The Elephanta Caves in Mumbai, India – Part 1

About an hour boat ride from the Gate of India and Taj Mahal Hotel in downtown Mumbai are the Elephanta Caves, a network of sculpted caves located on an island in the Arabian Sea. There are five caves cut out of solid rock between the 5th and 8th centuries and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

When the Portuguese came in 1534 they named the island “Elephanta Island” because of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant. The elephant now sits in the Mumbai zoo. Believe it or not, Portuguese soldiers used the massive reliefs of Shiva cut into the solid stone of the caves for target practice damaging or destroying much of the scupture.

The main cave is the one primarily visited by tourists and was restored in the 1970s. The other caves, including three consisting of important sculptures, are still badly damaged. The caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 representing “a masterpiece of human creative genius”.

After an hour cruise from Mumbai in an aging boat, you land on Elephanta island and take a little narrow gage train from the dock into the steps that lead you to the top of the mountain and the caves.
The decking on the boat . . . well, what can I say? We survived!

It’s 90-plus degrees, mid-day, humid . . . and there are 100 steps to climb up the mountain to the cave. Deceiving, because the “steps” have broad separations between them, so it is about half a mile up to the top. You can hire a chair for the equivalent of $15 US roundtrip . . . and feel like a visiting maharaja . . . as my friend did here. He jokingly said, “This is now going to be all over the Internet” . . . and I assured him it would be! He was so considerate of the poor guys lugging him up the hill, wanting them to stop and rest . . . while his wife gleefully shot pictures of her hubby, maharaja for the day!

There were lots of monkey’s along the way. I took this photo of one of the monkey’s that had ripped off an ear of roasted corn from a vendor. My two-year-old grandson is captivated by a TV cartoon of a monkey named “Curious George” who gets in lots of adventures. Rian also loves eating corn on the cob, so I took this photo for him.
So, dripping with sweat, we finally made it to the top and the entrance to the caves. Here is the entrance to the main cave, and the one primarily visited by tourists. Given the horribly slow Internet connection from the ship, and the cost, and the fact that it usually cuts me off several times when I blog, and I have to redo the whole process sucking more money – I think the company that has the contract for passenger Internet on most cruise ships plans it that way! – come back in a few days and I will take you into these fascinating caves. You can see how the caves are carved out of a solid mountain of volcanic rock.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back on board DAWN PRINCESS . . .

Today . . . the 31st Anniversary of my 37th birthday . . . we are sailing through the Suez Canal. Unlike the Panama Canal, which offers constantly changing views of Panama and the jungle, as well as the fascinating locking process, Suez is pretty much a straight, sea-level cruise across the desert. Tonight, to celebrate my birthday, Nikki and I are having dinner in the Sterling Steakhouse, a special dining experience offered on most Princess vessels [$20 per person service charge].

Unfortunately one of the engines on DAWN PRINCESS has been subject to a case of hick-ups, meaning the engines have had to be turned off several times, and we haven’t been able to keep up the necessary speed, so our call at Safaga – a highlight of the trip including the Valley of the Kings, Safaga, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak – cancelled! Not good . . . but a ship is a machine, and stuff happens. However, it’s a big disappointment, and pity the folks who had booked independent overnight excursions from Safaga to Port Said, including lots of non-refundable expenses. Ooops. Possibly a good argument to stick with ship tours; certainly, to have a trip cancellation policy that covers such events.

The lectures have been an entertainment highlight of the cruise. With 1900 guests, and a theater that only seats around 600, there is standing room only, and often people are sitting in the aisles. It’s been a great lecture team on this leg. Andrew Stuart has spent his career in the British Foreign Service and been Ambassador in several countries. Andrew was born of missionary parents in Africa, is a climber and glider pilot, and has a droll sense of humor and is generally quite critical of diplomacy in a funny way. Akram Allam, “Aki”, is a university-trained Egyptologist, who works with National Geographic and has spent 30 years guiding tours, often for some of the best-known Hollywood celebrities. It’s a fun combo, and I hope our guests communicate their enthusiasm for the lecture program back to Princess. Sometimes I’m not always sure the folks in the cruise line home offices, and not just Princess but the whole bunch of “cruise-execs”, don’t really “get” what actually happens on board and what guests really want, particularly those in the demographic that books longer and more expensive voyages.

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