Mumbai – a day trip to Elephanta Island

On our day off my friend Nicky and I took a ferry to Elephanta Island to see the famous caves.

There are a couple of companies that run boats from the quay in front of the Gateway to India.

Tickets for the fifty minute trip cost about 150Rs return (in 2018) and are on sale from the sunken building on the right before you go through security for the Gateway to India in Apollo Bandar (see earlier post). Once on board you will be asked for a nominal fee if you want to sit on the top deck, which of course you do. I think it’s just a way for the crew to hustle up some tips.

Once you get there, there are a couple more entrance fees you have to pay. The first seems to be for getting onto the island (not much, around 40Rs I think) and then another for getting into the caves themselves which was about 400Rs as I recall.

On the path to the caves, as well as stall holders, you have to run a gauntlet of monkeys although they seem pretty used to humans.

Some are cuter than others.

There are a few cows thrown in for good measure as well.

Although there are seven caves it’s only really the first one, the Mahesa-murti cave, that’s interesting as it’s the biggest and has all the statues.

The complex was constructed around the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The island was named Ilha do Elefante by the Portuguese after a large statue of an elephant that was outside. It now resides in the Victoria Gardens back in Mumbai.

One of the most celebrated statues is this portrayal of Trimurti Sadashiva, a three-faced Shiva.

Here we have the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

This I think is Kartikeya, the Hindu god of war, brother of Ganesh and son of Shiva and Parvati.

You can click on these photos to enlarge them.

Sadly many of the statues are in pretty bad shape. I’m told that the Portuguese soldiers used them for target practice.

Most of the other caves are just hollows in the cliff with little to see inside.

After this we fancied a drink and were surprised to find a restaurant with a terrace. As you go up, the Chalukya Restaurant is at the top of the stairs to the right, as opposed to the left turn which takes you to the caves. Our table looked out over the sea and you could see Mumbai on the hazy horizon.

The food is pretty average but perfectly edible (C) and they serve beer which is quite unusual.

So this is the only interesting day trip I know of from Mumbai. I recommend it as a fairly interesting experience but given that it’s one of Mumbai’s few cultural days out, they could do with cleaning the place up a bit.

That’s India for you though. Hopefully mindsets are changing.

Back in bustling Mumbai next!

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