My very first day in Mumbai, in fact: my very first day in India!
We decided to take things easy, as Mumbai is a pretty hectic city and requires some getting used to. So off to Gharapuri – the City of Caves – or better known as Elephanta Island. The island holds a series of Hindu and Buddhist caves, hewn from basalt rock.
Getting there requires taking a one-hour ferry ride, leaving from the Gateway of India. Once you arrive a small train will get you from the ferry landing to the base of the hills, where you will have to climb a number of stairs (or be carried up…).
Beware of the monkeys as you go! They sneakily tried to steal our bottle of Coke and got pretty upset when we decided not to let go 🙂
The main cave at Gharapuri is called the Shiva cave, dedicated to Lord Shiva, and dates back all the way to the 5th to 8th century. Apparently it used to be painted, though that is no longer preserved. Walking around, you will find the most important sculpture: the Trimurti – a three-headed Shiva, representing creation, protection and destruction. Actually, the entire cave is filled with sculptures of deities, guardians like the leogriff – a winged lion – and rows of pillars.
Now, I don’t know much about architecture, but I know about rocks, and I have to say: basalt is one tough cookie to carve! So, I walked around in awe for all the work and effort it took to create these beautiful caves – everything is finished so smoothly.
And then it was time for our (wet) ride back to Mumbai. Followed by some downtime at Leopold Café (yes, the one from the 2008 attacks) for my new favourite drink: sweet ‘n salty fresh lime soda! Perfect for quenching the thirst on a hot day 🙂