Temples & Palaces On The Hippie Trail Cycling Adventure
“In the temple, we are reminded of our divine nature and our ultimate purpose in life. ” – Sadghuru
If you have any interest in temples and palaces, the second section of the Hippie Trail Cycling Adventure, Temple Caves & City Lights, is right up your alley. Beginning in the beguiling city of Udaipur, once considered the most romantic spot in India by early British colonials, and ending in Mumbai, the bustling financial capital of India, it offers riders 3 rest days along the way, each in a location featuring some of the sub-continents most spectacular temples and palaces.
Mandu (Madhya Pradesh)
The first rest day takes place in Mandu – a deserted city of remarkable splendour, with sprawling palaces, elegant mosques and impressive forts, all guarded by a series of stone turrets and gates. Unlike most other historical sites in India, Mandu features a variety of impressive Afghan architecture, a reflection of its founding by a Governor of Timur the Lame back in the 15th century. Known as the ‘City of Joy’ by its Muslim rulers for the number of lakes and ponds scattered amongst its buildings, visitors can enjoy the views out over the vast plains below the plateau. They might also notice the incongruous non-native baobab trees that populate the area, carried over through the years by visiting merchants.
Ajanta Caves (Maharashtra)
A few days later the tour makes a stop in Ajanta, allowing the riders a chance to explore a series of caves set along a U-shaped river gorge featuring incredible Buddhist religious art. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it dates back to the 2nd century BC and features 30 caves, all devoted to the life of the Buddha. The ancient murals are some of the best examples of cave painting in the region. A couple attempts to copy the images by the British in the 19th century ended in disaster. In 1830 a Major Robert Gill made 30 canvases which were taken to England only to be destroyed by a fire in 1866 while John Griffiths, principal of the Bombay School of Art, spent 13 years painting copies of the art, only to have them also all go up in smoke.
Ellora Caves (Maharashtra)
The next day’s ride brings them to Ellora, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, where ancient Hindu, Jain, Buddhist temples and monasteries are cut out of the Charanandri Hills. Unlike the caves of nearby Ajanta, these caves, constructed from the 5th to 10th centuries AD, feature Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples. There are over 100 caves on site but visitors are currently limited to 34 of them – 17 Hindu, 13 Buddhist and 5 Jain. Ajanta was located in a secluded valley but Ellora was situated on a busy Asian trade route. While this increased the latter’s popularity, it also contributed to damages inflicted on the temples during periods of Muslim rule. One particular highlight is the Kailasa Temple which was carved out of solid rock in 760 AD and involved moving 200,000 tonnes of rock, an incredible feat on the scale of building the Pyramids.
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