The caves at Ellora and Ajanta


Then I had confronted the stony-faced gods. These are my memories.

Feet, lamps, and monuments of stone rubbed little by little by relentless adoration. This is any temple.

A partial vision of vertiginous weight of rock and time. What went into the building of these? Who decided what statues, what figures, were there intrigues over preference and representation, what philosophies were poured into the ears of rulers, what persuasive arguments—

The ribs of god and man, rungs of our aspirations, vessels to contain our fragile thought-arguments. Flesh passes, this remains as memory.

Calculated architecture. This place was meant to impress upon the willing mind a realization, a philosophy, a structure of the cosmos. In flickering firelight, these figures must have moved to life, the chanting and the breathing of pilgrims resuscitating the relations of things time and time again, until the eye and the ear would take in as one this central structure of figuration, and the world outside the cave would take on meaning as formlessness to form and would become less frightening, a little blessed.

Cave 11, then, gathers unto itself our gaze, the world, all perspective, and draws us in. The truth sits there, yet is not embodied, so the Ego is an illusion and stone is a metaphor.

A sudden spyhole in the wall along a very steep staircase. Why was it made? Who approached thus seen?

Stone suddenly leaping to miniature virility—the belly of a horse, the thighs of a woman, powerful, steady.

The anonymity of a part of one cave. This could be any temple, any fort. This is indifference, is it not, when every place of worship begins to look the same, (and, some would say, thus argues for the compelling and universal value of all)?

An odd little creature, intent in its expression, assenting, inviting, accepting, yet capable of amusement.

Remote and inaccessible. The lighting merely draws life out of them, so that their soul retreats, they become merely the work of man, crafted things of symmetry and thought. Fire is essential to man’s psyche.

Too, the impenetrable mystery of stone. Something so large in so small a cave, placed where too many cannot crowd in, not like the temples we know. This was done deliberately. (see #22) Why? To force the seeker to enter alone, silent, to seek and receive with responsibility? Because this wisdom was not to be received, because Buddhism was rebelling against the heel of the priests of Hinduism in that time? But when you enter, the lit stone is flat. You must know in advance, prepare for this meeting, or else what you receive is nothing in its disappointing particularity.

Suddenly, atop pillars hidden in the gloom, thrones of emotions, boats of dreams. Who told the workers what to carve? The frozen emotions above me, unabashed.

If you wait, the pictures begin to complete themselves. They go a little way, and then we are at a loss to imagine their endings. This is art, it has a palpable effect beyond its teaching, yet one must know, to see both art and the sublime.

Humanity, and the mirror of the gods.

The ribs suddenly populated by the human story, just like a Maori meeting house. House of the people, mind of a collective One.

A place where people were meant to complete the paintings. This was meant to hold several, this was meant for speech, not contemplation. It was a place of the commerce of ideas, it held movement, now silent.

You see it thus, the earth’s rocks suddenly giving way to the refuge-worship of man, geometry and order and a peace emerging out of an indifference.

A more majestic phase now (remember #11). Thou shalt gather unto me like little children. This was a place of exaltation, of formal philosophy and a union of minds. The seated and painted figures high up near the window would bear witness as much as keep alive. No sibyls, they are atoms of proof.

Regal concretizations of a final formalized philosophy. Were these caves built later, for visitors and doubters and to establish the high place of a completed formulation of salvation?

The prone figure is supposed to be momentous. It cannot be viewed head-on. One must walk along a curved pathway around the inner perimeter of the cave, between close-set pillars on one’s left and richly mythologized figures on the other. This one is approached exactly as pictured. It is meant to be a finality. I do not think it asked me for worship. Its smile is absorbed in itself, elemental, like the mountains or the sea.

Google Mapathon 2013: Abstraction as Weapon

I don’t oppose the examination of Google’s activities, no matter who is voicing it or why. This is how I analyze action and necessary reaction:

1. Maps stored in foreign servers and under the ownership and control of foreign or transnational companies are a security risk to any nation. India does not have the resources to combat what Google will facilitate. Since Google will never be held responsible for its users’ use of sensitive data, India must oppose practices where it can; Google is visible, unified and traceable, anonymous users and networks worldwide are not.

2. The tech-savvy Resident Non-Indian needs to be forced to think about the consequences of his/her lifestyle, choices and carefree support or opposition to fashionable transnational practices. To argue that uploading detailed maps such as these is merely ‘improving’ local knowledge is to think narrowly like an individual consumer who has no responsibilities as a citizen. Taxes, citizenship and elite global memberships do not excuse the individual buyer from the framework of material consequences resulting from his/her actions in the floating consumer world. Loyalty to Google and its floating signifier of maps for all should be rigorously examined and even discouraged in certain cases by certain parties. In this, the rights and duties of an individual must be weighed against the rights and duties of many individuals. The root of the world’s freedom and glory is not the individual-as-consumer, and advocates of rights and liberties would do well to untangle the parts of every individual that come out to play in different conflicts. To abstract one role out of the many that any psychologically globalized person plays is to reduce reality to binary principle, to reduce ethics to rationalization.

3. Online reportage has presented India’s opposition as an umbrella Hindu nationalist (and therefore corrupt, suspicious and hypocritical) agenda, or as a backward outcry to technological advancement. The opposition is neither. The rhetoric of reportage is as infantile and orientalist as western sociologists’ puzzlement at the ties of family and kinship that still govern India’s economic and political systems , i.e., seizing at bogeys like ‘caste’ and ‘Hindu nationalism’ to defame anything that seems to remotely oppose transnational neocolonial cynicism (rummaging in the world’s resource banks without due responsibility) is really the dubious prerogative of the North and West.

Indians would be foolish to mistake the messenger (Google, Mapathon, or the favorite bogeyman ‘BJP’) for the message and tilt at windmills when energies might be put to real work elsewhere.