Off To Elephanta!

Even though I have been a resident of the city for long, I had never been to the Elephanta caves. I got the opportunity to visit this beautiful place when my friends’ proposed a visit to the island during out vacation.

Elephanta Caves are situated on an island named Gharapuri which is about 10km away from Mumbai. When the Portuguese came to India in 1534, they found a stone statue of an elephant on this island and named the caves – ElephantaCaves. The elephant statue is currently in Jijamata Udyan at Byculla. The caves which house several statues of God Shiva, were initially a place of worship before the Portuguese invasion and were declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

There are several ferry boats that take the visitors to the island throughout the day. We took a ferry from The Gateway of India. It takes about 40-50minutes to reach the island from the mainland.

1

As the boat leaves from Gateway, one can see the beautiful receding skyline of Mumbai with The Gateway and Taj Hotel prominently standing out with a fleet of small boats in front of them.

   2

On the way, we saw many ships, some belonging to the navy but most of them were cargo ships. The huge ships came, quickly overtook us and disappeared along the horizon like a surreal dream. The constant companions that we had on our way were these pretty birds.

3

Soon enough, we neared the island. A small, conical green hill in the middle of the Arabian sea. The smell of salt water mingled with mangroves was refreshing and welcoming. As soon as the ferry boat reached the disembarking point, all 4 of us jumped out. There is a bridge that connects this point to the actual island. We walked along the bridge, chomping on slices of raw mangoes, jujube and Indian gooseberries that the local people sell on the way.

4

Knowing that there is no point staring at statues without knowing the history, we hired a guide. He told us that to reach the caves, we have to climb 120 steps. With the midday sun smiling gaily over our heads, we hushed and puffed all the way up. There were many stalls on the way up which sold pretty things made of stones, wood and cloth. Our old buddies since centuries, monkeys, also warmed the place with their presence.

5

Finally we reached the top of the mountain. Declared as an UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, the Elephanta Caves’ date back to the 4th-5th century. We met this lady at the top who insisted that we take her picture and that she’d pose for us. After clicking the picture, she gallantly asked for cash since we had taken her picture. :P

 6

While our guide was buying our entrance passes, we began exploring a little on our own. From the edge of the ticket booth, we got to see this breathtaking view of the sea and the bridge.

7

The Elephanta caves were discovered by the Portuguese in 1534 and were declared as a world heritage site in 1987. Since there are no written inscriptions in the caves, the archeologists have found it difficult to know which century the construction of the caves began and under the rule of which dynasty. It is believed that the construction was started around the 5th century by the Mauryas (known as the Kokan Mauryas) and went on for 1300 years. There are a few artifacts in the temple that date back to around 4th century as well.

The Elephanta caves consist of 7 caves out of which 3 are incomplete. The main cave has huge carvings of Lord Shiva depicting him in his various forms. The entire complex is built from volcanic rock, the basalt rock. The main cave has a total of 26 original pillars and 2 reconstructed pillars.

8

The carvings present all around the caves depict Lord Shiva in his various forms. In the picture below, the different forms that we see are

  1. Top Left: Natraja- The Cosmic Dancer
  2. Top Right: Shiva as Bhairava slaying the Andhaka
  3. Bottom Right: Shiva as Yogisvara, performing meditation on a lotus flower
  4. Bottom Left: Demon King Raavana trying to lift Kailash, the home of Lord Shiva, along with Shiva to take it to Lanka with him.

9

The carvings have lost several of their parts like hands, legs, in some cases, face because of the Portuguese vandalism. Their troops used these carvings for target practice. There are a few places where one can see the bullets still lodged inside the stone.

The following picture shows the holy shrine that houses the Shivling. The entrance is flanked by 2 lion stone sculptures.

10

The main cave also has the main attraction of the caves, the Trimurti. This carving shows 3 heads which are believed to represent the 3 essential aspects of Shiva- Creation, protection and destruction. The right half shows a young face holding a rosebud, a sign of life and creativity closely resembling Brahma- the God of Creation. The left half depicting an angry man is said to be the Aghora or Bhairava form of Shiva also known as Rudra-Shiva- the God of destruction. The face in the centre shows a calm, meditative face like that of Vishnu- the God of Protection and order.

The reason why this statue has remained intact is because there was a door in front of this statue and hence the Portuguese were unaware about the existence of this beautiful carving behind that door which was cleverly disguised to look like a wall.

11

The caves also have carvings showing the marriage between Shiva and Parvati, a form of Adi-shakti. The picture shows 2 carvings, one of it showing the marriage in progress and the other one is post marriage. If you look closely, the position of Parvati has shifted, symbolizing the marriage between the two of them.

12

Ardhanari-nateshwara, is a sculpture of Shiva and Shakti depicting them as a single entity. Half of the carving, the right side, shows Shiva with his long hair, crescent moon over his head whereas the left side shows Shakti with tied hair, ornaments and female clothing.

13

Up ahead of the main cave, lay 3 unfinished caves. People believe that these caves have remained incomplete because of the arrival of Portuguese which led to cessation of work being done in these caves. This picture shows 2 of the 3 unfinished caves.

 14

We were totally drenched in sweat by the time we finished seeing the entire place but were very pleased mentally. Loaded with huge helpings of knowledge about history, our stomachs began to grumble for being ignored for such a long time and so we headed back to the ferry embarking point to feed ourselves yummy treats at Colaba Causeway. But before we left, we had a very special surprise that came to bid us farewell.

 15

Elephanta is a lovely, serene place to visit for the ones who are interested in history, mythology and architecture. Even though it takes up almost half a day, one should not miss this pretty place surrounded with black rocks silently whispering an ancient tale in your ears. All you have to do is listen carefully. :)

Is This Time The Right Time?

Image

The Hindi Film Industry of India, BOLLYWOOD is world famous. From its exotic locations to tales that manage to touch millions of hearts, from brilliant performers to colourful and melodious songs, Bollywood has managed to create a class of its own in the world. Even though Bollywood is the leading film industry of the country, we have many regional film industries which make just as engaging and touching stories.

One such film industry, the Marathi film industry comes from the state of Maharashtra. This industry was booming in the past but experienced a lull when many of its talented actors turned to Bollywood for career opportunities. Thanks to the efforts of the people in the recent years, the industry is back and is having its seasons in the sun, finally getting over the period of quiescence.

A number of movies like “Jogwa”, “Natrang”, “Zhenda”, “Shwaas”, “Deool”, “SanaiChaughade” have come and managed to find a place in the hearts of the people by dealing with social issues, day to day problems in a simple and beautiful way. One such movie that I recently saw was “BalakPalak”.

“BalakPalak” in simple English means “Children and their Parents”. This movie deals with the debatable topic of when to actually sit down with your child and have “the talk” about the “Birds and the Bees”. The movie tells a transparent tale where a father finds a few pornographic CDs in his son’s room and is shaken by his discovery. The movie then takes us to the time (1975) where the father was of almost the same age as his son is now (in 2012).

It shows how the father along with his group of 4 other friends, try to find out things about the world of intimacy in a simple and hilarious way. Indian culture, being very conservative and tight lipped, they have a tough time understanding what exactly happens between couples behind closed doors. Since approaching parents is out of question, they quench their curiosity by turning to erotic literature and videos. In the end they realize how their enthusiasm to venture into uncharted territories have changed them and finally approach their parents.

The movie ends with the mother explaining to the father that since technology has advanced so much, his son is not going to approach him like how he had approached his father and that it is up to him to sit down with his son and have a talk. That was the message of the movie.

What we need to understand from the movie is that every child needs sex education and it is always better if it comes from the parents because in the process of enlightening the child, they end up being his close/best friends. Now when to do it is completely up to the parents but they must do it.

The world of porn videos and erotic literature tends to be very educational and highly imaginative but in a totally wrong way. Turning to it out of curiosity will only end up filling the minds of young kids with those kinds of images. The flutter of butterflies you feel when you are looking at someone in the crowd and your eyes meet, the electric jolt that runs within you when you hold hands for the first time, the skip of a heartbeat and the burst of joy when you kiss for the first time; all these moments are way too tender and beautiful than the colorful images that are conjured in the mind on watching porn.

It is never too late to sit down with your son/daughter and share the ancient wisdom. Don’t wait for the kids to come and ask you what the birds and the bees do. Be a parent who satisfies the child’s curiosity in the right way, at the right time so that he/she doesn’t turn to experimenting on half and improper knowledge and ends up doing something that is wrong. It will change a hell lot of things for the better!

This is what the movie wanted to convey to the audience and according to me it is an excellent take home message. :)

Gulmohar

This beautiful tree is a frequent sight in India, be it on the sidewalks, parks or forests. But surprisingly this tree is not indigenous to India. Gulmohar was brought to India by the British people in 1800s from the island of Madagascar, the heart of natural flora and fauna.Image

During summers, the tree has almost no leaves but is adorned by beautiful and vibrant red flowers. The tree of ‘Palas’ is known as the flame of the forest but with its lovely flowers, this tree too looks as if it were on fire.

Image

A very peculiar feature of the flowers of this tree is that among the 5 petals that it has, one is always different. It is a shade of very light yellow fading into white at the periphery with frequent reddish pigmentation all along. Why it is so is unexplained, but in reality, it is the contrasting nature of the petal that makes the flower look even more lovely.

Image

After summer comes monsoon and brings with it the wonderful rains. Just after the first few showers, this tree puts up yet another stunning display. The flowers are all shed due to the hammering of the raindrops and splay along the ground beneath the tree, a spectacular sight. It is impossible to see it and not feel anything. Somehow, even such a simple departure of the flowers to lay down that red carpet the welcome the monsoon captures your heart.

Image

Gulmohar is not an exotic flower but is still one of my favourites because of its subtle and graceful beauty. There is nothing that decorates summer as beautifully as the Gulmohar does and its one of the main reasons why I look forward to the otherwise terrible season. Now that Monsoon is here, it is time to bid Gulmohar farewell for this year. But before I say my final goodbyes to it, I wanted to write a post on it so that everyone comes to know what a beauty the Gulmohar  tree is, the tree we otherwise hardly notice.Image

P.S: Facts in the post are from my 8th standard textbook which i had read almost 8-9yrs back. :P

Tides Of Time…

Image

It is said that time and tide wait for no man. Evidently, so do people when certain situations spring up. Everyone has their priorities lined up like ducks and there are times when you just don’t have a place among that line of ducks. This may happen at any time including the times when you needed them the most. In this world where everyone is caught up in their own races, I wonder if its foolish to expect so much out of people. But one thing we can deduce from this for sure is that we must learn to be firm and understand that if we have no place in the priorities of people’s life, maybe its time for us to look for time elsewhere. Where? Well, of course, in our own hearts. Too often, we don’t give ourselves the time that we deserve. It is the bitter truth that no one in this world will give you as much priority as you yourself can. So what are you waiting for? Grab the moment and make time for yourself before you waste the precious minutes looking after someone else. Befriend yourself, be your own best friend and you’ll get to see life in a new light.

Book Review #3

Image

Night  Tales #2- Nightshade by NoraRoberts

DeborahO’Roarke was already introduced in the earlier book, Night Shift, which dealt with the story of CillaO’Roarke, her  elder sister. In Night Shift, Deborah was still a student of law. This book deals with her story. Its a tale that tells us how an Assistant District Attorney (Yea! She’s the ADA) works to bust a gang of smugglers.

Deborah is a bold and headstrong ADA. She thinks that justice should prevail whatever be the circumstances. One night, while returning to her car after carrying out the required research for the case she’s working on, she is cornered by a thief. The thief wants to take complete advantage of the silent night and the beautiful company but before he can make a move comes Nemesis, the shadow that walks and protects the dark streets of Urbana. He saves Deb from the thief and disappears. Being a crime fighter herself, Deborah is intrigued by Nemesis’ way of work.

Within a few days, she meets the handsome, rich and a former cop, Gage Guthrie. Gage is bewitched by Deborah and makes advances towards her. Deborah, who is getting weak in the knees under Gage’s sophisticated charms, can not quite decide whether it is Nemesis she wants or Gage. It is only after another encounter with Nemesis that she finally makes up her mind.

The story is about Deborah’s fight against a drug dealer, EnricoMontega who wants Deborah dead. Enrico is also being chased by Gage who wanted to get even with him. It was Enrico that had killed Gage’s partner and injured him severely while he was working as a cop and it was that event that led Gage to leave the police duty and take law in his own hand.

Meanwhile, as Deborah spends time with Gage, she starts to fall in love with him. She also moves in with him as the gang attacks are getting closer and more dangerous than before. During the stay at Gage’s mansion, she discovers that when Gage was in coma, he was blessed by a super-human ability (discussing this will leak out an important secret, but then again, if the reader is smart then they can connect the dots).

In the climax, Enrico kidnaps Deb’s friend and Deborah is summoned to meet Enrico and hand in the evidences against him in return for the life of her friend. Its at the meeting point where the entire story unfurls and all the twists and turns are straightened to reveal a shocking truth. And since it is a ‘romantic’ thriller, its obvious Deborah is rescued in the end by Nemesis as expected.

The plot is good enough, but the idea of having a super-power while getting out of coma is a little out of the way. I also do not fancy stories that centre on a girl who can’t decide between 2 men. There are a few things that are not up to the mark and hence this book is not entirely as enjoyable as other Roberts’ books, but a passable read nonetheless.

My Rating: 3/5

Next Review: Night Tales #3- Nightshade by NoraRoberts