If you go to Gateway of India, you will find a number of boats ferrying people across. They are of several types : some take you around the harbour for half an hour. The others take you to places across the creek to a few places on the adjoining district of Raigad with its headquarters at Alibag. The logical route for TheBlueDrive to follow is this one. However as are driving and these ferries do not take cars on board, we follow a longer route.
The ferries in the Gateway are engaged in a more important and lucrative venture: ferrying people, mostly tourists, to and from Elephanta Island also known as Gharapuri Island which houses ancient rock-cut caves. We decide to this bit whilst we are in Mumbai. My old friend J G Redkar residing in Mumbai and his wife joined us for the day.
As you sail towards the island you go through the busy sea traffic of both Mumbai Port and the Jawaharlal Nehru port across the harbour.
The local Village Panchayat is called Gharapuri and they charge you to enter the place
The caves are located up the hill and one needs to make his way through a long lane of shops selling a wide variety of wares. One wonders if you have come to see ancient monuments or for supporting Chinese economy.
The Caves themselves are on top of the hill and and occupy a considerable portion of the island.
The period during which the carvings were made is in dispute with the generally accepted time as the 8th century AD. The caves depict Hindu themes and not Buddhist as is the case with most other caves in Maharashtra.
Some details. One sculpture from here now rests in the museum at Mumbai. Most of the images carved here are in bad shape.
The island has a resident population of its own. Some agriculture is practiced but most people appear to be busy in trading or providing food to the visitors. The island does not have electricity. Diesel generators are used.
To the south of the island was used a military garrison by the British for some time. A gun still exists here.
So does an artificial lake.
On the other side on can see the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre and the boat landing jetty for the island are seen in a single frame here.
The island has plenty of Black Kites, which are a brown species of bird.
The MTDC Restaurant provides excellent views. Cant say the same about the food.
Among other things sold on the island to the visitors is the Starfruit, the Carambolas fruit. This is another item which was brought by the Portuguese to India. The person selling this told me that it is grown on the island.
Delayed by 10 days.