Elephanta Caves – History’s Hideout

12.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We reached the “Gateway of India” from where we have to take a boat to the Elephanta Island, situated in the Kolaba district off the coast of Mumbai. The Gateway is more crowded than the other day. The tickets for the ferries are being sold by the ticket agents and a to and fro trip is of Rs. 180. It was only at the time of buying the tickets did we realize that we were running out of the few 100 rupees notes we are left with and made a point that we should withdraw money from some ATM after return from the Elephanta.

11.30 hrs – Caves can be dark, mysterious and, at times, frightening, but surely adventurous and a window to the eras gone by. These natural passages are also where history meets myth and legend. Elephanta caves are one of the most heard after the Ajanta and the Ellora caves in Maharashtra. And finally we were into the ferry which carries us to the island. Though we opted to sit in the deck, we dropped our plan as it was too hot that day and remember you have to pay an extra ten rupees if you want to sit there :-p . The journey was a bit boring though we get a chance to watch some giant vessels carrying out various tasks on the Arabian Sea. It took us almost 75 mins to reach the island. We bought the tickets for a toy train ride to the caves 🙂

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12.40 hrs – We started walking towards the caves. There are lots of shops along the pathway selling soft drinks, snacks and food. The staircase leading to the caves is also full of vendors selling various kinds of crystals and souvenirs. Be careful if you are carrying some food or drinks as there are lots of monkeys here and they don’t mind in snatching the things that were there in your hands. The climb was tiring and we decided to have our lunch before we start going around the caves. There are many restaurants here run by private vendors and also a restaurant that is being run by the Maharashtra Tourism Dept. The dining hall is spacious and food is good here 🙂

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14.00 hrs – Bought the tickets and reached the Cave 1, also known as the Great Cave known for it’s great architecture. Dating back to as early as first century BC and artistically built over a few centuries, its caves have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions. Most of the caves are viharas (hall) and chaityas (pillared religious caves) and showcase fine art heritage of India. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, of the self and of the divine.

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Elephanta island, located 11 km from Mumbai, have beautiful carvings, sculptures and a temple of Lord Shiva. The main cave has a 7 mt high bust of ‘Sadhasiva’ that represents three aspects of Shiva, the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. It also has other forms of Shiva like the Ardhnarishwar – The ultimate union of Shiva, the Lord of the universe, with his consort, Parvati. Parvati (Shakti or Uma) is the embodiment of grace and beauty, self-sacrifice and love. Also there is the “Trimurti” idol which is said to be so unique that we can find such ones only at these islands and another one in Nepal. There are 7 caves in total, but there is not so much to see in the other caves than Cave 1. These received the status of a World Heritage Site in 1987.

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16.00 hrs – We made a move towards the Canon Hill, which is like a 20 mins hike from the entrance. There is an old canon placed on top of this hill and it is said that this had been used to protect the sea from the pirates. And one can get a good view of the sea and the mountains surrounding these islands from here. Nothing more to see! 17.00 hrs – We were back in the ferry to be carried back to the Gateway of India. The return journey was more refreshing as we watched the sun set and also some sea birds strolling behind our moving ferry 🙂

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P.S – For more info on the Elephanta Caves, please visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/244

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Mirik – A nest in the hills of West Bengal

Located at a distance of 49 kms from Darjeeling, Mirik is a perfect day-out. We set out at 8 AM in the morning on our cab from Darjeeling enroute Ghoom-Sukhiapokhri-Simana-Pashupati Fatak-Bhanjang-Hilay-Mirik. It’s a wonderful ride on the scenic roads. The first viewpoint to wave a hello to us would be the Simana viewpoint. Simana in hindi means border. This is the Indo-Nepal border, the road itself belongs to India and the viewing area falls in Nepal. 🙂

Most of the localites say that it is a No-Man’s land. From the Simana view-point one can see the narrow winding road leading to Sandakphu on the other side of the valley. Also, one can get a great view of the dazzling Kanchenjunga peak. Just sit, relax and enjoy the breath-taking view.

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From here, the roads look more scenic with lush green tea gardens on the mountain slopes on either side of the road, and the Nepalese women working in the tea gardens and we too can pluck some twigs of tea. The famous tea estates like Thurbo and Gopaldhara owns few mountains of tea here . Thubro has got its factory here on the way to Mirik and one can have a visit to it by taking permission from the manager.

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Our next stoppage is the beautiful Mirik. It’s a small beautiful town, at an altitude of 5000 ft. The top attraction of Mirik is the Sumendu lake, with a garden on one side of its bank and woods on the other. Both the banks are connected by a arching footbridge. Sit along the bank of the lake and relax or just walk over the bridge to the other side of the lake to take a walk through the woods and there is a small temple (Devi Sthan) in the forest. Boating is also available here.

Other attractions of Mirik are the Monastery and the Orange Orchids. Got a chance to see the Monastery but not the Orange Orchids. Will plan it the next time 🙂

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On our way back to Darjeeling from Mirik, we stopped at the Pashupati Market, which happened to be at the India-Nepal border. It is actually located in Nepal. The formalities to enter the market are quite simple. They just require your Photo ID cards. Though Cameras are not allowed, we can very well use our mobiles. Lol!! The market is a 1 km walk from the border post and is full of imported electronic gadgets, jackets, perfumes, cosmetics and clothes. But, be careful as there are good numbers of fakes too.

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On further down, one can visit the place Jorpohri, which is located at an altitude of 7400 ft. The main feature is its twin lakes. This place is located in the midst of the pines and has a beautiful garden and a Shiv Mandir. A calm and serene place. The best part of this trip would be the drive to Jorpokhri from the main road.

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What else would be a perfect day out!! It will be more perfect, if you get a joy ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways from Ghoom to Dajeeling on our way back. And am lucky enough as I got one 🙂

Thanks to the most sweetest person of my life for joining me in this trip 🙂 🙂