>Travel Pictures


Elephanta Island

Exploring the caves

Once we got to Elephanta Island, we started walking down to long cement jetty that greeted visitors there. Buying a guidebook from a tout on the island saved us around 200 rupees from the first price on the mainland, so that was a good thing. We missed out on the mini train that took people to the edge of the hill (a ride Breck and Daddy decided to take on our return!)
As we made our way toward the caves, we ran the gauntlet of shops and sellers. The big treat seemed to be roasted corn - it must be in season right now! Of course there were plenty of plastic trinkets and doodads for sale as well. 
As expected at an island called "Elephanta," there were plenty of resin Ganeshes and soapstone elephants for sale. We made our own little contribution to the local economy on the way back out, and are now the actual proud owners of one of those carved elephants!
Breck was looking for an easy way up the mountain, but changed his mind when he saw all the monkeys there were to chase. These were nowhere near as aggressive as those at Matheran, so it was actually quite fun to watch them and not worry about them jumping at you!

When we finally made it to the top, we started exploring the caves and the religious figures inside. The one on the right is the Shiva Linga, a representation of the Divine Consciousness (the Phallus) that penetrates through the Reality of the Universe (female organ). Hmmm..
The main cave on the island is a large complex very similar to those we've seen elsewhere - Karla, Bhaja, Khaneri, Ellora, Ajanta - except that these seemed to have more "large" statuary and far less intricately detailed work. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that these caves have been known about (and purposely defaced) for many years, but still they seemed more cavernous than awe-inspiring.
The most fantastic piece was a three headed depiction of Trimurti. Each face represents a different aspect of neverending Supreme Reality with a specific cosmic function: Brahma (creation), Vishnu (renewal and preservation), and Shiva (destruction, preceeding recreation).
The inner sanctum, where only priests had been allowed, now houses only looming pillars and decayed statues. It must be in the middle of one of the Shiva cycles...

That is not to say we didn't have fun: a family potrait on a lion, Alea, Susan, and a blue-shirted friend demonstrate Hindu goddess art forms, and Breck rests above a broken off column head.
As we made our way past the 5 caves, the kids had a great time enjoying nature, something we miss out on in the big city. We watched monkeys, climbed trees, chased crabs, and caught (or at least tried really had to) frogs.

By the end of our time at the caves, we were hot and sweaty, so we stopped off for some refreshing cold drinks and to watch the rain clouds roll in. There was a brief shower, and then we headed down - past the increasing number of people heading up - towards the boat to take us back to Bombay.

We had no trouble making a ferry, and it was obvious that the sun and fresh air had taken "it" out of everyone. We were all pretty quiet on the way back, as Alea rocked to the iPod, Breck and mom caught some z's, and Dave talked with a bunch of schoolboys on a school picmic.

It turned out that they were village boys from Nashik (where Indian wine is made!) and this was their first trip out of that area. They were so excited to meet a foreigner and speak the little bit of English they had learned. I taught them some very important phrases like "High five!" and "Give me ten" and promised them copies of the pictures, so we were all pretty happy with the ride.

As the Gateway came back into view, we were all tired but very satisfied with our trip out to Mumbai's famous island.

Elephanta Island - Leaving from the Gateway to India - Exploring the caves

To the main India page
To the Stutz's Welcome Page