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Elephanta Island

Mumbai Travel Blog

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On our way to Elephanta Island by ferry (Mumbai (India)

Just after breakfast, we take a taxi to the Gateway of India. From here ferries go to Elephanta Island, where we’d like to see some caves.

At the backseat of the taxi we’re so involved in our guidebook, trying to find at what spot exactly we need to be to take the ferry to the island, that nothing else seems to enter our minds. Once we’ve paid the driver and we’re walking towards the small harbour, we realize with a shock that we have left our camera in the taxi.

We look at each other, speechless with horror. It’s not that we can’t get another camera. It’s just that there’s several days of pictures on the memory card inside the camera that can’t be replaced.

Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
I always take out a memory card after it’s been used for a couple of days and put it with our valuables. In that case, if the camera is lost or stolen, we don’t automatically loose all our pictures as well. The current card in the camera had a couple of hundred pictures on it, from the previous days in Mumbai, Goa and Aihole.

It’s not the absolute worst that could happen, but for minutes we are furious at ourselves for being this careless. I guess it is a sign that we felt absolutely safe in Mumbai, there would be no other explanation for our nonchalant behavior.

Rens sits down at a bench in front of the Gateway of India, not knowing exactly what to do next.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
I decide there might be a possibility that the taxi driver may notice the camera in the backseat and may decide to return. I drag Rens towards the spot where we got out of the taxi and we wait.

I suppose we look worried, since several local people come up to us and ask what happened, and when we explain what is going on, they all seem to decide to join us in the wait, continuously telling us that everything will be all right.

After we’ve been standing there for about twenty minutes, I can see a taxi approaching from a distance. It’s not that it’s the only taxi on the road, there are several. But this has its window down and the driver has his arm out, waving at nobody in particular.

It is the taxi driver who drove us earlier, and he is delighted he sees us standing there.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
He gets out and hands me the camera, while the people around us cheer and applaud. I’m so happy he came back, I kiss him on the cheek, not realizing until later that this was probably very inappropriate.

The driver gets padded on the back by everyone who had been waiting with us, and while he shyly returns to his driver’s seat, Rens manages to shake his hand and give him every banknote in his wallet. It’s probably quite a lot, it’s likely it was more than he would have earned in the entire day, but who cares? He returned pictures that help us remember the wonderful things we saw and did in this country and to us, those are priceless.

The people around us are giddy with delight for this happy ending, and they keep telling us how proud they are of this kind and honest fellow countryman and we take our time to say goodbye to every one.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
With huge smiles on our faces we get on the ferry to Elephanta Island. During the entire ten kilometers the ferry has to travel we keep rehashing every thrilling second of our exciting ordeal.

Did we expect him to come back? I guess not. But we certainly hoped he would. And he did. He is our eternal hero.

It takes about 45 minutes for the ferry to reach Elephanta Island. It’s a popular tourist destination for a day trip because of the beautiful carved out rocks. A boat landing stage and walkway lead to steps that go up to the caves and along the entire path there are salesmen at every inch, all trying to sell souvenirs.

The island, which is only two and half kilometers in length, is thickly wooded with palm-, mango and tamarind trees. The island consists of two green hills, which are divided by a ravine.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
The scenery is very pretty and I enjoy watching the countless monkeys, some of them are tame enough to eat from your hand. The heat is incredible though. As soon as we left the ferry it was like a thick sweltering blanket was thrown over our heads. We’ve gotten used to Indian temperatures by now, but the climate at the island is a whole new challenging ballgame. We have to walk part up hill to reach the first cave and by the time we reach it, we actually have to catch our breath and sit for a moment.

A couple of minutes later we no longer feel as if we are overheated, and we move on. We go to Cave 1, also known as the main cave of the great cave. This was a Hindu place of worship for many centuries. The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th century, even though the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
No inscriptions have been discovered on the entire island, therefore the Elephanta Caves are ‘of unknown date and attribution’. All which is certain, is that the caves were originally painted, because small traces of this remains.

The main cave is huge, it has a size of 27 square meters, four doors at the entrance, pillars and an aisle in the back. The entire cave is decorated with large carvings of Shiva, all in different poses and appearances. It is all gorgeous, but the real cherry on top is the central Shiva relief called Trimurti. This image is over 6 metres in height and depicts a three-headed Shiva. Each head is said to represent an essential aspect of Shiva: creation, protection and destruction.

The cave is breathtaking, not just by its beauty, but also because of the intense heat.

The main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
It’s so damp in the cave, we are not just sweating, we are constantly leaking! We visit the other caves (which are not as spectacular as the first), walk up the hill and admire the view and then we decide we can no longer endure this temperature.

We take the ferry back to Mumbai, take a nap in our room, pack our bags for the final time and report at the lobby in time to have dinner with all our travel companions to celebrate our last night in India. Digna takes to a restaurant that serves specialties from Calcutta, which is located around the corner from our hotel. The food is great and we have many, many fabulous moments we rehash together.

After dinner, we return to the hotel, get our bags and get on Ajit’s bus for one last time. While he takes of to bring us to the airport, the entire staff of the hotel waves us goodbye from the entrance.

Me getting overheated at the main cave at Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
I wave back and notice I’m crying.

India was an amazing experience. It’s a constant chaos, an explosion of colours, scents, dirt and noise. At times it was annoying to have the constant attention of crowds of beggars and touts, but most of the time, it was great fun having all those enthusiastic and smiling people around us. The culture and sights were amazing and the nature was breathtaking. Before Rens and I arrive at the airport, we have already decided to come back to India in a few years.

Now that we’ve had a taste of this country that’s not all about McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Hollywood, western pop-music and European fashion, there is not a single reason why we should stop!

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On our way to Elephanta Island by …
On our way to Elephanta Island by…
Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
Elephanta Island (Mumbai, India)
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
The main cave at Elephanta Island …
The main cave at Elephanta Island…
Me getting overheated at the main …
Me getting overheated at the main…
Rens dripping with sweat at the ma…
Rens dripping with sweat at the m…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumba…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumb…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumba…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumb…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumba…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumb…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumba…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumb…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumba…
Monkeys at Elephanta Island (Mumb…
A smaller cave at Elephanta Island…
A smaller cave at Elephanta Islan…
View from a taxi (Mumbai, India)
View from a taxi (Mumbai, India)
Two travelcompanions getting getti…
Two travelcompanions getting gett…
Our last night in India (Mumbai, I…
Our last night in India (Mumbai, …
Our tour leader Digna during our l…
Our tour leader Digna during our …
Our last night in India (Mumbai, I…
Our last night in India (Mumbai, …
Mumbai Sights & Attractions review
Nice daytrip
From the harbour of Mumbai (near the Gateway of India) ferries leave to Elephanta Island. There appears to be no specific time schedule for these ferr… read entire review
Mumbai
photo by: vvicy1