My day in the caves of Elephanta.
“Mom, how many elephants are there in Elephanta Caves?” A kid on the ferry was asking his mother this question. When his mother said, there are no elephants there, the kid seemed a little disappointed.
That is how confusing names can be.
Having lived in Mumbai for a decade, I finally decided to visit – Elephanta caves to put all the curiosity to rest. Being a traveller, I have always enjoyed seeing new places and lo! 10 years in the city and I haven’t half as seen the beautiful Mumbai. As its said ‘ Ghar ki Murgi, Daal Barabar. There is no harm in being a tourist in your own city.
So anyway, I decided to visit Elephanta Caves, a pocket friendly destination around Mumbai. A round trip to elephanta should not cost you anything more than 150 to 200 bucks for travel. Secondly, I wanted to explore my taste and liking towards archaeology. Being a heritage site, I knew, I would find something worth looking forward to.
My day began at Gateway of India waiting for the ferry boat. The gigantic structure of Gateway of India, with the Taj Palace right opposite to it, photographers asking for you to pose at its beauty, tourist sitting by the promenade, people lining up for a ferry tour, jetties lined up to take people to Alibaug, Being at the gateway of India, is another experience.
I wanted to take the first ferry to Elephanta. The first ferry arrives at 9:30 am and the last ferry arrives at 2:30 pm to go to elephanta caves. It take one hour to reach Elephanta caves. From the ferry boat to the caves, is a half an hour hike. One must carry water and stay hydrated. It is actually a good hike, so hikers should plan a trip here.
Here I am at now – At the hidden, rock cut caves called Elephanta. The sun scorching and the greenery fighting to keep my attention, I arrived. Looked like a mixture of ruins and absolute beauty. This world heritage site straddles one to the west and the east. The Great Cave on the western hill known for its stellar Shaivite depictions.
Entering cave one was through a descend from a hill top through 120 steps. The door to enter is remarkably small. As soon as I entered, I was awestruck. At the entrance was the Trimurti sculpture carved in relief on the cave wall depicting Shiva with three heads, also called Sadashiv. The three heads each are symbolic of the holy trinity, translating into creator, preserver and destroyer.
I blankly kept staring. It felt as if ,the sculpture is transferring vibes into you. Some sort of energy. My mind feeling relaxed yet alert.
Coming together of energy and power- the unification of Shiva and Parvati with the upper half as a feminine form and the lower, masculine. What I have written here, is exactly how I saw it. The power you feel, when you blankly stare into the sculpture. It is when I stopped getting distracted. I was not thinking of the evening party, Sunday breakfast or Monday client presentation anymore. It is like, I lived in the moment and continued to.
I had now headed to Canon hills, to see caves 2 to 5. Ravishing. The only thing that you will notice here are the pillars. Not one crack, not anything. The pillars are a depiction of strength and vigour. Entering caves 6 and 7 via stupa hills, on the eastern side of the hill is cave 6 also called Sitabai cave temple. The cave has a central shrine, 3 chambers. There is nothing much to see in cave 7.
I decided to take a break. I sat down near the back end of the caves only to witness my ears screaming waterfall. I looked around, my eyes trying to navigate the way through the sound. When I finally did, the sound of the waterfall was nothing short of some sort of mystical and mythological mix. The sound relaxed me.
Time skipped my mind. I failed to realize that this travel cliché adventure of mine had consumed me for 3 hours without my knowledge. It was well past 1. The land burning, making my feet do its own little tandav. Do not wear flip flops.
On my way back, I stopped by the local market, picked up some spiced imli. The locals are the best people to ask if there’s anything more to see. They pointed towards the museum at the entrance.
The museum was an ancient tile roof top cottage style place. Small yet detail oriented. It showcased work and literature, black and white photograph of caves temple and sculpture. You can complete the whole tour in just about 15 mins.
Back into the ferry, I was lost. I have seen many heritage sites, world renowned places, but this cave, it just allowed me to absorb some power, some strength. The cave should how two faiths – Hinduism and Buddhism co -exist. The cave is an of victory in calm. Even the imperfect ruins, teach you something. It says – There is beauty in Imperfection.
Picture credit to Instagram in the order of their occurrence in the article.
1- https://www.instagram.com/p/B-wHe0CHiVM/?igshid=egzjgl927jjh - The scenery picture
2-https://www.instagram.com/p/ByXNucQFtIH/?igshid=14m0a270n28qdexample - The Trimurti Picture.
3- Google images - Gateway of India, Waterfall over Elephanta caves.