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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

A Smile To Remember

An old man sat by the side of the path, as I entered the office. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. He was forgotten at once, immersed as I was in the work I had come for. A few minutes later, I was interrupted by my excited son, Samhith, who wanted my camera. Eager to be rid of him so I could talk, I gave him my camera, not even bothered about what he wanted to click. When I came out at last, my work done, I found him busy clicking while the old man smiled at him! “Amma, look!” cried Samhith. “I took a photo of this thatha (grandfather) MYSELF!!”. His pride at his achievement was infectious, and I looked at the photo, ready with my words of praise. Here is the photo he clicked that day.....

We were at Sringeri, in Karnataka, a place we love going to. However, this time, we were there with a purpose – to plan Samhith’s thread ceremony. We were swamped with the arrangements that had to be made, both at home in Mumbai, as well as at Sringeri, and the next few days were even more hectic ones. Every day, however, we went to the ashram, and there he was, the old grandfather.... ready with a smile for the small boy who looked out for him to play with while his mother was busy with more serious matters. Thus it continued for the next week, while we completed the arrangements. The day we left, I spoke to him, told him what we had come for, and that we would be coming again. His smile grew even broader as I explained about the thread ceremony. “This little boy” he said, “is blessed that you are performing his thread ceremony here, in this sacred place. May God be with you.”

We were back again at Sringeri two months later, for the ceremony this time, and the very first day that we were there, Samhith went in search of the ‘smiling thatha’, but he was nowhere to be seen! He even asked a couple of people at the ashram, but they said he was around somewhere, but couldn’t direct us to him. Days passed...the ceremony had been performed successfully, we had met the pontiff and gained his blessings, but Samhith was still not satisfied. “That thatha is so old. Will he be here the next time I come?” was the question he asked me every time we passed by the office.

It was, at last, our final day at Sringeri. We had been asked to come early to the ashram, so that we could take our leave. The place was deserted..... There were just a few families at that early hour, and as we walked along the path, we were greeted by birds calling out to each other. Immersed as we were, in our thoughts, I heard Samhith make a sudden noise – “Amma, look, there!! That old man! It’s that thatha!!” and sure enough, there he was! He looked far older than the last time, and even more bent and withered, but there was no mistaking that smile! And as Samhith ran towards him, it grew even broader!

To this day, I don’t know what the two of them talked about – for once, Samhith’s voice was low, (unlike his usual tone, which is loud enough to wake the dead) and as to the old man, I don’t think he spoke much at all.... his smile seemed to speak volumes more than words ever could! But the two stayed together, heads bent towards each other, conspiratorially, making me wish I had my camera along! And so they stayed till it was time for us to leave. As we said our goodbyes, the old man handed over an apple – a fruit he had just received as blessing from the pontiff himself. And he smiled that wonderful smile – one that was answered by a huge grin on Samhith’s face.

As we left Sringeri and made our way back home, we talked mostly of the ceremony, the pluses and the minuses, the people who had come, and those who hadn’t. Getting back to our routine lives, and uploading the photos we had taken, re-living the moments, I couldn’t but help remember the one moment that was etched so deep in my thoughts, though not in film – that of two smiling faces, one old and wrinkled, one young and smooth – bent towards each other, the identical smiles binding two people together... two people linked together not by blood, or even association, but by a chance meeting.....  

In the words of H.W. Longfellow,

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”  

P.S. I have recently written a guest post on Sringeri for Arti's My Yatra Diary. Read the post for more details about Sringeri. 


  1. His name is Srinivasan... :) usually lingers around the office building across the river...

    Lovely shot by Samhith... 

  2. What a lovely heart-warming story, Anu. I think I met him when I went to Sringeri in 2005 when we had gone to enquite about the pada pooja.

    All the best for the contest :-)

  3. yes, Aarti, we found out the last time.... when we asked around for him... samhith was rather upset that he couldnt see him dressed as he was in his pattu veshti and all... :D but i wasnt sure if i should mention his name in the post, so didnt :D

  4. I guess most of us who go there would meet him.. he is usually somewhere near that pada puja counter most of the time... we had seen him before, but this was the time samhith actually got talking and made friends with him... as well as quite a few others, i may add :D u know him.....  and loved ur post too!

  5. Lovely episode Anu...beautifully narrated! Sincere wishes for the contest!

  6. lovely smile, a beautiful click and a lovely post - all the best for the contest!

  7. He looks so calm and peaceful. No wonder Samhith struck an instant rapport with him. Children are able to sense such things more than we do. All the best for the contest!

  8. Greetings-
    The relationship the Old and Young share is something quite hard to describe-but wonderful to ay the least. Till about age 8-10,  Children have and mantain a  complete freshness and simplicity to life and people and this helps to link with all-that is often lost in an Adult's worlds of complex relationships- (usually). Kds can share and esp  the older people realize this and sincerely appreciate and reciprocate.
    Nice paper and observations -
    Thank you
    Capt TR (Retd)
    ps Also I am a Grandfather and share such moments with my Grandson -kids .

  9. Absolutely, Zephyr! kids sense so much more than we do!

  10. Thanks so much, Captain! you have put this so well! we adults are so busy and engrossed in our own world, that we sometimes fail to notice small things or look below the surface, which kids, in their innocence notice at once... and so do older people... its always a pleasure to see kids with their grandparents...

  11. Nice knowing about the innocent soul. I believe the Thatha would have loved Samhit's company.

  12. All the best for the contest . When the innocence meet each other 

  13. Thanks Team G Sqaure... it was so nice to see the two together!

  14.  :) Its amazing the kind of things kids do...

  15. Wonderful account! Travels come and travels go but its simple moments like these that give us the maximum joy.. His smile is infectious, no doubt.. All the very best for the contest :)

    PS: Many Thanks for the guest post, it was wonderful having you onboard. :-)

  16. Wish you good luck for the contest, Anu . 

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  18. Lovely comment.Yes ,surely sometimes smiles speak out more than words

  19. Thanks so much, Arti! Thats so true... moments like these are what make our trips memorable! and it was great being a guest on ur blog!

  20. Anuradha
    This is an incredibly beautiful & touching story. And a very apt & meaningful stanza from from Longfellow's poem. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience. Samhith has clicked an amazing picture - reflects immense talent,potential & enthusiasm in him.

  21. Sometimes how small encounters make a big moment in our life! Nice post..

  22. You know I collect smiles (pictures), and this one is simply superb! Serene! :)

  23. wow!!!! I could actual view this entire story as screen shots! Lovely & touching :)


  24. These are interesting times for Samhith and the people around him :-) Good photo by Samhith. Looks like he is moving into a different league.

    1. Thanks, Sankara... he is waiting for me to get a better camera so he can take this one :D of course, the minute I buy the better one, he is going to want that!!

  25. I like your blog it’s look nice and attractive. I visited many places in India and always remember that trips which i had traveled and photos are memories of it in my album and heart touching photos are always with me. Interesting and nice information with good photos. I always keep in touch with your blog and going to bookmark also.

  26. I loved reading this and was engrossed in your storytelling! There was an intent quality to it and it resonated so much with me, I had goosebumps toward the end....It's true that we need to learn from kids to slow down, pause and live in moments. We are so taken over by our business of busy-ness that we stop living life without even realizing...

    I really hope and wish you win this contest, Anu :)
    Much love...

    PS: That photo captured by Samhith is brilliant!

    1. Thanks so much, Rashmie!! There is so much we notice and learn from our kids!

  27. Wonderful post Anuradha Shankar! The picture of the thatha is so calm and amazing.

  28. Loved the post and especially the way you narrated it! It was so engaging. Sometimes small instances make us pause and think about life and this was one of those :)

  29. Madam,
    Thanks for the wonderful blog ..It would be nice if you tell us whom to contact at sringeri to do the upanayam..I want to do for my son, but not knowing how to proceed


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