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January 27, 2012

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A friend of mine is leaving Bombay, and hasn’t had the “amazing expat year” he expected. A myriad of influences caused this, not least of which was a very demanding job, compounded by the fact that Bombay is hard.  So on one of his last weekends, I agreed to accompany him on an excursion to check something off the “Bombay Bucket List.”  (You can see mine here)


Above photo courtesy of Mark Kania

“What’s something quintessentially Bombay that you haven’t done yet?” I asked, expecting it to be something along the lines of riding a local train or eating Vada Pav.

That thing was Elelphanta Caves- a “city of caves” built in the 5th century, located on Elephanta island 10 km off the coast of Bombay.

You take about an hour’s boat ride to get there, which is one of the best parts because you get an unparalleled view of the India gate and the Taj Palace Hotel. I’d already been to Elephanta, but this boat ride on a gorgeous January day was enough to make me go again.

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Once there, there are two sets of caves. The first are Hindu Caves, with images of the god Shiva, to whom the caves are dedicated. The most famous sight from the caves is the carving of Shiva in his three most notable roles, as creator, destroyer, and preserver:

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18967_301365655936_585465936_4926471_7505489_nThe second set of caves are Buddhist caves, carved by monks as part of their meditation. There’s little to see in these, but it’s still wildly impressive that a monk, with few tools and only his own dedication and ingenuity, carved a cave for meditation. It’s pretty dark in these caves, so no pictures. But I did visit other Buddhist caves when my sister Anne visited India last October.

One of my favorite things about places like Elephanta is the excursion of it all. It’s a journey to get to them, and Indians make up almost 90% of the tourists there. Indian families with babies and overflowing enthusiasm flood the place.



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