The jetty ride took about an hour and there I was after passing thru several ships and boats, at a small island. It had a long railing before which the jetty stopped and I had to get down that railing and a short walk took me to the island.
But instead of walking, I had a glorious option - the small battery train. It was so cute that it made it irresistible. I took it and in a minute I was there at the island.
A series of several steps (it would be some 200 I guess, I dunno), with several several shops with irresistible goodies on either sides were so tempting. But believe me, I overcame my temptation and did not even buy a single thing. Not even a souvenir. But if at all something is to be bought, you must be a master of bargaining!!!
This is monument protected by the Archeological Survey of India. So entry into this place requires a ticket. I still have it and I think the ticket is the only souvenir I have!!! It had a pretty decent crowd. So many mumbaikars esp. couples (Yeah!! it was Valentine’s Day), and very many foreigners. It’s a major tourist spot.
This island is about 1050 to 1500 hectares in area. Funny to have 2 figures as area? No. I’ll give you the explanation. Mumbai is known for its severe tides that goes in and out of the shoreline. Further this place being an island, is completely eaten up by water in high tides. Who built it is still a debate, but most saythat it was Chalukyan Emperor Pulikesi II who built it. Estimated to be built during the period of 5th C to 8th C AD, I couldn’t help but wonder how would have the artists come here and sculpted all these marvels. It took an hour by the sturdy motor boat of the present era. How would they have come in manual small boats.? How many hours would it have taken.? I seriously wonder…!!!
As soon as I went in there, I came face to face with a huge hall kinda place filled with several sculptures & relieves. This is the main area i.e mandap of the island. But most of these sculptures were badly, rather very badly destructed, thanks to the
Elephanta gets its name from the huge elephant statue that stood here once. But now its disintegrated into pieces. However, those pieces have been taken to the Botanical Garden in
The first sculpture that I came across was Yogeshwara Shiva (The Meditator). This is located on the left as soon as I entered. He is seated on a lotus and is meditating. As I said already he is huge and not very intricate in overall, but his headgear is very intricately, elaborately carved. In western terms I could say its very Baroque, but pretty much ancient when compared to Baroque period. Or should I say, Baroque is very Elephanta head gear-stic…???
On my right, at this juncture was Shiva as Nataraja (The Dancer). This one is been rather very severely damaged. 3 of his 4 hands and both his legs are missing. On Nataraja’s right, on the top is Brahma (the plump, 4 headed one – another one of the trinity).
Diagonally on the bottom right of Brahma is Ganesha – Shiva’s elephant faced elder son. Just below him is Kumara – Shiva’s younger son with a ‘Vel’ - a spear in his hand. On the left of Shiva is Iravadham – the white heavenly elephant – the chariot of Indra, the king of heaven. With several other flying celestial there stands my dear friend!!!
Just ahead of me was a Lingam (The Symbolic representation of Lord Shiva). This is till date worshipped and rituals take place here once a year on the day of Maha Shiva Rathri. This Sanctum Sanctorum has entrance on all 4 sides and is guarded by 8 Dwarapalakas. They are huge, I mean really really huge. They have thick lips with a moustache, very much like those represented in
The next panel was the Andhakasura Vadhamurthi (Killer of Andhaka Demon). Here he is seen holding a huge sword with angered and huge opened eyes, just ready to kill Andhaka, the demon.
The next panel is of Kalyana Sundaramurthy (Shiva as a groom). Here he is in the marriage pose, taking Parvathi – his consort, hand in hand. Behind Parvathi is Himavan – The Himalaya (Yeah. Parvathi is the daughter of mountain
This panel is of Gangadhara Shiva (base of
The next is the most important and the only un-damaged piece of craftsman ship. He is Maheshmurthy Shiva. It’s a huge statue of the bust of Shiva with 5 faces. But only 3 faces are visible. The 4th is considered to be behind and the 5th is considered invisible to the eyes of mortals. The face on the left is calm and peaceful. This represents his feminine side, of his side of Uma – his consort. The creator mood of Lord Shiva who is Sadashiva/Vamadeva. Even his headgear is highly ornamental and has a lotus in hand and he’s rather beautiful than handsome!!! Centrally placed is the is also calm but not very feminine. This is the preserver for on Shiva who is a mix of feminity and masculinity. He is Mahadeva/Tatpurusha, the one ith absolute knowledge. He hold a citron as a symbol of fecundity. The face on the right is the angry young brat in him!!! The destroyer – Bhairava/Aghora. He’s fierce and scary with serpant locks. He has a huge, thick moustache.
This is located centrally in the cave. His bust alone is 6.55m wide and 3.2m deep and 5.43m high. I felt so humbled and small in front of him.
The rest, I’ll get back soon…
TO REACH THERE:
To Gateway of
Ferry ride available from Gateway of India.
Dedicated to Rathish. Also courtesy of some photographs in this post.