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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

Navaratri Day 2: Two Interesting Temples

On the second day of Navaratri, here is the story of two temples dedicated to the Goddess. Both are in Jaisalmer, and though I have visited Jaisalmer twice, I haven’t yet visited these temples. I first heard of them from my uncle, who, on an official visit to the city, took time out to visit the border, and, on the way, these temples. I was so fascinated by his stories, that I asked him to pen them down for me. So, here they are, as a guest post from Mr. K.S.Raghuraman, who, apart from being my maternal uncle, also worked at the Airport Authority of India , and managed to travel across the country and beyond, for work and pleasure! :) 

While on a visit to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, I visited the temples of Tanot Mata and Ghantiyali Mata, who are sisters and considered as ‘Miracle Goddesses’, by the people of the region as well as BSF personnel posted there. The temples are situated close to the international border with our neighbouring country, Pakistan.

The drive to the temples took us almost two hours. Driving through the Thar Desert was exhilarating - just sand, sand and sand everywhere on either side of the road, with rarely a vehicle passing by; and the heat creating mirages in the road and the surroundings. The journey was a memorable one.

We first reached the Ghantiyali Mata Mandir, which is maintained by the BSF personnel. Apart from the main deity, there are also idols which are destroyed and beheaded kept separately on the premises. When queried, they narrated how the temple came into existence and why the people believe her to be a miracle goddess.

It is said that, during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, the Pakistani army had come up to this place, and destroyed the idols. Some in their army, who had objected, were also beheaded. Further, inhabitants of the entire village were murdered, and the village taken over. A woman who had gone to her parents’ house for delivery was the lone survivor. When she returned with her son, she found that the entire village was taken over by the insurgents. She went back to her parents, narrated the story, and, with no other recourse, settled there. Her son grew up, and, being teased about being fatherless, he decided to go to his village, and take revenge on those responsible. On the way to the village, he fainted of thirst near the temple. A small girl appeared with a pot of water and offered it to him. She told him that it would give him strength. She also advised him on the best way to avenge his father and the villagers.

Accordingly, the boy arrived at the village, and noticed that a marriage was in progress. He snuck in, along with the guests, killed one of them, and ran away into the darkness. The next morning, when the villagers discovered the body, they were suspicious of each other, and fighting broke out within the factions. It escalated to such an extent, that almost all of them killed each other, and the few that were left, ran away, fearing that they too would be killed!

The boy was overwhelmed by the result of his one act, and was grateful to the girl for suggesting it. He realized by then that she wasn’t a simple girl, but the goddess, and, offered his head to her. The goddess appeared before him in her true form, and said “I am your mother, and a mother never takes her son’s head. You have achieved your mission, now go back and bring your mother and the others back home.”  And thus, the villagers returned once more, and the temple was rebuilt.

Marveling at this story, we next headed to the Tanot Mata Mandir. Even in the hot weather, it was chilling to know that we were only 10 Km from the International border!

Here again, during the war of 1965, everything in the area was destroyed by the Pakistan army tanks and missiles, but not a single bullet touched the temple. It is said that the bullets /shells/ missiles simply dropped unexploded after hitting the wall! All the unexploded shells have been kept inside the temple, as a museum collection. In fact, the shells are kept inside the sanctum sanctorum and worshipped along with the goddess! Certainly a unique temple!

Apart from the locals, both Indian and Pakistan army have a feeling of respect for this temple.

No wonder, the two sister-goddesses are called “Living Miracle Goddesses’!!

  • The two temples are situated at an approximate distance of 115 -120 Km from Jaisalmer city. The international border is at a distance of approx. 10 Km from the temple.

  • The temples are accessible by road, but to visit the border, you need special permissions and relevant documentation. 


  1. Great to read this about from your uncle Anu! Heard about him in Jaisalmer, and now reading about his stories from there :)

    1. Thank you, Sid!!! Dont you wish we could have visited this temple too?

  2. Bahut shandar jagah hai. temple, sand dunes, border, typical village life sab kuchh dekhne layak hai.

    1. Abhi aapke shehar mein dekhne ke liye bahut hai!!! phir se aana hoga hamein, Sumerji... aur jab bhi aayenge, aapse toh zaroor milenge!

  3. Very interesting and miraculous temples. Unexploded shells being worshiped along with goddess, as you said, really a unique temple.

    1. Yes, Meghana. I had never heard of these before till my uncle told me. If you are ever in the area, do go visit.

  4. Very interesting stories about the two temples, wants one make to visit the place and hear the story furst hand from the locals. Loved the post!


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