Elephanta …

I caught the boat to Elephanta from just across the road from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It’s a 10km trip. Photography is forbidden on the boat because the journey takes you past the naval docks. The navy was in town in a big way in readiness for the national day celebrations on the 26th of January, by a strange coincidence the same date as Australia’s.

The island is the site of seven caves that were carved out of the basalt rocks probably between the fifth and eighth centuries. There is a cluster of five Hindu caves and away from them there are two Buddhist caves. The journey from the pier to the caves takes you up a fairly steep stepped slope between stalls. The weary traveller is shaded from the sun by tarpaulins. For those that are too weary to walk there are sedan chairs …

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Chadstone Shopping Centre may not have Beware of the Monkeys signs or sedan chairs but there is at least one thing in common – just as Chadstone boasts 500 shops which really equates to five shops 100 times over, so too with the stalls, the same few themes again and again.

The main cave is a Hindu cave dedicated to Shiva. The central hall is a little over 25 metres by 25 metres, containing carvings and shrines. You can find more detail and a map <HERE>. The carvings have suffered over the centuries but are still very impressive …

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Above is the Trimurti, to be found on the rear wall. Below is the Linga which is set on a raised platform in a shrine …

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It is of striking size, much bigger than mine although I do think mine has more pleasing proportions.

Outside the cave one can make the acquaintance of the local Bonnet macaques, Macaca radiata. These guys are serious snatch and grab artists, it is unwise to be holding food or even bottled water. They unscrew bottle tops in exactly the same way as we do, drink the contents and then toss the empty aside.

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Travelling with a group you may be pushed through here at a faster pace than the island deserves. Travelling independently the bird watcher would be well rewarded by spending some time at the fringing mangroves where there are some waders, egrets and kingfishers to see. The odd Brahminy Kite passes over and Flamingoes are occasional visitors.

 

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