Day 74 of 111. Mumbai, India
After lunch in Jaipur, we traveled to the airport for our flight to Mumbai (formerly known by the British name, Bombay). Our travels took us through city streets where we saw camels (totally domesticated) and street shops with all kinds of items. The spiced noodles really caught my eye. Our flight to Mumbai was good and we boarded another bus to the ship. On route, we passed a beautifully lit building, the Victoria and Albert train depot. Even though we were traveling through the city at around 10:00 p.m., the streets were bustling because it was Saturday night and everyone was out with their friends. Our guide called Mumbai the city that never sleeps (like New York or Las Vegas). We had to wait for our passports to be processed, so we spent a couple of hours sitting around in the bus and then took a “comfort visit” to the Taj Hotel before continuing to the pier. It was nearly midnight when we boarded the ship.
The following morning, we had signed up for an excursion to the Elephanta Caves. Even though we were tired and a little sleep-deprived, we got up boarded another bus. The Elephanta Caves is a Hindu temple completely carved out of rock. It lies on an island that we can see from the ship, but must be reached by a ferry. Where the ship was docked is actually a military installation, so the ferry boats were not allowed in. We took a bus to the Gateway to India, a huge archway building built to commemorate the arrival of “Their Imperial Majesties King George V and Queen Mary” on December 1911. We boarded a two-decker ferry boat and took a gentle one hour ride out to the island. We disembarked at the end of a long pier. There was a cute little railway that carried visitors to the main portion of the island (or you could walk). To reach the caves, you had to climb 120 steps (more steps!). In this case, however, there were men who were willing ($30 US) to carry you up the steps. I saw several chairs at the base of the mountain, but cleverly, there were more opportunities to ride about a third and halfway up the steps. One of our party took advantage of the chair and she said she really had to hang on because the four men did not take it slowly.
The caves themselves were very interesting. My understanding of the Hindu religion is that there is only one God. In the northern part of India, Vishnu is the one and in the southern portion of India (such as Mumbai) Shiva is the one God. There are various manifestations of Shiva, however, and that is what the different sculptures represented inside the cave. At the back center of the cave was a large trinity of faces showing the Protector, the Destroyer (of evil), and the Creator. A very interesting point of these sculptures is that they exhibit scientific concepts that were way ahead of their time if you look at art in other parts of the world. Perspective, three-dimensionality, foreshortening, etc., are demonstrated in these sculptures at the same time that in other art, depictions of gods and people are flat. India has an ancient civilization that goes back six thousand years. I found this to be a great source of pride from our various guides.