Carvings grace Indian temples By Ruth Di...

MY BEST SHOT

May 07, 2000

MY BEST SHOT

Carvings grace Indian temples

By Ruth Di Stefano, Randallstown

During the 10th and 14th centuries, Khajuraho was the religious capital of the Chandela dynasty in central India. Where once there had been 85 temples, today only 22 remain, the sides of which are carved with thousands of robust figures, virile men and voluptuous women, scantily clad and immortalized in stone.

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Russia in the Catskills

Mary Medland, SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In January 1972, I spent a month traveling in what was then the Soviet Union. Although most of my time was spent in Moscow and Leningrad, my companions and I also took a side trip to Novgorod, an ancient city on the banks of the Volkhov River, 500 miles as the crow flies from Leningrad. Over the centuries, Novgorod had been known for many things: as a financial center and a manufacturing city and for its beautiful churches.

Although it is estimated that before the October Revolution of 1917, there were some 49,000 Orthodox churches, today that number has dwindled to about 7,000.

And while Russian cities are full of golden, onion-domed churches and monasteries that bespeak the elegance and wealth of the Romanovs and their allegiance to Christianity, I was fascinated by the simple wooden churches of the rural areas. I first discovered them on an early-morning train ride from Novgorod to Leningrad.

Beginning in darkness, a pale winter light began to uncover the snow-covered land. For several hours, I watched the Russian countryside awaken. Clusters of crude wooden houses and the occasional plain wooden church, followed by miles of snow and little else, until another village and church appeared.

When I think about those few hours of travel, I realize this was one of the most enchanting rides of my life.

My memory was jolted a few years ago when vacationing in New York. Driving on a two-lane road not far from the Hunter ski resort, the sudden appearance of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church tossed me back mentally more than two decades.

The church stood on the side of a hill in the Catskill Mountains rather than the flat Russian expanse I remembered, and there was no snow. But beyond that, it was the same unadorned, unpretentious structure that had so intrigued me years earlier.

I expect when I no longer make my annual trip to the Catskills, this picture will remind me of those many summer vacations visiting relatives and friends -- at first, anyway. Then, perhaps only a second later, it will transport me back to rural Russia.

Mary Medland lives in Baltimore.

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Kylemore Castle, Ireland

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