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Elephanta Caves and Cannon HIll near Mumbai and Navi Mumbai

Monday, August 11, 2014

Michael and I were planning an outing since a long time, so that we could take some good snaps.  As it was summer time we didn't want to do a difficult trek so we settled for Elephanta Caves.

We decided to meet the next morning at 8:15 Am at Churchgate station, from there we were going to board a Taxi to The Gateway of India. We wanted to be in time to board the 9 AM ferry.

Now we had asked another friend Elroy to join us too. But sadly he couldn’t make it, so it was the two of us.

We met at Churchgate at 8:15 AM and decided to walk it out to Gateway of India.

As it was a Saturday morning, there was less traffic on the road plus it was not that hot so it was a pleasant walk to Gateway.

At 8:45 AM we were near Hotel Taj. The sky was clear and we managed to get beautiful photos of Hotel Taj and The Gateway of India.

I had read in the newspapers a couple of months ago that the Caves would be shut for maintenance purposes, but they never mentioned a date. I was hoping that it would be open.

We started asking around for the ferry to Elephanta, we managed to spot the one going to Alibag, again there was a huge crowd to board it.

Finally a man yelled in a distance, “Elephanta chi ferry aata sutnar ahe, lavkar ya” meaning the ferry to Elephanta will leave now, so if you want to board it, hurry.

We immediately rushed to the ferry, as we were right on time, no idea when the next ferry was. The ferry leaves from the front of the Gateway of India. As soon as we stepped on the ferry, it departed.  The caves are shut on Monday. The first ferry from Gateway of India to Elephanta is at 9 AM and the last ferry from Elephanta to Mumbai is at 5:30 PM

The ferry ticket cost us Rs.150, for a return trip. The ferry was packed with people, mostly locals and a few foreigners. The upper deck will cost you Rs.10 extra.  There is less shade on the upper deck, but if you want to get baked then that is the place to be.

Initially we crossed small ferry boats anchored in the waters, awaiting their turn to ferry people to either Alibag or Elephanta. Soon it was just water all around us.

To our left were some naval ships parked in a distance. I wanted to take snaps of it so rushed to the end of the ferry to which, one of the crew members advised me not to take photos of them. There is a board put up, advising you not the snap when on the ferry.

Looking as us clicking photos, a few of the people on board also started clicking photos with their camera phones. I told Michael, that we inspired the people on the ferry to take snaps.

In an hour time we were at Elephanta Jetty. From here it was a walk for around 25 minutes to reach the base of the Caves.

Elephanta Caves are also called Gharapuri Lenee, Lenee means Caves in Marathi language are located on Elephanta Island. There are two groups of caves here, the big ones as we enter are the Hindu Caves followed by the Buddhist Caves on the other side.

There is an entry fee to Elephanta Island, price being Rs.5 each. People come up with strange ways to earn a living. There is a mini train service here, which drops you to the base, but for a price. We decided to walk it out, hoping to we some good photos of the surroundings. 
It was fruitful to walk, we managed to snap, the waters, the hills and also the city of Mumbai to our right hand side and Navi Mumbai to the left.  Though there are skyscrapers on bought side, it was a bit difficult to tell what is what.  As the ferry left from Mumbai, we knew which way the city was.

We managed to get snaps of fishes in the waters and also crabs on the rocks, when we were clicking photos a family came there.  The guy introduced the crabs as kachua meaning tortoise to his family to which they readily agreed. “Tortoise, from which angle does the crab appear like a tortoise” top which we both burst out laughing.

There were shops all around selling, food articles, cold drinks and caps to beat the summer heat. We then reached the base of the caves, there are hotels here catering to the food needs of the tourists.  From here the climb begins uphill. There are neatly carved stairs which lead till the entrance of the caves.  The way up in nicely covered as there are shops on either side of the stairs, selling t-shirts and stones. None of them were of interest to us and so we headed to the top.

There are chair cars available for people who find it difficult to climb till the top. So the person has to sit on it and another two people will carry him till the top.

There are monkeys around too, I was telling Michael about an incident that happened when I went to Matheran, where I did an eye contact with the monkey and he refused to let me go. I dared Michael to do the same. To which he laughed and said “Are you mad.”

Finally we reached the entrance of the caves. Again there is a ticket to view them. Cost being Rs.10 for Indians and Rs.250 for Foreigners.  Wonder why such a big difference in price.

We took our tickets and headed off to see the first and the biggest cave in Elephanta. There are sculptors of Hindu Gods carved in it. Don’t ask me the names of the Gods, as I don’t know them myself.

Please refer to Wikipedia for history about these caves, there were huge pillars that were carved and holding the structure and the walls are carved with photos of Gods. As the caves are dark it is advisable to take a camera which is good in taking low light images to take photos. My digi camera didn’t have the feature but our smart phones did have it and so was put to use. Michael got amazing snaps with his phone, not me :(

One of the sculptures is that of the Trimurthi, now how I know this. Is the question in your mind? Simple it featured on our history books in my schooling days.

There are security guards placed all over the caves, so that people don’t get too close to the carvings. Also we are aware about a few ignorant people who love to write their names on the walls. So it’s best to have guards here to keep a watch on such people.

The sculptor in the caves was very similar to the ones I saw at Cave 16. At Ellora in Aurangabad.  The caves also feature two Shivling’s , The temples are carved in rock, one has lion like  structure outside it, guarding it and the other has huge sculptor of Gods guarding it.

In the initial days, when they were discovered these caves were not maintained and so certain sculptors have broken. But it is a good thing that ASI and UNESCO are working on maintaining what is left of them.

After checking out the caves here we then headed off to the other side to see the Buddhist Caves.  I have been to a couple of them all over Maharashtra.  The resemblance is the same.  They don’t have many carvings to display and size wise they are very small. 

Again they have a couple of pillars, this is something new I discovered, as I haven’t seen much pillar construction on Buddhist Caves.  Maybe the makers were influenced by the Hindu Cave makers. 

One of the security guys was driving the dogs and monkeys away, 
when I asked why, he informed me that the Director of ASI was going to pay a visit to these caves and they have been given strict instructions that animals are not to be seen. How can you drive an animal away when it has been there for most of its life?  Both Michael and I burst out laughing on seeing the demands of the Director of ASI.

In fact we saw a guard hurling a stone at a dog, now what if the dog turns around and catches the stone and throws it back at the security guard, I know that it is just a thought, but it will be a amazing comic sight to see, to which we both burst out laughing.

There are loo’s placed at the end of the Buddhist  Caves, though they are not in good shape, but at least you can pee there if not poop.

There is also a museum located at the ticket counter, but it was closed so we headed to see the Cannon on Cannon Hill.

After walking uphill for around 20 minutes we were finally at one of the cannons. The cannon is placed at such an angle, from where it  gets a commanding position of the land and the sea around. The cannon are not in use. But offers a wonderful of the hillside, sea and Mumbai and Navi Mumbai in a distance.

We then headed to the other identical cannon a few minutes away. Again it offers a good view of the surrounding.  After exploring both cannons we headed downhill for some lunch.

It was around 1 PM and people we climbing up in large nos. Wonder how many will reach the top with a lot of breaks. All the best to them.

We headed to Elephanta Port for lunch. Our lunch comprised of Aloo Sabzi and Chapati. The chapattis were hot and soft. Made to order. The vegetable was nicely prepared. Had a sumptuous meal here, feeling full.

We then walked our way to the ferry jetty to board a ferry to Gateway of India.

First time outing trip was Michael, great fun. What say Michael?


Dimpy Roy said...

Very nice. Thanks for sharing your trip experience. I liked your blog. The Elephanta Caves are located on island hills about 11 km north-east of the Apollo Bandar, Mumbai and 7 km from the shore of the mainland, approximately covering an area of 7 km in circumference. The island is named after a colossal elephant found in the island, which is popularly known as ‘Gharapuri’. Check out all details, timings, entry fee, best time to visit of Elephanta Caves.

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