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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

Tirupati Part 5 - Sila Thoranam

One would generally not associate Tirupati with anything other than temples, and neither did I, until I happened to read about a rare geological formation on the hills. I was impressed by the photographs I saw on the net, but wondered about how accessible the place would be, and whether it would be possible to visit. This was quite a few years back, and since then, my trips to Tirupati had been so hectic that I couldn’t even try to find out more about it. This year, with all the time I had at my disposal, this was one place I wanted to visit, and set off as soon as we got a brief respite from the rains.

Sila Thoranam literally means ‘garland or festoon of rocks’. It is a natural stone arch which was found by archeologists excavating a geological fault in the area. Located just around 1.5 km from the Venkateswara temple, this arch is naturally compared to the divine serpent Adishesha. Legends have recently sprung up around the place, with comparisons made to the different rocks making up the arch and the Lord’s conch, discus, etc, propagating the belief that this is where the Lord entered Tirumala! Thus are legends born!

However, the arch is much more interesting than the legends make out. The formation is categorized as pre-Cambrian, and dates back to millions of years ago. The age of the rock itself has been estimated to be about 2500 million years, and the age of the arch is computed to be about 1500 million years!

There are various schools of thought about the origin of the arch. Some are of the view that it could be the effect of a wave action from oceanic transgression or intensified climatic settings and corrosion. Others opine that it might have been carved out of quartzite, or simply by the weathering of the rock. However, no matter how the arch came into being, it is certainly unique, for this is the only such formation in asia. There are believed to be only two similar formations in the world – the Rainbow Arch Bridge of Utah in the USA and the arch that cuts through the Dalradian Quartzite in the UK. Here are pics of the two arches for comparison (Pics from the net)

Recently, the Sila Thoranam has garnered a lot of interest, and is now on the tourist map of Tirumala. Busloads of pilgrims throng the area, visiting both, the arch, as well as the Chakra Teertham, which is within walking distance. The crowds have compelled the TTD to make suitable arrangements to occupy the tourists, and today, the natural rocks around the arch have been converted into a rocky garden, full of flowers, with benches placed here and there for weary tourists to rest. There are birds in cages for kids to amuse themselves with, and lots of shops selling wooden articles for moms and dads to haggle with! This place is now known as Sila Thoranam Gardens, and is a major attraction!

More about the Chakra Teertham which is just a few minutes away, in my next post.

Location: The Sila Thoranam is located about 1.5 Km from the temple, and buses are available. The Chakra Teertham is in the same complex, so make it a point to visit it at the same time. It however makes sense to combine it with a visit to the Srivari Paadam, and jeeps make the circuit for Rs. 50 per head or Rs.300 for the full vehicle. 

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  1. This is a treasure trove of a blog. I am blogrolling you immediately!

    What wonderful news with research thrown in for good measure. It has been a long time since I went to Tirupathi but next time I go, this garden would be on my itinerary for sure.

  2. Wow , I have heard about this place , but now i have got the full info on this . Thanx for sharing .

  3. I've seen this too long long back. But on seeing this post, I feel I should visit this site next time I visit Tirupathi.

  4. I too loved this place...Its so beautiful

  5. @Zephyr: welcome here ! glad that you liked this... I certainly enjoyed reading yours! and this place is certainly worth a visit... perfect place to make the time fly!

    @Team G Square: I thought you would have visited this already!

    @Sridharan: I wonder what it would have been like then!

    @EC: Its really beautiful! you should go sometime!

  6. Wow a masterpiece. Nature is a master crafter. And thanks for researching and sharing more info on such rocks around the world. Helped to increase the GQ (Geography quotient). Nice post Anu.

  7. I remember seeing it from a distance. There was no path way or approach that lead to the the rock. They have done a good job of taking us to the rock at touching distance. I want to visit this place and touch the million year old rock..!
    Did you visit Kapila theerthan at the foot hill near the entrance of walking path way? It was in a nice locale and with a beautiful backdrop. I also remember seeing a beautiful ISCON temple near it. Again long long back I visited.

  8. @Indrani: Oh yes,it is really a wonder!

    @Subu;ps : thanks a lot... i was totally bowled over by the place..

    @Sridharan: we still cant go and touch the rock.. there is a fence around it.... thank god, otherwise, people would go and scribble on it too!

    yes, i have visited kapilateertham, but not the isckon temple... usually, when theres a choice between old and new temples, i prefer the old and give the new ones a miss.. besides, we have an isckon temple in bbay too, which i have visited a number of times, so theres no particular draw there for me

  9. It is very interesting to read about Sila thoranam.Nice pic. seems you could spend lot of time in Tirumala itself.

  10. Thanks for the post, atlast i have found about this place.


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