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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 6 - Chakra Teertham

Passing along the Sila Thoranam gardens, it is easy to forget that we are in the mountains, among some of the oldest rocks on earth! Here and there, rocks peep out among the flowering plants, reminding us why we are here. Once we pass the garden however, we need no reminder, for nature is laid out before us, almost exactly the way she has remained for thousands of years. Of course, some concessions have been made for pilgrims such as carving of a series of steps and some wire meshes to prevent people falling into the river. But the place still retains some of the harsh beauty of nature at its rawest…

The view is great as we walk past the gardens. On one side are the lush green mountains and valleys….

On the other side, which we are walking towards, all we can see are rocks. We can see people walking amongst them, and wonder how we are going to reach there…..

I can hear the sound of rushing water, and wonder if I can walk across the falls as the people seem to be doing. My feet have still not recovered from the climb up, and on the best days, I tend to slip even at home…. And then we spot the falls themselves, and my fears are relegated to the background….. It’s beautiful, and I am happy I came here!

The water is cool and clear….. Fresh from the rains which have just given us a brief respite to enjoy this, and will be back in a couple of hours….. I walk gingerly down the path, holding to the wire mesh and heave a sigh as I manage to navigate safely to the other side….

Here are the rocks I saw from the other side…. They are certainly cousins to the Sila Thoranam rocks….. They must be the same age, from their appearance, give or take a few hundred years! All my fears are abandoned as Samhith forges ahead confidently, and I take out my camera. See how beautiful it is….

Here is a closer look at this huge one... I thought it looked like a face... what do you think?

and here is a real face peeping out...

This is the back side of the same rock....

and here are some more....

This place is called Chakra Teertham, literally, a water body named after the chakra or the discus of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Brahma once wanted to perform penance, and wanted a pure location, and asked Lord Vishnu to find him a suitable place. Lord Vishnu sent his discus, which carved out an area on the hill, creating a place for Lord Brahma to sit. Into the gorge rushed water from the hill streams, providing him with water.

There is a small temple enshrining a swayambhu (natural) Shiva lingam and an idol of Parvati. I can understand the fact that there is no idol of Brahma there (Brahma was cursed by Shiva not to have a temple for himself, and thus there are very few temples dedicated to him), but I have absolutely no idea what Shiva Parvati are doing there. If any of you know the relevant legend, please do leave a comment.

More believably, there is an image of Chakrathazhwar (Lord Vishnu depicted in the form of a discus) on one of the rocks here. I wanted to take a pic, but the priest told me that photography was not allowed. At some point of time, someone had placed an idol of Narasimha here, so this place has a veritable collection of idols!

A busload of tourists had visited the place at the same time as us, and it was so crowded, that I was rather in a hurry to leave. However, they had blocked the exit too, and I had no choice but to wait. This turned out to be a good thing, however, since once they left, the aura of the place changed suddenly. Once the clamour was gone, the place turned as calm as it must have been once upon a time, and a strange kind of peace descended, making me realize for the first time what must have once drawn people to this place. It must have been quite inaccessible before the steps were made, and during the monsoons, the waterfall would effectively have cut off the area, making it unapproachable, and the perfect place to meditate, undisturbed!

Since I had no expectations from this place, it would be wrong to say that it exceeded expectations. But I was certainly happy that I had visited it!

This is the pathway as seen from the other side...

Location: Chakra Teertham is located about 2 Km from the temple, in the same complex as the Sila Thoranam. Buses are available to visit the place, but a visit to these two places can be combined with a visit to the Srivari Paadam, a trip which costs about Rs.50 per person in a jeep, or Rs. 300 for the full vehicle. 

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  1. Those rock formations are so grand!

  2. Take me there:). The grandeur of nature enclaves itself far from the clamor of ordinary life. Beautiful.

  3. Beautiful Anu, water gushing on the rocks and the solid big rock pic. are really superb.

  4. those were awesome pics and the place has a prehistoric look till you reach the temple. As far as I know Chakrathazhwar means Lord Vishnu's Sudarshana chakra which has got the status of a bhaktha with the suffix 'azhwar' added to it.

  5. Hey nice piece info and great pictures .

  6. Nice post. Truly enjoyed reading it.

    I really like the line "but I have absolutely no idea what Shiva Parvati are doing there."


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