Quenching my desire for Elephanta

Jaggu was in a hurry, as if he were about to fire an Agni missile in next few minutes. He woke up at 6, took an emergency bath like a crow, and started running towards Borivali station on 1st Dec 2007. His favorite panipuri stall and Bombay lassi stall – located on the station road – were taking rest, after a hot business the previous night. He introduced to Dhokla at a street side vendor in front of his guest house. On looking at its size and colour, he thought it was a dessert like Kesari. After his first bite, he realized that it tasted like idly-upma (usually made from left over idlies). Remaining dhoklas at the thambalam (tray) grimaced at him.

Boats for Elephanta depart from India Gate since 9 am. He was rushing to catch the first boat. He went to Matunga the previous week by Mumbai’s local train. He was squeezed and thrown out like the outer shell of Mosambi being trashed in Juice shops. Crowded train is not new to him. But it made him to think Chennai’s crowded trains were trivial when compared with Mumbai. Was there a way to escape now?

Some idea flashed in his mind ‘Well, What if I take a first class ticket?’. A return ticket to church gate was about 100+ rupees. He learned the lesson 2. Getting into first class alone did not reduce the ‘mosambi squeezing‘. The rupee was wasted.

Morning time rush, a Mumbai local train, Dadar
Mario Miranda’s cartoon about Mumbai local train. Picture (c) radhikasdiaries.wordpress.com

He imposed himself after realizing that it was the taste of Mumbai. Mumbai demonstrated its boasting work culture on a Saturday morning too.

But Mumbaikars travelled happily as if there is nothing wrong with their mutual-musambi-squeezing; they are squeezed just for the heck of it. Their ironed apparels crumbled like the dried-ladies finger pieces of morkolambu (A curry made with yoghurt in Tamilnadu/Kerala/Andhra). The aroma of sweat mingled with their perfume, like the pharma waste adulterates the Kaveri water. All bogies were bloated with passengers hanging on their foot boards. Jaggu fit himself well inside the carriage, like a three pin plug docks itself into a tight socket.

Waiting for the next local train, Dadar

India Gate is located at a walking distance Church Gate station. Walking along the platform, he was thinking ‘Is there a way to eat??’.

The boats to Elephanta island started from India Gate. There were two types of tickets, lesser rate for downstairs; costly ticket for the terrace. Married couples may choose downstairs; lovers may go upstairs. Hello, take it right sense ah. I mentioned married couples are usually cost sensitive!! Miser Jaggu chose the basement.

Gateway of India

Although there are different types of boats were available, there no safety protocol followed. If you have something on your own, please take it.

The boat took a reverse and diverted to the western side of the city. The search for the caves began in the Arabian Sea. Oil spills glittered rainbow dots on the salty water. A ship was approaching with a deafening foghorn. Jaggu was smiling at the ship. He assumed himself as Jack, standing on the bow with his Kate, by keeping their hands spread wide enough.

“It was a ship.
It submerge you deep!
You dream for a titanic.
You blind about tight-panic?
Stop being romantic.
I know you are an idiotic.
Jam bajar Jaggu. Shut up, you’re makku*”

His conscience made fun of him. (*makku -> fool).

‘It’s not the way you talk to me, my dummy. Apologize to me’

His conscience got hurt and uttered “Oh right. I’m sorry you are a makku” before disappearing from the scene.

An elephant gently lifted its spine from the sea water. Yes. It was Elephanta.

The land around the Elephanta island looked swampy (like any other islands). The suffocating roots of mangroves stretched their heads outside the mud. It looked like tonnes and tonnes of baby snakes peeped their heads above.

This is where the island starts with Mangroves

The boat dropped Jaggu at a small jetty. On seeing the serene view of Elephanta, he thought he should bring his girl friend there. But he should find one first.

Jaggu thought he forgot something. He returned to the the sailor. He asked Sailor “Bhaiya.. Return.. any boat.. can..?”. He tried to mean, Can I board any boat to return to the shore?

“Yes, Yes” said the sailor.

The Elephanta boat house

He turned back and walked on the single road towards the island. Strong wind flew across the root of his hair. But it was highly humid as well. He heard someone called him “vaa” (come in Tamil) in a base voice. Wondering who it was, he looked back at his sailor. He was taking deep puff of scissor cigarette. Jaggu verified at him “Bhaiya, you called me?”. The sailor did not have any further answers for him. He showed ‘no‘ using his hand gesture. Jaggu was not sure if he said a ‘no‘ or ‘gth‘. He resumed his walk towards the island

His scalp felt the hot sun. Hunger pinched his tummy too. But the windy entrance tried its best to pacify him. He found the rails for a toy train, that starts from the jetty towards the entrance. Your little angels can ride.

Elephanta get a feel

Petty shops show case drinks, snacks, maps and handicrafts under colourful thavalam (pandal or shelter) or tarpaulin sheets. He heard the base voice again “Yes, that’s the way”. He looked around. There was no one except two little ones blowing whistle to enjoy their holiday.

The path, it will be very bad, if they havent built this. There are many shops selling handicrafts, textiles etc

The path was built to help the visitors during their uphill. Jaggu reached the top and turned his head randomly to the right. He saw see a majestic entrance to a massive cavern. Archaeological sites will captivate you at the first sight. It vibrates your tiny genes, those were inherited from your ancestors. You can go back to those places as many times as you want. But that first impression will be kept as an engraved souvenir into your mind, isn’t it?

Jaggu might have been 13 years old when he first went to Sittannavasal. His memories still safeguard his first appearance of those Jain beds.

The path leading to Ezhadippattam, Sittannavasal. Picture (c) pudukkottai.org
Ezhadippattam- natural cavern, Sittannavasal. Picture (c) pudukkottai.org

Cave temples are special to Indians especially Tamils. There is no shortage of cave temples in Tamil Nadu. There are Thirumayam, Sittannavasal, Narthamalai and Malayadipatti.

A dvara-palaka in the rockcut shrine, Thirumayam. Picture (c) pudukkottai.org
Cave temple at Narttamalai. Picture (c) pudukkottai.org
Vishnu cave temple at Malayadipatti. Picture (c) pudukkottai.org

Still why Jaggu liked to visit the cave temples of Maharashtra? The size matters. Caves carved out of hard granite rocks in Tamil Nadu may be up to 10 x 10 bedroom in size. But the caves carved out of soft rocks at Maharashtra are majestic and palace-like. They are known for their multi-stories, paintings and sculptural beauty. Maharashtra is a place where you can see all of them.

In a nutshell, what TN has are cave temples and what MH has are cave palaces! It is not underestimating the cave temples or a stone sculpture of TN. If I say so, Lord Siva and Vishnu will come from Thirumayam cave and push me to patala loka like King Mahabali!

Other than that, they are art treasures. apprived by UNESCO. Unfortunately they are vandalized like any other monuments of India.

One day is not enough to enjoy them. But Jaggu was only able to allocate one day to each attractions.

The base voice assured Jaggu once again. ‘That’s the way’, as he approached towards the cave 1. The entrance of he cave looked elegant with four decorated pillars. The green patches of grass and tree makethe place to look serene. This was one of the popular caves of Elephanta.

The cave 1

Believe it or not my dear friends, it is not a cave. It is a mahal, a open-door-mansion. The height is more than twice of a normal human being. 27 square meter in area. The pillars – starting at the surface of the cave to support the rock at the terrace with decorative rings – were artistic and plumy
Massive!

Such a big cave, with massive rockcut, decorated, stone pillars – CAVE 1

Nataraja

Nataraja – the dancing Siva with half closed eyes – on the right side of the first cave. Large one. It was tampered. The unknown sculptor sculpted the dynamic dance movements in stone and made the relief lively. God gives us life. But an artist gives life to Gods, doesn’t he?
Lively!

NATARAJA – right hand side near entrance, Cave1

Sanctum

A sanctum. Awesome dvarakapalaka-s were guarding the outside. They have grown to the roof without deceit. They are used to be rough and tough in screening the visitors. At the same time, they admire the innocents with their arresting smile.

The Linga shrine, cave 1 and two massive dvarapalaka-s. Estimate the size using the heights of the visitors in front.
THE DVARAPALAKA, LINGA SHRINE, VIEW FROM LEFT

“Big brother, let me take a photo of you”

“You came this far to take my picture, makkuDvarapalaka snorted.

“You too?”

“All right. Don’t waste my time, take picture and move quickly. ”

Lord was sitting gracefully inside the sanctum and smiling at his visitors. Part of his body was glittering in the light came from the entrance. Other part of the body remained dark. Yes, He was known to be flexible to love and tough at hatred.

Anthakasvaravatha Murthy.

On the right side. Anthakasvaravatha Murthy.

ANDHAKAASURA-VADHA-MOORTHI, CAVE1 (RIGHT TO LINGA SHRINE, NEAR WAY TO CAVE 1-R)

Carrying arms in his hands, the warrior’s fury in his face.

Tamil Thirumurai praises Antakasvaravatha murthy like this.

கருத்துறை அந்தகன் றன்போல் அசுரன்
வரத்தின் உலகத் துயிர்களை எல்லாம்
வருத்தஞ்செய் தானென்று வானவர் வேண்டக்
குருத்துயர் சூலங்கைக் கொண்டுகொன் றானே.

-Thirumurai

With the influence of inner darkness of ego, an Asura named Antaka persecuted and destroyed all the lives of the world using the boons he received. At the end of his scepter, Lord Shiva tortured and destroyed him using his trident for the sake of the deva-s who complained about it.

Larger relieves of rock cut temples are also found in Tamil Nadu. Two of such beauties came to my mind.

Dvarapalaka, Siva rock cut temple, Thirumayam
Panel of Palli konda perumal, Adishesha and Mathu Kaithabha, Thirumayam

Well, What’s the difference between them and these? Was it decoration, Stone decoration, Curly hair, decorative art works of the crown, elegance in apparels. The sculptor have seized our mind at all these. You should not under estimate the structures at Tamilnadu, dear friends. The rocks of Maharashtra are like that. Smooth and soft. If hit Tamil Nadu’s granite rock with a chissel, You will hear a sound dingggg. Which is why, contractors of Tamil Nadu blast the granites with explosives and export them 😉

Siva Parvati marriage

The life-size relieves of the bride and groom was so elegant. The love on the gesture of Siva and shyness on Parvati, the deva-s and kinnara-s floating on the sky make this panel exquisite. A Stunning panel!

SIVA PARVATHI MARRIAGE – KALYAANA SUNDARA MOORTHI – RIGHT FROM ENTRANCE-R

“Mother, Can’t you choose a better groom?”

“Why dear? What’s wrong with him? See his groom hair style, passionate eyes, lovely lips and his adorned chest. What’s wrong with my selection?”

“That man is in disguise. You wait for two days. He will be sitting in grave yard and coating such adorned chest with ashes. You wasted your life, mummy”

“See what he says, my lord”

Jaggu escaped from that place, before Lord turned his eyes on him.

Gangadhara

GANGAAVATHAARAN , HEIGHT REFERENCE – CAVE 1

Measure the height of the panel using the height of the visitor in front of him. Guys, you may be fed up with what Jaggu had called great, big and massive. This is it.

Arrogance, pride and ego are our destroyers. To beat someone with such evil mindsets, one needs to have strong mind. Ganga’s force is portrayed as arrogance and Siva symbolizes a mighty mind. Since Siva held Ganga as a captive, he is known as Gangadhar.

Trimurti

THE ULTIMATE MEHESA MOORTHI SIVAA (THRI MOORTHI) – REARSIDE SANCTUM, CAVE 1

Maheshamurthy Shiva is in the rear sanctum of the first cave. They call him Trimurti.

Rudra is the one with the mustache and anger on the left. His anger destroy the world, Burn it to ashes. Finally vibhuti (the holy ash) alone will remain.

The gentleman in middle is in loveable posture. He maintains the balance between good and evil.

Yogeshwara is on other side. He is in deep dhyana for the good of our world.

Satyojada and Ishana are the two faces behind. Sculptor might have thought the visitor split the rock worship those faces.

This panel beautifies the unique logo of the Maharashtra Tourism.

Arthanarisvara, the feminist!

ARDHANAARI, CAVE 1

This is the lovely panel with beautiful tribhanga position, next to the sanctum sanctorum of Trimurti

Mahayogi Shiva

MAHAA YOGI, LEFT SIDE TO THE MAIN ENTRANCE, – CAVE 1

Yogeshwara Shiva seated on a flower in a dhyana posture

The game of dice

THE DICE GAME

Siva and Parvati played the dhaayam (game of dice). Siva was losing. He played kallatam (malpractice) to win his wife. Parvati’s face is in tantrum.

“See mummy, he doesn’t know a simple tactic of losing the game in front of a wife. What does he want? love of his wife or a simple win in dice? How did you agree to marry him? You wasted your life.”

“A makku‘s father is also a makku, my son. I’m trying to rebirth again and again to see his improvement. I Born as Meenakshi in Madurai too. Hope he’ll improve.”

Ravana lifting Kailash

RAVANA LIFTING KAILAASH, CAVE 1 – LEFT TO ENTRANCE-L

“O my lord. How long I have been calling you? Why do you ignore me? Just because you are married, you can ignore a humble devotee like me?”

“…”

“Still.. you maintain your silence..? ok no other way.”

“hip hip hooray….!”

A Siva temple without Ravana is rare. He has his own best position in this panel.

Wonders of Elephanta

THE REAL DVARAPALAKA

There are no dvarapalaka-s for this sanctum. So let’s this man in uniform does their job!

VIEW OF THE MANDAPA FROM THE MAIN SHRINE
THE CAVE 1-L
CAVE 1-L AND ENTRANCE-L OF CAVE 1
FROM CAVE 1-L
DVAARAPAALAKA IN DETAIL
CAVE 3
CAVE 4

They are wonderful bass relief sculptures with elaborate decorations. Let it be the beauty of the sitting posture of Parvati, or the hair style of the Dvarapalaka-s, or mysterious omgara visible in Trimurti. You would like to stay there and keep on enjoying them inch by inch. The Real Grande! Elephanta is a perfect example of West Indian architecture and art of sculpture.

But sadly all of the sculptures have been destroyed. Human disasters and natural disasters. Some reports says that the Portuguese took training to shoot with a gun. If such sculptures are fully available, we may worship mamma and pappa with fullest satisfaction.

An unfinished cave

UNFINISHED CAVE 5

The unfinished caves denotes a void. It may be an unfinished endeavor, an unfinished project of a team of great sculptors, Or it may be a dream disrupted in halfway. Who knows, it may be a downfall large sculptural empire at this place.

Not a lot of people mention unfinished caves. Whether in Elephanta or in Ajanta, the emotions – that these unfinished caves have given the visitor – are intense and indescribable; like reminiscent of a deserted house, reminiscent of an expired property, Recall of the fall of a kingdom or race. It may even be the end of the history of this place. Or is the place is telling us ‘I’m done with this’?

Cannon Hill

Friends, we are hiking through a path, made by human foot, in the dense forest of Elephanta hill.

IF WE COULD WALK ALONE IN THIS PATH AT NIGHTS, THAT WILL BE A LIFE TIME ACHIEVEMENT – WAY TO CANNON HILL

Somebody told Jaggu that there is a cannon at the top of the hill. Jaggu is always interested in such childish attractions. He started hiking through the deserted path of the forest in that humid weather. Will anybody hike a hill in afternoon time?

On the way, the darshan of the sea through trees and bushes refreshed his and filled him with joyous emotions. He felt energized and walked further.

MARINE VIEW
MARINE VIEW
WAY TO CANNON HILL

If it rains, you will not be able to follow that trail. Because it will be slippery like a banana skin. You may skid and slide!

MARINE VIEW. This is the dock where Jaggu landed.

At last Jaggu reached the top of the hill. A British cannon was placed on the top of the hill. He wondered how many ships might have broken from he bombs of that cannon? How many people it might have murdered. Radhika says that Mumbai is ceded to British as a ‘gift’ in her blog post. That’s the real meaning of the slavery word ‘Common Walth’.

A CANNON OF BRITISH TIME

Jaggu murmered himself ‘I think I can go back’. He heard the base voice again, “You found me already?”. He saw back and forth. He felt nervous to be alone there. He rushed to his downhill.

Jaggu came alone.
Found it error prone.
scared at undertone.
Ran faster cyclone.

Jaggu’s conscience came out and laughed enough.

Jaggu found that tourism department paved a good way to go around (except the hiking path). He felt thirsty as he came down. The noon son is merciless like the destroyer face of Trimurti. You may need to carry enough water when you go there.

Half way down the hill, Jaggu found a Maratha brother was selling lemon juice.

“Kithna Hua, Bhaiya

“Dhus rupiye.”

“Dhus rupie!! ??”

He said something in response. But Jaggu did not understand.

“salt.. salt.. no sugar. ”

He mixed a pinch of powder in the juice glass. Jaggu saw particles like dust in rainbow colour were floating. Jaggu enquired about it with that Maratha brother.

“Kya hua, Bhaiya?”

“Masala masala !!”

‘drink it in one gulp da’ Jaggu’s conscience encouraged him.

‘You still live alive in Mumbai just by knowing one word – Bhaiya!, don’t you?’.

‘Shut up, you dummy’

It started singing again and vanished.

“Jam bajar Jaggu. Shut up, you’re makku

The Frenchman – who was swallowing another glass of lemon water beside – looked at Jaggu and smiled.

‘What is here to laugh at me? What makes your glass so special? Same masala?’ Jaggu murmured himself and asked the French man with smile, “how is your juice?”

“Ha ha. too much sweeeeetttt!!” – Poor guy. He squealed too much he pronounced the word ‘sweet’!

“howz yours?” He asked in return.

“Okay for me. I chose salt”

It was the time to move on. Jaggu finished his downhill and went towards the boat jetty. On his way, he cross the first cave . He felt some eyes on his back. “Look there, he is leaving” The base voice said to some one. “Poor boy. He got scared” a feminine voice felt pity at him. Jaggu turned towards that direction. he could saw the sanctum and twin dvarapalaka-s stood with the same majesty.

CAME OUT OF THE CAVE 1

“Who is that? Is that him and her?” – Jaggu asked Dvarapalaka.

Raising his pointing finger in his right hand, Dvarapalaka – with his glittering eyes – pointed inside the sanctum. A streak of smile appeared on his lovely face.

***

I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z 2022 with theme Yātum ūrē!

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