Lord Shiva in the form of Yogeshwara

Elephanta Caves..

Travel & Lifestyle

At first it seemed easy for there were be 2-3 steps after a gentle upward slope followed again by 2-3 steps and another mild upwards incline but when I was more than ready to give up we reached a steep flight of steps rising to the top. I was dismayed by the sight but there was no turning back. Jahsn too was tired – the elephants, snakes and beads could distract him no longer and just as we were wondering what to do, I hit upon a plan. I asked the little fellow to haul me up! Now that he was superman, batman and spider man rolled into one, he held one of my hands in both his little ones and took me up step by step and it was with no men sense of achievement that we did make it to the top.

      On the hill there was something for everyone – puppies and monkeys for Jashn, scenic beauty for my DIL to take pictures against. By the way there were Elephanta caves, a World Heritage Site, here too - something that we had actually trudged up to see! It got its name from a mammoth stone elephant discovered on the hill by the Portugese in 1543 AD. The stone elephant is no longer there for the broken parts of this monolithic stone were taken down and re-assembled by a British curator in Bombay’s Victoria Gardens now called Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan. The real name of the island was Gharapuri – the town of the sudra priests of shaivite temple. Ghara also means a fort, which signifies a fortress city. It was also called Sripuri , the town of abundant wealth.  What now remained was our priceless heritage desecrated by Portuguese who fired shots into the caves, destroying forever the beauty of these monuments.

       Though there are a number of smaller cave shrines, the remains of a 2nd century Buddhist Stupa and two cannons from the time of the Portuguese, the main cave one sees on reaching the island is of chief interest. The large excavation facing North, is about 130 feet square and is supported by massive pillars with square bases, fluted shafts and bulging capitals at the top.  The statues in the cave depict the various aspects of Lord Shiva’s life and His various forms. It has a porch in the front and two other porches on the East and West leading to the courtyards of subsidiary shrines. Sculptured panels of unsurpassed beauty line the walls adjacent to these porches while the bigger stone statues are situated in recesses in the interior of the cave. The statues were badly mutilated at places making it difficult for a lay person to discern what meaning though I had bought a little book to help me. Being keenly interested in stories they told, we hired a government tourist guide who brought to life these broken bits of stones through which the genius of our ancient craftsmen shone.   

      On entering the cave, one perceives a panel on either side. The left panel depicts Lord Shiva in the form of Yogeshwara (lord of the yogis) and the right one as Natraja (Lord of Dancers). #comebacktomorrow

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