Saturday, December 10, 2011
Aurangabda, day 2; Daulatabad, Bibi Ka Maqbara at night
At Ashok's Travel Agency, he told me how happy my drive was that I'd given him a tip the day before. He was sitting there in a chair next to Ashok's desk bobbling his head at me, still wearing his huge grin. There's this thing Indians do with their heads that I'm having a really hard time to figure out... It's somewhere between a nod and a shake and the only thing that comes to mind trying to explain it are those bobble head figures you see stuck on dashboards, or bobble head baseball figurines they hand out to get you to come to the ballpark early. I don't know how many times I've asked someone a question and they just smile at me and start bobbling their heads. I'd love to make a whole line of Indian Bobble head figures, Bobble-head Krishna, Bobble-head Ganesha; Bobble-head Gandhi, bobble-head Mother Theresa, Bobble-head Buddha... I might make a million dollars!
Anyway, back to my travels, Ashoka recommended that I head out to Daulatabad, where there is a famous fort. He said it was a bit of a trek up the fort, so it would be better to wait until afternoon when the sun started to cool off.
We arrived at the fort around at about 3:30, parked in the row of other drivers, amongst the fruit vendors and the driver pointed the way up the path. There used to be a whole city inside the fort but there's just a little village outside of it now, surviving off of the tourist who day trip out here. The fort was built nearly a thousand years ago and is known as one of the most impenetrable fortresses in the world. It's also in the best condition of any fort of that age. In the 1300's it was made the capital of the Tughlaq dynasty, and the emperor actually forcibly marched the entire city of Delhi here for two years, then had to abandon the city two years later since there wasn't enough water.
As I entered the fort, the atmosphere was immediately somber. Compared to most other places I've visited, the energy here felt very dark. As a child, my favorite toys were my castle Lego, I was fascinated by them, but I guess the reality of them is much more daunting...
I passed through the heavy, iron and wood gate and began along the path,even the macaques seemed less friendly than usual. I continued through the layers of fortification until I started getting close to the top, then followed along one of the walls. Beneath the fort is a massive labyrinth of tunnels, meant to confuse and/or trap would-be intruders. Most of them are sealed off now, but at one section I had to pass through a pitch black section of brick tunnel. A guide was waiting at the entrance to direct people through. I heard some one in the group ahead of me saying that they would pour vats of hot oil into the tunnel here if someone was approaching. Other ways to stop invaders was to create a vacuum with a flame at one end, blowing hot air through the tunnel, suffocating those inside, or simply just tossing burning torches into the chamber. I passed over a moat filled with green water that looked even more threatening than the fort, then, finally, spiraled up the hill to the small mahal on top.
On the way down, just about everyone who passed wanted me to take their picture. Finally, I said to one guy, who was incessantly demanding, "One snap, just one snap,"
"But I don't want to take your picture."
"I'm a famous cricket star in India, just take one snap."
I knew he wasn't a famous cricket star, or else people would have been paying him a lot more attention than they were me. Cricket stars are heroes in India, right up their with some of the Hindu deities. Anyway, I took his picture for his creativity and even kept it when I deleted most of the others from my memory card.
When I got back to the car, I bought a few guava, someone had given me a piece one of through the bus window the other day and it was really good. We drove back into Aurangabad, following a truck load of oxen, their long, pointy, brightly painted horns poking up from their large rear-ends. At the Panchavatti, I gave the driver a couple of the guava, along with another tip, and headed up to change and get some food.
After eating, I asked if they would mind cutting the guava for me, and said they could keep also help themselves. They didn't mind at all and while I waited I began noticing Korean voices at the table behind me. I listened a little more intently to make sure my ears weren't playing tricks, then took a peek and saw a table of five women, three Korean and two Europeans. When the plate full of sliced guava came back from the kitchen, I brought it over and introduced myself in Korean. They were all surprised to hear me speak Korean, and invited me to join them. They'd just finished a month-long yoga retreat together and were doing a bit of traveling before leaving India. Two of the Korean girls were friends from Jeju Island, and didn't speak any English but were really friendly. The other was an elementary teacher from Deagu and spoke English better than anyone out of the group. I asked how they found this place and they said they'd seen the same Nepalese man at the train station and noticed his Korean t-shirt. I guess it works! They also mentioned that they were going to the Ajanta caves tomorrow and asked if I'd like to join them. It worked out perfect because I wanted to go anyway but instead of taking the bus I could just split the cost of the car they'd hired.
After eating, Sang Hee, the one who spoke English, said she wanted to visit the Bibi Ka Maqbara because she'd be leaving for Bangkok in a few days and wouldn't be able to see the Taj Mahal. Only one of the other girls wanted to join her, in the end, and she asked if I'd go with them. The hotel called a rickshaw to come pick us up and we headed over. It was really beautiful at night with a more solemn presence than in the day light. We entered the mausoleum where you could look down at the entombed queen, covered in blankets and coins tossed down from the balcony. This time , I noticed the details of the beautiful dome more intently than I had the day before. On the way out, we got swarmed by a group of kids I'd already met at the fort today. I guess they hadn't had enough of getting their picture taken, but somehow photographing children is extensively more tolerable than someone pretending to be a cricket star...