Mumbai, India Day 1

March 28, 2012

Mumbai is a city of endless fascination and endless possibilities.  The Taj Hotel and the Gateway to India pictured above,  are classic landmarks of the city, as are the souvenir vendors  This is our third visit to Mumbai, and every time we visit the city looks better than it did the prior time.  They have worked hard to clean it up, and many buildings are undergoing restoration.  Mumbai, the capital of the state of Maharashtra, sits on 7 islands on the west coast of India, and is the most populous urban area in India, with a total of about 20.5 million people in the greater Mumbai area.  Apparently it is also the richest city in India, although it still has a large population of homeless people, or people who live in shantytowns.  The British influence can be seen throughout the city, in the many magnificent buildings they constructed, such as well as the fact that they still use right-hand drive vehicles (i.e., they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road).  As always, our stay in Mumbai was for two days.

For our first day we chose the ‘Elephanta Caves’ excursion.  Elephanta Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The caves are a Hindu temple carved into a sandstone hill.  The carvings are very detailed and depict aspects of the lives of the Hindu gods.  The caves date from somewhere between the late 5th and late 8th centuries.  The Portuguese conquered the island in 1534, and unfortunately, at some point Portuguese soldiers used the reliefs of the god Shiva for target practice, damaging them badly, and apparently also removed an inscription related to the creation of the caves.  Despite the damage, the caves are still very impressive and awe inspiring.

Our tour started with a bus ride over to the Gateway To India (photo below), where we boarded a ferry for the 45 minute ride over to Elephanta Island.  We walked the length of the pier, although there is a little train that one can ride to the base of the stairs going up to the caves.

We had to climb approximately 120 stairs to get up to the entrance to the caves.  The stairway is lined with the booths of souvenir sellers, along with a restaurant or two.  For those who think the walk up (or down) will be too much, one can hire a sedan chair.  If you choose to hire a sedan chair, make sure you agree on a price before you get into the chair.

When you get to the top of the stairs the first thing you notice is that there are a lot of monkeys running around.  It is best to keep your distance from them, and don’t ever feed them.

When we got to the bottom of the stairs, the welcoming committee was out in force…

The Elephanta Caves are well worth a visit.  Despite the damage to the relief carvings, they are still magnificent.

Check out all the photos in the album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015