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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

Egyptian Vulture

"Amma, that is a vulture!!" Excited shouts like these are common with Samhith when we are on the road.... The only thing is, he has an hyperactive imagination, which turns crows into eagles and kites into vultures! However, we have an arrangement. If he sees anything interesting, I am to stop and pay attention, and if I tell him I want to show him something, he does the same. And so we stopped by the roadside to take a closer look at a bird perched on a boulder.

This was somewhere near Mysore, and having seen so many birds along the way, excitement was high, and only increased when we realized that yes, indeed it was a vulture!!!

The Egyptian Vulture is found across Southwestern Europe and Northern Africa to India. At one time, it must have been a common sight, but today, the numbers have greatly reduced, and are further dwindling by the day.

My knowledge of birds in general and vultures in particular is rather sketchy, but a quick read on Wikipedia brought forth a bit of interesting information. Such as, the fact that the bird was considered sacred in Egyptian mythology, and was thus protected, and common on the streets of Egypt during the period  of the Pharaohs, giving it the name 'Pharoah's Chicken!" 

This seems to be an opportunistic bird, feeding mostly on carrion, like other vultures, but also preying on small mammals, birds and reptiles when the opportunity beckons! They also apparently feed on eggs of other birds, ingeniously breaking the larger ones by tossing pebbles on them to break the shell!

Even while we stopped and enjoyed our first sighting of the vulture, the only thing that I could think of, was the Diclofenac poisoning that had endangered these birds. I don't think anything brings out the poignancy of the situation faced by these birds better than this cartoon by Rohan Chakravarty of Green Humour. I have been reading and enjoying Rohan's blog and his cartoons and caricatures for a long time now, and I  think some of you might enjoy it too! 


  1. Great photos :) and thanks for the link to Green Humour

    1. Thank you Amrita! and glad to have introduced you to Green Humour

  2. Egyptian vultures are majestic birds, I first clicked them in Tal Chapar...Fortunately with the complete ban on diclofenac they are slowly coming back. But it will be another 50 years before vultures reach even 30% of the original population....

    1. so true, Prasad. its certainly good that they are increasing in numbers once again,but the process is a slow one and we can only hope that nothing else affects it!

  3. Yes, as you said vultures in general are near extinction. Special programs have been launched at different place. Sighting of an Egyptian vulture is definitely rare and I congratulate you. Nice pictures from different angles.

  4. It is indeed exciting to spot a vulture! I am totally with Samhith on this one :) You should have seen me when I spotted a Shikra on the tree outside my window. But of course it flew away by the time I fished out my camera :(

    1. I can imagine, Usha.. and did u know that the bird interest in the bldg is growing? shekar takes pics of birds too....



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