Amanda and I are taking The Plant Stories Project to India. Amanda’s brother is getting married on Sunday in Mumbai so we are delighted to find ourselves on the sub-continent. We got over our stomach bugs just in time to fly, and here we are. Amandas parents have taken us on a pre-wedding outing to the Ajanta and Elorra Caves in Maharashta State East-nor-east from Mumbai. These caves were dug out by the faithful Buddhists, Hundus, and Jainists over many hundreds of years.
They are monastic centres and have ‘cells’ for living in and temples for worshiping. The caves would have been plastered and painted. Very little of the paint has survived but in a few caves perhaps half of the wall paintings are visible and in good condition. One of the most striking things to me was the use of flowers in the carving and painting. Obviously the Lotus features prominently, but many other species can also be found. In Uganda plants and their flowers were almost never used ornamentally and we saw no evidence of them being used in any cultural practices (other than being given to us on our farewell). These paintings and carvings are between 1500 and 2200 years old and other than some conservation work (taking off the shellac the Italians put on) they have not been touched.
In India flowers are everywhere whether planted or painted or picked and adorning someone or something. It will be an exciting time over the next 4-5 weeks as we head south and explore Tamil Nadu, the western ghats, and Kerala.
Driving through Maharashta we saw sugar cane being harvested, harvested maize fields, cotton, some okra, chillis, fields divided with the Castor Oil plant (Ricinis communus), and then some crops which I’ve never seen before. I think some were lentils, and then some which I cannot place. Maybe we’ll find out.
Also – as we are travelling on the cheap we do not expect to have the regular access to internet that we have been privileged with up until now.