ELEPHANTA ISLAND

Since the day we settled in Mumbai (which was about few weeks ago), my hubby and I haven’t yet discovered many interesting places in Mumbai, India but some of our Hindustani friends suggested that a visit to Elephanta Island could be worth it. Elephanta Island is one of a number of islands in Mumbai Harbour, famous for its caves and temples. It’s only an hour boat ride away from Mumbai Harbour thus making it suitable for a day trip. The original name for the island was Gharapuri Island but was renamed as Elephanta Island by 17th century Portugese explorers after seeing a monolithic basalt sculpture of what seemed to be resembling an elephant near the entrance of the island.

I was told by those Hindustani friends of mine that boats to the island depart from the Gateway of India every half-hour on Wednesday – Monday at 10am – 4:30pm or 9am – 2:30pm depending on season. Tickets are available at the Gateway of India and the boat ride will cost you Rs250 or less for a round-trip, depending on the seat you choose. You can also get boats to the island at CBD Harbour in Navi Mumbai (better known as New Bombay).

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In the wee hours of 24 February 2008 morning, my hubby and I (with our driver Aziz tagging along) catched a speedboat at CBD Harbour, Navi Mumbai to Elephanta Island. The speedboat charged each passenger Rs150 (to and fro) and the trip on the heavily polluted water was quite exhilarating (but a little bumpy though).  So, all we did was to hold on tight and tried our very best not to get thrown off!

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Upon arriving at the jetty of the Elephanta Island, we were greeted with a simple welcome message ‘WELCOME TO ELEPHANTA’ written on a stone. And sitting next to it, was one hard working male hawker selling tidbits by the shore, earning less than you can ever think of. He’s one of the many sidewalk hawkers who struggled to put food on the table to feed their families.

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Elephanta Island is quiet and picturesque, with green foliage and monkeys scampering about. It could be the most serene sight you witness in India. At the end of the long concrete walking path, there was a ticket booth where all visitors were requested to pay Rs5 for adults and Rs3 for children here. Further ahead, we reached a smaller walkway that led to steps which went up to the famous caves. Along these steps, we could see hawkers selling souvenirs at quite reasonable prices. I lost count of the number of steps, but I managed to reach the top of the hill. It reminded me of the steps at Kek Lok Si in Penang, the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia, I had climbed when I was a kiddo.  

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The first cave we entered boasted a few gigantic pillars and hand-crafted figurines of their many lords. One of the figurines we could see in the main cave was the figurine of one of their male lords, Natraj Shiva, also known as the Lord of Dancers. Standing a few metres away were two figurines depicting the marriage of two lords, Lord Shiva (male lord) and Lord Paravati (female lord). If you happen to come here, don’t miss these statues as they’re quite attractive to look at! As we walked to the next cave, we stopped by at a small museum that displayed all sorts of old artifacts and precious stones found at the island.

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At the other part of Elephanta Island, we saw another cave with different structural elements. The interior part of the caves were packed with amazing giant pillars and each pillar was decorated with statues of their lords. Behind the making of each pillar, lies a story. How interesting!

There were many more temple-caves scattered everywhere on this island but we were too tired to even move a leg. So, we decided to check out the rest of the caves next time. Slowly we headed back to the entrance where came in from and waited for the toy train to take us to the jetty. 

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

Note: PERWAKILAN MUMBAI would like to say thank you to Mrs. Julia Idaly from Navi Mumbai for sharing with us her experience touring around Elephanta Island, Mumbai, India.

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