Friday, September 17, 2010

day 81, Elephanta Caves, Indian UNESCO site

Wow, we had such an amazing journey around the world in 80 days........

We had a really good night's rest and now Marti is ready to travel again.......anywhere, anytime!
Alright, Marti........but this time we won't travel so rapidly........ok?
Any ideas anyone as to where we should go to next?
Amit ( wants to take us to an island in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai.......
ok, sounds like fun...let's go......
oh, we are going to take an hour long deluxe ferry

Wow, this island is so quiet and picturesque, with light-green foliage and monkeys scampering about.
No, no, Nopi, don't feed the monkeys, they may attack you!
At the entrance of the park, one needs to pay an entrance fee, i.e., Rs 10 for Indian citizens and Rs 250 for foreign nationals.
So where are we going to Amit?
Aah, there is a little train...are we going on that? No.....we are going to walk up 120 steep steps!

Ok, Amit.....we are now really curious to know where we are going to......
There are several vendors along the way ........selling books and little statues of Lord Shiva.
Hmm, I am beginning to think that perhaps we are going to a temple....

There are many tourist guides in the vicinity offering their services....their charges are not really reasonable, i.e., Rs 2500!
But we dont need them, we have Amit and Sita....:-)

Phew, these steps are steep.......Feroz is out of breath!

We have reached the entrance to a CAVE........and Amit proudly announces...."Welcome to Elephanta Caves.....the world's oldest island cave...and a UNESCO world heritage site!"

Wow! This is really a site to behold.........
The Trimurti-Sadashiva Statue, carved in relief at the end of the North-South axis, embodies the most important sculpture.
The three headed-Shiva image, representing Panchamukha Shiva, stands twenty feet high.

The right half-face shows him as a young person with sensuous lips, embodying life and its vitality.
In his hand he holds something that resembles a rose bud; again with the promise of life and creativity.
That face closely resembles Brahma, the creator or Uma or Vamadeva, the feminine side of Shiva.

The left half-face, on the side, resembles a young man, mustached, and angry.
He depicts Shiva as Aghora Bhairava, as the one whose anger can engulf the entire world in flames leaving only ashes behind.
That represents Shiva, the Destroyer

The central face, benign, meditative, as the preserver Vishnu. This is Shiva as the yogi -- Yogeshwar -- in deep meditation praying for the 'preservation' of humanity

This sculpture is supposed to be one of the centerpieces of the Indian sculptural tradition.

One thousand and five hundred years ago when craftsmen began cutting rocks and sculpting them into magnificent statues of Gods, little did they realize that in the second millennium the Elephanta Caves would be such a major tourist attraction!!

The origins and artists of the temple caves, thought to date from about the 6th century, remain obscure.

The island was originally called Gharapuri; the Portuguese renamed it Elephanta after they found a large stone elephant near their landing place.

(The figure collapsed in 1814 and was subsequently moved to the far-off Victoria Gardens and reassembled.)

Shortly before the Elephanta temples were created, Bombay had experienced the golden age of the late Guptas, under whom the talents of artists had free range.

Sanskrit had been finely polished, and under the court's liberal patronage, Kalidasa and other writers had helped incite a Hindu religious revival.

Shaivism, the worship of Shiva, inspired the building of these temples.

Many of Elephanta's priceless statues were damaged or destroyed by the Portuguese, who apparently used the Hindu gods for target practice!!

There have also been reports of vandalism and carelessness by modern visitors :-((

So tell us Amit....How were they were constructed?

These rock cut temples were created by carving out rock, and creating the columns, the internal spaces and the images.

The entire temple is akin to a huge sculpture, through whose corridors and chambers one can walk. The entire complex was created through a process of rock removal.

Some of the rock surfaces are highly finished while some are untreated bare rock.

Wow, how big is this place??
The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60000 squrare feet and it consists a main chamber and two lateral ones , courtyards and several subsidary shrines.

Above the temple is the mass of natural rock.

There are nine carvings in the main cave that depict the life of Lord Shiva in different manifestations -the dancer (Natraja), Shiva killing a demon Andhaka, marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Shiva's descent to the Ganges, Shiva as Ardhnarinateshwar, Shiva as Maheshmurti, Shiva lifting Mount Kailash, Goddess Parvati on Mount Kailash and Shiva as an ascetic.

Oooh, there are many things for sale here..... paintings.....but Sita told us that most of the stuff is brought in from Mumbai and sold at a double or triple price, so while purchasing mementos, we must make sure that we bought souvenirs that were unique to the Island and the craft skills of the local people...and that we simply had to eat the jamun.......a wild berries that the locals sell.......hmmmm, yummy....

From the Gateway of India to the world famous Elephanta Caves, and from the hustle and bustle of the contemporary commerce of Mumbai, this trip is a journey back in time; to a time when faith, mysticism and art reigned supreme, when the challenge of carving out gigantic statues and caves from monoliths was accepted as a blessing, when the tryst with stone gave birth to passionate effigies of Hindu faith, a glorious testimony, even today, of the aesthetics and hard labour of the Indians of long ago......

Wow, that was awesome....thanks Amit.....

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