools.

If we stop talking about it, the problem only gets worse.

Whatever your political leanings, I think we can all agree that something needs to be done about stopping these tragedies. If we work together, we can find a real solution.

Cover Image Credit: CNN

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