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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Navaratri Preparations - Part 2 - The greenery

Samhith enjoys Navaratri not just because he can make all these wonderful things and display them, but also because we leave them as they are for all 10 days! Left to him, once he makes something with his blocks, he would like to leave them just like that for ever- or at least till he gets into the mood to make something new. But with the space we have (or rather, I must say – lack of space), that’s not possible, and evenings invariably end with me pestering him to put his stuff back!

His idea for the navaratri is simple – we use up all his blocks, add a few trees, a river with some water, a mountain, some houses – and it’s done! Easier said than done, but that’s something he isn’t old enough to understand. So the first thing we had to do was arrive at a compromise – the Kolu (steps) takes the prime place at the centre of the area we have reserved (that’s one for me, and he gives up, but not without some grumbling!) and we are going to have his stuff on both sides – one side is going to be the urban one with an airport and city, and the other side is going to have a village and a jungle! This was one for him certainly, as I was planning to simply make it a jungle theme with his animals. But I had to give up, he wants to use his train set as well as his airport set – as he says, “People have to get to the jungle someway – so they fly to the nearest airport and take the train from there to the nearest village…” good logic, so I gave in!

One of the first things we had to look out for, once our plan was ready, were – trees – lots of them! After all, jungles need plenty of trees! Besides, the city should have a green cover too! So, while Samhith was at school, I went tree hunting. The first choice was, of course, to grow some plants and use them as trees, but that involves regular watering, and with a restless child in the house who picks up plants to show his friends, its not really feasible at the moment, so this time, we started looking around for plastic trees. My first choice was Crawford Market, where, after a lot of searching we finally found some Christmas trees –

Then the family chipped in, and my aunt finally got a variety of plastic plants and flowers, and even one on a grid which is just great for the jungle. What a discovery! Now I can use these every year! No more tree hunting for me!!!!

We have settled on green velvet paper for the grass and blue gelatin (or cellophane) paper for the river, but I still have to go out and buy all of them. Samhith has done his bit by helping me make a list of all the things I need to buy – since he can’t accompany me to the shop!

So that brings the preparations for the background to a close. All we have to do is make the actual houses and buildings needed to make the village and city. While the stuff Samhith has to make with his blocks are last on the list, to be made on Friday evening after he returns from school, we are in the process of making paper houses which you can look forward to seeing in the next post.

The next couple of days are sure to be busy ones for me, but I shall be back soon with Samhith’s creations for all of you!

P.S: I have reverted back to my earlier layout since the "Read More" link was barely visible.


  1. Yipeee! I was waiting for this post, I can myself in Samhit many at times, like fighting for the space to make room for his park and trying to use all that he has " train and airport" sets in the park. Nostalgic now! :) I would send some pictures from the gigantic golu my friend's friend did in US, I got the pictures in picasa this morning and I cant wait to share it with you this evening

  2. You dont need to publish this comment :)

    This one is for you

    Yes plastic plants are good u can use them every year, and I am sure you have loads of work making the paper houses :)

    But there are houses and trees available in the market,I dont know why you didnot get it in your place, there are actual miniature trees - plantain, banyan, coconut (they look amazing) which are easier to use and u can store them for next golu as well

    For the mountain this is what you can do

    Use a old wooden basket, the ones which are used to carry fruits etc
    if you dont have that use some old plastic tub, put it upside down and paste a plastic sheet on it, use fevicol and salofon tape to secure it at the ends, now make paper balls smaller and bigger in size, use old newspapers or books paper and make the balls, paste them around the basket/tub using cello tape and/or fevicol, use enough of them to make it look like actual mountain,

    Now use water plus fevicol mix, let it be thin, use tissue papers, and paste them on top of that, layer by layer, u can se mountain beiginning to take shape, once done let it dry in the sun for a day

    Now use the plastic plants you have made and stick them around, u can use match boxes or block for steps in the mountain

    Use fevicryl paint to paint the mountain, use dark brown and yellow mix for the bulgy paper ball sides and they would look like rocks :)

    All the besT!

  3. artificial trees sounds like a good thinking of something on the same lines.. but not sure what do for a 'kolu padi'.. plus with toys on display my son is going to have a field day or should i say days pulling stuff off the padi's..
    nice informative and simple post Anu

  4. Srivats: Looking forward to your pics!

    A Journey called life : why not use tables and suitcases together to make the padi? thats what we used before getting the slotted angle stuff made.... and about chotu taking stuff off the padi... doesnt matter really,. samhith used to do that too... the best idea is to keep the idols and breakable stuff on the higher levels, and his toys on the lower ones, and tell him that its ok to take out his toys as long as he doesnt touch yours! it really works! did for me! go ahead and keep the golu.. would love to see it....

  5. Samhith has a beautiful handwriting!

  6. This is fascinating. More so, because even though I have seen these creations at Navratri as a child, I never knew any technical terms for them.

    We had a flat complex next to our house, and people there used to make huge mountain, with a temple for Mataji, and add all the animals and things.

    What language word is "Kolu"? I have never heard that before either.

    And I simply love Samhith's logic about taking the plane, and then the train to get to the jungle. Make him study transport logistics, and we will have an inventor on our hands in the future. It's so adorable.

  7. I love this post, especially because even though I have seen this kind of creations at Navratri as a child, I have never made them.

    Never heard of "Kolu" either. What language word is that?

    And I adore Samhith's logic about taking the plane and then the train to the jungle. That's so cute!

  8. Lost Wanderer: The term "kolu" is from Tamil..... we tamilians have this tradition of keeping dolls on steps during navaratri as i mentioned in the earlier post...

    what you remember seeing is not the same... that is simply the decoration made when the devi is kept in the pandal for puja.... they have such decorations for durga puja too.....

    the kolu is a strictly tamilian custom.....


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