For live links, click to: riverhouses.org/2020-elephanta
The Elephanta Caves are an archeological site of great importance in the history of Hinduism:
“The Elephanta Caves are located in western India on Elephanta Island (otherwise known as the Island of Gharapuri), which features two hillocks separated by a narrow valley. The small island is dotted with numerous ancient archaeological remains that are the sole testimonies to its rich cultural past. These archaeological remains reveal evidence of occupation from as early as the 2nd century B.C. The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries A.D. The most important among the caves is the great Cave 1, which measures 39 metres from the front entrance to the back. In plan, this cave in the western hill closely resembles Dumar Lena cave at Ellora, in India. The main body of the cave, excluding the porticos on the three open sides and the back aisle, is 27 metres square and is supported by rows of six columns each.
“The 7-metre-high masterpiece “Sadashiva” dominates the entrance to Cave 1. The sculpture represents three aspects of Shiva: the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, identified, respectively, with Aghora or Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half). Representations of Nataraja, Yogishvara, Andhakasuravadha, Ardhanarishwara, Kalyanasundaramurti, Gangadharamurti, and Ravanaanugrahamurti are also noteworthy for their forms, dimensions, themes, representations, content, alignment, and execution.“ (UNESCO World Heritage Centre #244)
But aren’t these historical tidbits about remote places just useless trivia? What’s the point of teaching students about things they will never see or hear about again? The point is this: when you’re furnishing your students’ minds with “trivia” like this, what you’re actually doing is preparing them to understand in advance a wealth of historical, cultural, geographical, and literary references they will encounter later — even years later — over the course of their lives. For example, when they someday read one of the world’s great books, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851):
“Now, by all odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to be the whale’s, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephanta, in India. The Brahmins maintain that in the almost endless sculptures of that immemorial pagoda, all the trades and pursuits, every conceivable avocation of man, were prefigured ages before any of them actually came into being. No wonder then, that in some sort our noble profession of whaling should have been there shadowed forth. The Hindoo whale referred to, occurs in a separate department of the wall, depicting the incarnation of Vishnu in the form of leviathan, learnedly known as the Matse Avatar. But though this sculpture is half man and half whale, so as only to give the tail of the latter, yet that small section of him is all wrong. It looks more like the tapering tail of an anaconda, than the broad palms of the true whale’s majestic flukes.“
Well-chosen educational “trivia” is never trivial — it’s the collection of building blocks we use to construct a culture and transmit it to future generations.
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural landmarks of international significance, selected for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. More than 1000 such sites have been recognized in over 160 countries, and we feature one every Wednesday, drawn from one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week. You can find a complete list online at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and in Wikipedia.
The World Heritage Centre also has a free and comprehensive World Heritage education kit for teachers, as well as a wonderful full-color wall map of World Heritage Sites (riverhouses.org/2019-wh-map), available for the cost of shipping. Why not add them both to your own homeschool library. 🗺
What world treasures are you exploring in your homeschool this Orion Term? 😊
❡ Books in the running brooks: You can always turn to your River Houses almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia (riverhouses.org/books) for more information about any of our countries-of-the-week. The almanac has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 745–852; the endpapers of the atlas are indexes that will show you where all of the individual national and regional maps may be found; the history encyclopedia includes national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes. For an ideal little lesson, just write the name of the Weekly World Heritage Site on your homeschool bulletin board, find its location in your atlas, read the WHC’s brief description aloud, look at a picture or two, and you’re done. Over the course of the year, without even realizing it, your students will absorb a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information. 🇮🇳
❡ The great globe itself: This is one of our regular Homeschool States & Countries posts featuring historical and natural sites of international importance. Download a copy of our River Houses World Heritage Calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) and follow along with us as we tour the planet, and add your name to our weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🌏