Excerpts from -word article. Pictures available.
HINDU MYTHOLOGY AT ELEPHANTA
by Pam Hobbs
In Mumbai (formerly known internationally as Bombay,) you will find little of anything pre-dating 17th century development by the British. But it is close at hand, across
the harbour waters on one of the original islands which remained separated
from others connected to form this important port. At the city's Gateway of
India you can board an excursion boat for a half-day trip to Elephanta Island,
formerly known as Gharapuri, capital of the Silhara dynasty in the year 1 A.D.
This is a delightful one hour's ride, at the outset affording you the famous
waterfront view that so impressed dignitaries who used to arrive by sea before
the advent of air travel. (It is also the last view of India seen by departing
British trops in 1947.) The tour includes explanations of Elephanta's temple
caves, from a guide who travels with each boat from Bombay.
I visited Elephanta with my friend Kalpana, a Hindu who comes here
whenever time permits. Usually she brings her nieces and nephews, and they
walk for two kilometers to the island's far side, away from the comings and
goings of tourists. There they stay for a weekend or longer, in one of several
fishermen's cottages available for rent. Lack of electricity and indoor
plumbing is of no importance because Kalpana is not looking for physical
comforts. She is here to meditate, to be in touch with herself and find spiritual
peace, away from a frenetic lifestyle in Bombay. Next time, she says, I too
must stay. If I thought it would make me as wise and serene as she, I would
jump at the chance.
As we near Elephanta, small boys and women arrive at the dock. Some carry
wild flowers. "If you accept a hand up, or a flower" the guide tells us,
"payment is expected." With that she opens a large black umbrella to protect
her against a burning sun, and steps unaided onto the quay. It is very difficult
to refuse a flower offered by a smiling child. Better to carry some coins in your