Mumbai, the city of dreams, the city that create stars, city of trade….. there is no dearth of adjectives when we Indians proudly refer to Mumbai [named after Goddess Mumba Devi temple, which interestingly is located at Haji Ali]. It was earlier named as Bombay [actually Bom Bahia, meaning a good bay].
So in the month of May, with dreams [or rather expectations] in our eyes we were off to Mumbai. Though it was our first visit but names like Juhu, Chowpati, Bandra, Church Gate etc had been etched in our minds, thanks to Bollywood [Mumbai Films]. After 24 hours of train journey [from Lucknow] we reached Lokmanya Tilak Terminus [or Kurla].
After a days rest we were off to explore the city. Car journey all the way from Powai to Gateway of India through Eastern Expressway made me realize why it is known as the densest and most cramped city of the world [Mumbai has open space of 1.1 sqr. mtr. per person]. Do not go by the literal word expressway as it took us nearly 1 hour 30 min to cover 32 Kms. distance.
After getting our car parked somewhere near Bombay High Court we walked all the way through the grand architectural delights on both sides of the causeway stopping briefly to visit Jehangir Art Gallery having a glimpse of the famous 70+ years old Regal Cinema, some photo clicks at The Taj [the First 5 star hotel of India] and to have lunch and refreshment at Leopold Café. The café still bears the bullet marks of the infamous terrorist attacks of 2008.
The last stop was marvelous symbolic entrance to India, The Gateway of India. Completed in 1924 after 13 years in making, it is a delight to watch. Peoples often refer it to as Taj Mahal of Mumbai. From a nearby counter we purchased ferry tickets for Rs. 140 each and we were off to Elephanta Caves.
This was my first ferry ride. The plush personal boats anchored on the shore, colorful gigantic ships, tiny islands, returning noisy ferries and the quickly farther moving Mumbai’s coast line, all was adding up to some nostalgic aura. After around 40 minutes ride we reached the jetty of Gharapuri Island, named after the colossal elephant found there.
After taking Rs. 10 tickets and walking through a small congested market on an ascending lane we came across the main cave. Altogether there were seven caves which are famous for their sculpture. They date back to 600 – 700 AD and it is surprising that many dynasties like the Mauryas, Trikutakas, Chalukyas, Silaharas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas of Deogiri and even the Portuguese had their sway over this island. The Marathas also had this island under their control and from them it passed into the control of the British.
One really begins to ponder how these sculptures might have taken such beautiful and impressive physical shape and suddenly you start having a sense of gratitude and respect for those artists and masons who must have toiled for ages in finishing their artifacts. We also climbed atop the hill on the island to get a glimpse of the gigantic gun that was used to thwart the invading armies.
As the evening approached we had to rush to the jetty to catch the last of the returning ferries. The return journey was even more memorable.
The weather had become cold and the beauty of the dark city shore in the backdrop of the setting sun and the flock of noisy sea gulls following the ferry in anticipation of some food item to be tossed to them, all appeared to me as a beautiful painting that got etched in the canvas of my mind.
On shore we had dinner at the famous non vegetarian joint, Bade Miya and then we all headed home.