I wanted to go to Elephanta caves or Gharapuri caves since last few years but could not due to some reasons. Finally my wife could not say no since it was a birthday request 🙂 (my birthday was on next day – 16th December). So the long wait of more than 10 years was coming to an end. I also convinced my friend Saurabh & his wife, Bhairavi to join us for this day trip. Nehal, my wife made some sandwiches, famous Dhoklas and Aloo tikki. We started at 9:30 am from Ghatkopar and reached Gateway of India at 10:30 am. We took the 11:00 am boat from the jetty and we were on our way to Elephanta Island. The journey is around 1 – 1.5 hours to reach the island by sea. The launch travels at a speed of 14 nautical miles. The tickets are available at the Maharastra tourism development corp (MTDC) at the entrance of Gateway. The Caves are off-visit on Mondays. The launch (boat) leaves from gate no.4 at the rear of Gateway of India. The ticket for Deluxe boat is Rs. 150 for Adult, Rs. 90 for Child (3 to 7 years) which includes return journey. If you want to see the view from the upper deck, you have to pay Rs. 10 extra to the launch (boat) operator. Economy boat is Rs. 130 for Adults.
Elephanta island is located in the Arabian Sea and consists of two groups of caves — the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the God Shiva. Known in ancient times as Gharapuri, the present name Elephanta, was given by 17th century Portuguese explorers, after seeing a monolithic basalt sculpture of an elephant found here near the entrance. They decided to take it home but ended up dropping it into the sea because their chains were not strong enough. Later, this sculpture was moved to the Victoria and Albert Museum (now Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum) in Mumbai, by the British. Elephanta caves was renovated in the 1970s after years of neglect, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork. It is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI.
After few minutes, i started going click click…few selfies and a lot others…
Due to heavy fog, the boat was going slowly than the normal speed. Hence, we reached Elephanta caves in 1.5 hours at 12:30 pm. We did not want to walk the 600 meters stretch since we knew that we will exercising ourselves for the climb to the caves. Hence, we took the toy train by paying Rs. 10 per person for the return journey ticket. At the entrance of the park, one needs to pay an entrance fee, i.e. Rs 10 for Indian citizens and Rs 250 for foreign nationals (which I personally felt was quite steep). Once you buy your ticket, it is checked by a security guard on entry to the site. If the guard at the entry booth tries to keep your ticket, insist on having it back. Only the control coupon should be detached and kept by the guard. Otherwise your ticket would be re-sold to another visitor and the entry fee would be pocketed by the guards instead of the Archaeological Survey of India.
We saw several monkeys, here are a few of them…
There are several caves you can visit. According to the guard there, there are only five caves on Elephanta Island. But some of the maps show seven caves. Except the first two caves at the entrance, other caves are small and not well developed. You can also walk up to the top of the Island, it is called Cannon Hill. There is a old cannon there and nothing else to see. The Elephanta caves are “of unknown date and attribution”. Art historians have dated the caves in the range of late 5th to late 8th century AD. Some historians attribute the caves to the Konkan Mauryas, dating them to the mid 6th century, though others refute this claim saying a relatively small kingdom like the Konkan Mauryas could not undertake “an almost superhuman excavation effort,” which was needed to carve the rock temples from solid rock and could not have the skilled labour to produce such “high quality” sculpture. Some other historians attribute the construction to the Kalacuris (late 5th to 6th century), who may have had a feudal relationship with the Konkan Mauryas. In an era where polytheism was prevalent, the Elephanta main cave dedicates the monotheism of the Pashupata Shaivism sect, a sect to which Kalacuris as well as Konkan Mauryas belonged. The Chalukyas, who defeated the Kalacuris as well as the Konkan Mauryas, are also believed by some to be creators of the main cave, in the mid 7th century. The Rashtrakutas are the last claimants to the creation of the main cave, approximated to the early 7th to late 8th century. The Elephanta Shiva cave resembles in some aspects the 8th century Rashtrakuta rock-temple Kailash at Ellora. The Trimurti of Elephanta showing the three faces of Shiva is akin to the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva), which was the royal insignia of the Rashtrakutas. The Nataraja and Ardhanarishvara sculptures are also attributed to the Rashtrakutas.
In the above sculpture, the three heads are said to represent three essential aspects of Shiva — creation, protection, and destruction. The right half-face (west face) shows him as a young person with sensuous lips, embodying life and its vitality. In his hand he holds something an object resembling a rosebud, depicting the promise of life and creativity. This face is closest to that of Brahma, the creator or Uma or Vamadeva, the feminine side of Shiva and creator of joy and beauty. The left half-face (east face) is that of a moustached young man, displaying anger. This is Shiva as the terrifying Aghora or Bhairava, the one whose anger can engulf the entire world in flames, leaving only ashes behind. This is also known as Rudra-Shiva, the Destroyer. The central face, benign and meditative, resembles the preserver Vishnu.
We were told about the history of the sculptures, the fascinating stories behind them… by Sunita, our guide for the day. The guide service is provided for free by MTDC till 2 pm only. We finished the caves sightseeing by 2:30 pm. Now, we all were really hungry and my wife’s (Nehals) Dhoklas, tikkis and cheese sandwiches came to the rescue. We then decided to visit the garden lake which was better than our expectations. We rested for about an hour and proceeded towards the jetty to board our boat for the return journey.
The return journey was awesome, we sat on the floor on the upper deck, in the front row. We all had a great time seeing the seagulls flying very close to our boat, the sun going down and ofcourse the majestic nightview of our favorite Taj Hotel and Gateway of India.
We all had a great time and even for once even my wife agreed that I was right about the beautiful caves 🙂 …We reached Gateway of India at 7:00 pm and headed to Colaba Causeway of some shopping…