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Treasures of Ellora and Khuldabad, India


Photo Albums


Cathy Benton
Tiffany Martinez
Maryam Vahedi
Christina Rutt


Lake Forest College Group

In the Spring of 2002, a team of Lake Forest College students and their professor, Cathy Benton, began preparing for an interviewing project in Ellora, India.   They were awarded a Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows grant by ASIANetwork, a national consortium of liberal arts colleges.  During the spring, summer, and fall of 2002, the team read Indian literature and history, researched the roles of women at Hindu temples and Sufi shrines, and met frequently to discuss their work in India.  Just after Christmas, Lake Forest College students Tiffany Martinez, Christa Rutt, and Maryam Vahedi, headed to Ellora, a village in the western ghats of Maharashtra to begin a three-week period of meeting new people, observing, interviewing, discussing, and writing. 

Arriving early on that December morning, we drove through Aurangabad up to the plateau where Ellora and Khuladabad are located.  Through the city, we passed sweeper women cleaning the streets, water buffaloes sauntering down the road, brightly decorated trucks bestowing diesel exhaust and horn blasts in equal measure, men and women on bicycles and motorcycles, children playing cricket, and contented dogs sleeping beside modern houses.

With the help of friends in Ellora and colleagues in the U.S. and Pune, India, we met several people at the Sufi Dargah in Khuladabad, the shrine of a saint called Zar Zari Zar Baksh, and at two Hindu Temples, a huge Shaiva temple called Ghrishneshwar and a very small temple honoring the elephant-headed god, Ganapathy.  Before beginning our interviews, we were tutored by Professor Brahmanand  Deshpande of Marath Wada University in Aurangabad about the history and culture of this area of Maharashtra.

For just over two weeks, we talked with people in the side-by-side Maharashtrian villages of Ellora and Khuldabad, one primarily Hindu and the other almost completely Muslim.  People constantly travel the twenty minutes back and forth between the villages, walking or driving.   By car, one follows a paved 4-kilometer road winding up and around the plateau from Ellora to the center of Khuldabad.  On foot, one climbs a steep almost vertical footpath to Khuldabad, but the way is shorter, only one kilometer. From the main road in Hindu Ellora, the white minaret of a mosque and white dome of a shrine are visible -- if you look up.  But from atop the plateau in Muslim Khuldabad, one feels enclosed in a world of crowded lanes and endless Muslim shrines and tombs and minarets.   By contrast, the roads of Ellora lead to Hindu temples, small and large, Jain temples and ashrams, a myriad of small shrines, and ancient caves inhabited by Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain ascetics.

The most magnificent of the Ellora caves is referred to locally as Cave #16 or Kailash.  This rock-hewn edifice was excavated between the 7th and 9th centuries as a Hindu temple and is now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site

As a group of American students, we were graciously welcomed by people in both communities who sat with us for hours as we asked our questions and learned from them about rituals, histories of local saints, and music.   We recorded devotional music from both traditions and participated in rituals that keep people connected to the divine.  After a few short weeks, we packed up tapes and photos and notebooks, along with our experiences of warm hospitality, new understandings of religious devotion, and the beginnings of friendships we will nurture.


Qawwali 30" Preview Download
Instrumental Introduction  [mp3] [wma] [mp3] [wma]
Honor to the Prophet, the Saints, and the Teacher "Allah Hu" [mp3] [wma] [mp3] [wma]
Praise to the Prophet Muhammad, to the Imams Hasan and Hussein [mp3] [wma] [mp3] [wma]
Honor to the Prophet Muhammad [mp3] [wma] [mp3] [wma]

Hindu Bhajan Singing
 Singers From Rama Temple, Ellora - Part 1 [mp3] [mp3]
 Singers From Rama Temple, Ellora - Part 2 [mp3] [mp3]
 Singers From Rama Temple, Ellora - Part 3 [mp3] [mp3]
 Singers From Rama Temple, Ellora - Part 1 [mp3] [mp3]
 The music can be played by Windows Media Player or any multimedia player such as WinAmp.
 To download, please right click on the link and choose "Save Target As"

Cathy Benton
Site Preparation:
Diane Snedden
Copyright April 2003 
Date: 21-Apr-2003