Kala Ramesh, India
From Karjat, - which is closer to Bombay , almost at sea level - we begin our trek to the Kondane caves situated on the highest peak of the Sahyadri mountains. Belonging to the Sahyadri range are the grand mountains [we call them the ghats] that connect Bombay and Pune, in Maharashtra state, India
The climb begins on a subdued gentle note. . .
Enjoying the landscape,
our trek leader Amit points out to the hills that we are going to scale soon . . .
step after step
The climb gets steep. So steep, that a few of us had to literally climb on all our fours. My hands clutching the roots and rocks for support to haul myself up - through the thick mountain forest we plod our way up . . .
rain falls lightly -
cool breeze effortlessly passes us . . .
white flowers line our path and little butterflies open and close with ease . . .
plod our way up . . .
. . . to the Kondane caves
no temple bell
her silence unbroken
A Buddhist cave temple
Our trek leader tells us that this cave temple is the only one of its kind on the Konkan range of mountains.
Built in the 2nd century, it has a beautiful meditation hall called the Chiatya
- with its intricate cravings in stone . . .
The two inner arches made of pure sandalwood have stood the ravages of time. We see perfection in the curves and arches - imaginative inlay work.
What passion -
Inside - empty space - resonates even our smallest whisper.
We whisper - not wanting to break that sacred silence
The Vihars - two in number - where the Buddhist monks lived - has a hall with almost 7 to 8 small rooms - each measuring not more than 4 ft by 7 ft - and were situated adjacent to the Chaitya meditation hall
We marvel at the fact that for days the monks could live in such austere conditions -
far away from civilization - to go within in search - making an effort to understand their minds - that fathomless pit of likes and dislikes.
The determination and steadfastness we saw behind this - made us aware of The Buddha's teachings, which enabled ordinary souls to reach those sublime heights - to scale mountains within . . . where there are no mountains…..
Due to abundance of rains during the monsoons on the Konkan coast causing erosion of the caves, this rock cut cave temple was not replicated else where in this region, we were told.
We leave this beautiful serene atmosphere. . .
- to go down
back to our mundane desire chasing lives - as twilight envelops these quiet caves
on the other