Ajanta Caves: The Birth of OM

David Matysiak spent the month of November in India shooting a documentary film about the Anchal Project. (Make sure to peruse the photos David took to document his travels here.) On the trip David’s attentions were focused primarily on the women of Anchal and their amazing stories. And yet when opportunities arose to venture into new speleological territories in an unfamiliar country David leaped at the chance to document these experiences for the Speleogen Team.

This video is the first installment of a three-part series of very short films depicting David’s journeys to Indian caves. Part I of the series ushers us through some of the many chambers of Ajanta Caves, a vast collection of mostly man-made caves located in the Aurangabad District. Constructed primarily for devotional purposes by Buddhist monks and dating as far back as the 2nd century BCE, Ajanta is a renowned repository of religious sculpture and wall painting. It is also a popular tourist destination as David’s video attests.

As a cluster of humanly sculpted environments that purport (or at least market themselves) to be caves, Ajanta poses interesting questions for a project like Speleogen. Are the Ajanta Caves even caves in the classical sense? Must a cave be naturally occurring in order to qualify to even be a cave as such? What does it mean for the practitioners of The New Cave Art to investigate artificial caves?

Moreover, Ajanta represents not just a collection of metaphorical caves. These are caves with explicit spiritual purpose. When the cave is quite obviously a religious sanctuary, and not just an ecological system, how should that fact affect the ways in which we engage with the space? Is Ajanta inherently holier than a sacrifice cave like Petty John’s in Lafayette, Georgia? And if so, why?

As yet the Speleogen Team does not posit answers to these inquiries. We invite you instead to ponder these questions with us as you watch David’s film.

The next installment of David’s Indian cave triptych will be published later this month.

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