Located at a distance of 11-km from Mumbai, the Elephanta Island is the site of the magnificent Elephanta caves, containing beautiful carvings, sculptures, and a temple to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva. Once known as Gharapuri, or the Fortress City, the caves are now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visited by hundreds of tourists, they contain some of the finest rock-cut sculptures in India.
Little is known about the origin of the caves. Legends and history suggest that theChalukyas of Badami occupied the island between 6th and 8th century AD and their king Pulkesin ll raised the shrine to celebrate his victory. Some historians also suggest that the Kalchuri King Krishnaraja built these caves in 6th century AD.
The Portuguese took possession of the island in the 16th century and renamed it Elephanta when they stumbled on a mammoth stone elephant near the shoreline. The beast collapsed in 1814 and the British moved the remaining parts to Mumbai's Victoria botanical gardens, presently known as Veermata Jijabai Bonsle Udyan. It is believed that the Portuguese used the caves for target practice after they constructed a fort in the island.
The island rises in two conical hillocks. The architect sculptors carved out of solid basalt rock create a representation of the heavenly mountain residence of Lord Shiva. Opening out from three sides, the temple lets in light from many angles making the sculptures seem to move with the changing angles of light.
Flights of steps take one to the caves. The decorative pillars those punctuate the cave give the illusion that they support the cave ceiling. Again the cross beams on the roof makes the visitor feel there is a ceiling over the caves. Inside the temple is a large hall, with nine sculptured panels representing Lord Shiva in different postures.
Access to the Island is by boat. Luxury and ordinary launches as well as catamarans leave for Elephanta from Apollo Bunder at the Gateway of India. Boats usually leave every thirty minutes between 0900 hrs and 1400 hrs from Apollo Bunder and between 1300 hrs and 1700 hrs from Elephanta Island. Tickets are sold at booths near the Gateway of India and the MTDC offers daily tours to the Island. During the monsoons the ordinary boat services are usually suspended.
Jogeshwari Cave is one of the sacred Hindu places in Mumbai and it is a 1500 years old historical structure. The long flight of steps leads to the main hall of this atmospheric cave temple. It is a central pillared hall containing a shrine and a Lingam. There are several other smaller chambers with idols of Datta, Hanuman, Mata and Jogeshwari and one of them has a vivid orange coloured idol of Ganesh. The frames of some of the doorways betray remnants of ornate carvings. These, along with the relics of two huge dwarpals (door-men), are a pointer to the past architectural glory of the cave temple.
While settlements sprawl the sunken rock complex, the slim passage leading up to its entrance has been appropriated as parking space. The complex no longer has its boundary walls. Jogeshwari Cave is a mere 45 minutes train journey from Church Gate. Fantasy Land Fantasy Land, situated in Jogeshwari East, is a modest amusement park offering themes and games for children. It offers a range of toy train type rides, dodgem cars, go-karts, roaller coaster and other whirlgigs. It is also a venue for fun and games for visitors of all ages.
Essel World & Water Kingdom
Essel world is the largest theme park in India. Situated in Gorai Island, Essel World is Mumbai's only international-style theme park and amusement centre. It offers a verity of exciting rides, games and other attractions. These include the standard roller coaster and adventure themes, plus a water world section where kids can literally run amok. Special ferries get you across to the park and the entrance fee normally takes care of a fixed number of rides.
The adjoining Water Kingdom is said to be Asia's largest water theme park. It claims the world's largestwave pool. The park has waterslides for adults and kids, a drifting river and various theme cruises.
Bassein Fort built by the Portuguese, a thriving fortified city, from 1534 to 1739 when it was sacked by the Marathas. The ruins of the Portuguese Fort still stand almost hidden by brushwood and palm groves. Some of the walls and churches can still be seen. Bassein Fort is 77 kms from Mumbai on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway.
About 10 kms to the north-west lies Nalasopara village, once the capital of the Konkan region. Many Buddhist relics were discovered here.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is located near the northern border of the city. This 104 sq. km park formerly known as Borivali National Park is known for its birds, butterflies and a small population of tigers. The well-known Kanheri Cave Complex built between the 2nd and 9th centuries is located in the centre of the park. The park has two lakes those provide water supply to the city. There is a Lion Safari Park 500 m inside the northern park entrance and safari rides run daily except Monday from 9 am to 5 pm.
Situated on the side of a thickly wooded valley in the middle of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the well-known Kanheri Cave Complex that was built between the 2nd and 9th centuries by the Buddhist monks of Hinayana faith. The 109-cave line is one of the largest monastic settlements in India.
The most impressive cave is the 2nd century Cave No. 3, whose entrance is flanked by two huge statues of Buddha carved in the 6th century. The interior has an arcade of pillars with intricate carvings of lions and elephants with a 5m stupa in the rear.