11 May 2010

Elephanta Caves

I had been to see Elephanta caves in December 2009 with my Family. The Elephanta Caves are located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres to the east of the city of Mumbai (Bombay), in Maharashtra, India. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, 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. The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries, although the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. The caves were originally painted in the past, but now only traces remain. The main cave (Cave 1, or the Great Cave) was a Hindu place of worship until Portuguese rule began in 1534, during which time the caves suffered severe damage. This cave 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 (ASI). It is in fact a quite easy and pleasant journey to this island. The nearest important railhead is Chatrapati Shivajee Terminus (CST). After reaching CST you can take a taxi to Gateway of India. It is not very far away and will hardly cost you Rs. 25.00 by Taxi. Once you reach the Gateway of India, you can spend some time there and have a look at the Taj Intercontinental Hotel just infront of the gate. Several boats ferry passengers from this point to the Elephanta island. You can take one of these passenger boats or book a separate one if you have the funds and inclination to do so. It takes about 40 min to reach the island. You can take your own food with you or eat in one the several restaurants available on the island. If you have taken your own food, eat it at a corner shade near the caves. You will see that there are many people who are sitting under the shade and eating. Try not to eat in some separate places under any tree. There are many monkeys on the island, and though they generally do not attack people, they may not be able to control their urge to share your food and may attack you if you resist.

18 April 2010

Kanheri Caves

It has been a long time since I last posted in this blog. Partly due to lack of time and also due to the fact that I had not really known what to post. Today I shall post something about Kanheri caves where I had been in January 2009. Kanheri is located in the island of Salsette and 6 miles from Thana. These caves date from 1st century BCE to 9th century CE. The earliest are 109 tiny rock-cut cells, carved into the side of a hill. Kanheri is credited with the largest number of cave excavations in a single hill. Unlike the elegant splendor of Elephanta Caves nearby, these are spartan and unadorned. Each cave has a stone plinth for a bed. A congregation hall with huge stone pillars contains the stupa, a Buddhist shrine. Farther up the hill are the remains of an ancient water system, canals and cisterns that collected and channeled the rainwater into huge tanks. The caves are excavated in volcanic breccia, the hills rising at places to 1550’ above mean sea level. Majority of the caves are monasteries, intended for living, study and meditation. The unique figure of Avalokiteshwara captures the attention of everyone. No less than a hundred inscriptions have been found here, in Brahmi, Devanagari and Pallavi scripts. One Chaitya cave has some defaced woodwork on its roof. To the west is the Borivili railway station and across the creek is the Arabian Sea. You can go there by taking a bus from Thane (a station on the Mumbai-Howrah line). Take a bus to Borivli...the bus goes past the gateway to Sanjay Gandhi National park. You can get down right in front of the gate. you can also take your own vehicle right upto the caves if you live nearby . If you do not have your own vehicle, wait for the park’s vehicle, which will take you to the caves. I am posting herewith some snaps I had taken there. You get a beautiful view of the hills and forest of Sanjay Gandhi National Park from here.