Today at 7am David and I temporarily left Mumbai behind and headed towards Elephanta Island. We went there to see a temple carved out of stone (basalt) dedicated to Shiva . Below is a shot of David as we made our way to the island, as well as an image of the Taj and the Gateway of India seen from the water. David mentioned that this used to be the first glimpse of India for all travelers who reached the country by boat in the past (minus the tourist boats and the tower). Almost at the same time as David said this, I was thinking that this was the way by which the November 08 attackers reached the Taj… By the way, we have heard different thoughts about the attacks, but those we have spoken with agree that life goes on pretty much as usual.
On Elephanta there are 3 villages, and a total of about 1200 inhabitants. I imagine most of them make their living off of the tourists who visit the island. To get to the temple you have to climb about 120 steps. If you are unable to make it up by yourself, there are porters that will do it using one of these colorful chairs.
Because we arranged to get to the island privately and early (boat loads of people usually begin to arrive at 10am), we had a special experience of the temple. The only ones there so early in the morning were the women of the nearby village, busy filling up aluminum containers with water from the tank next to the temple (the tank, a huge cave, collects water during the monsoons which lasts throughout the dry season. Our guide called it “drinking water”, but the plastic bottles and trash floating in the water made me a little doubtful about its drinkability…) Apart from a few hungry monkeys and our amusingly misinformed guide, we were alone with the beautiful carvings. Below are a couple of images of the main sculpture of Shiva as creator (right), preserver (center), and destroyer (left, with beard). The picture with David gives you a sense of how large these sculptures are.
We got back to the city around 11am and went for a great dosa nearby the harbor. Now we are at the hotel. David’s jet lag has overcome him (he was on Chicago time) and he’s fast asleep. When we get back from walking around the city we are usually pretty exhausted. The heat, the continuous honking, the pollution and different sellers constantly approaching us will do it. Hopefully we will get more and more adjusted and be able to last longer without a nap.