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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

Sandipani Ashram, Ujjain

The Sandipani ashram was the first halt on our temple tour of Ujjain, and we entered the grounds expecting a short 10 minute halt, warned by our driver cum guide not to waste too much time, and ended up spending close to an hour wandering around the ashram. The reason was an inmate of the ashram, an engineer by profession and a Veda scholar by choice, a descendant of Guru Sandipani – the preceptor of Lord Krishna. Much of what he told us might have been mythology and unsupported facts, but his stories brought alive the image of Krishna as a young boy, choosing the person most suited to be his Guru, arriving at the ashram, persuading the guru to accept him as his disciple, bringing the holy waters of the Ganges to the ashram as an added incentive for the Guru to accept him as  a student, washing his writing tablets by the river, performing the duties as a diligent disciple as an example to the others, making friendship with one of the poorest students of the ashram, a friendship he maintained to the last, and finally, departing after granting his guru the greatest Guru Dakshina of all time – the return of his long lost son! Truly, the much heard and oft-repeated stories of Krishna never sounded better!

The main shrine in the ashram is of course, dedicated to the founder of the ashram, the sage who was fortunate to tutor Krishna himself – Guru Sandipani. This shrine houses his Samadhi at the place where he taught his disciples, who too have their place within the shrine – right opposite their teacher, in the pose of obedient students.

Vidyasthali - where Lord Krishna studied

There are two temples on the ashram premises – The Kundeshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is an interesting one, with an image of Lord Vishnu on one wall representing Krishna, Sudama, Balaram and the other students on another wall, and also an image of Kubera on one wall! It is believed that when Shiva heard that Lord Vishnu in theas so impressed by the meeting of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva) that he stood up in amazement. The image of Na form of Krishna had arrived in his city, he went to visit him at the ashram. Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Shiva wndi at this temple is believed to be the only one in standing posture! It is also believed that this place being special to both Shiva and Vishnu brings prosperity to this place, and hence the presence of Kubera.

The standing Nandi

The image of Kuber

The gopuram of the temple - in the shape of the Srichakra - indicating prosperity

The second temple is also dedicated to Shiva, this time as Sarveshwar Mahadev, the patron deity of Sage Sandipani. It is believed that Sandipani imparted his special knowledge of the time – in fact, our guide hinted that this was the essence of the Gita – to Krishna, the reason for Krishna’s choice of Sandipani as his tutor!

The Gomti Kund is the tank which provided water to the ashram, and on its bank are two Shiva Lingams, with footprints in between them, believed to be those of Krishna.

Footprints of Krishna?

A stone inscription on the banks of the kund

Myths are always meant to be disputed, and there are plenty of opportunities for disputes among the stories of Krishna, but the peace and calm the ashram offers today, in this age of materialism and change makes one wonder what a wonderful place it would have been in the times of Krishna!

Our guide (in dhoti) with Shankar and my mother-in-law

Here is a little bit of information relating to the ashram which may be interesting to those in quest of the Vedas and spiritual learning. Every year, the ashram conducts a summer course in the Vedas, specifically the Shukla Yajur Veda. The course is held in the months of April, May and June, and during this period, free boarding and lodging is provided within the ashram. For further details, contact the ashram at (0734)2580694


  1. Lovely pictures! So serene . Makes me wanna go there. Thanks for posting them!

    I love the stone inscription in particular

  2. ashram such this are so divine, and are nicely hidden. Thanks for unearthing the beauty of this place.

  3. Didn't know about this ashram. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. That was a nice trip for me Anu, thank you so much. I am sure you and your family would have felt happy visiting the Sandipani ashram where krishna studied.

    Liked the picture of standing Nandi.

  5. @ Srivats: Thanks a lot, Sri... yes, it was a divine experience and i would love to go there again too! and yes, the stone inscription was lovely...

    @ Bindhu : thanks... I too had no idea about this place earlier.. had just heard the name, but assumed it would be like all other ashrams... didnt expect finding a place like this..

    @ Chitra: was great! you too should go there sometime...

  6. i have been there in Jan-15 and its one the best place to be in Ujjain. i felt like be there for some more time. thanks for sharing pictures. today again i relived there.


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