Elephanta Chronicles: Voyager In The Arabian Sea

When I relocated from Kolkata to Mumbai, I brought with me luggage weighing 49.9kg. I remember the sigh of relief that me, my husband and the lady at the ticketing counter at the airport released. The joy that we didn’t cross the 50kg prepaid threshold.

Yet when we decided to visit the Elephanta caves, I had no ‘proper clothing’ with me to suit the early March Mumbai weather for an outdoor excursion which might involve a bit of hiking. I frantically searched for something and the best outfit I found fit for the occasion was my track pants and gym wear. Ofcourse the running shoes accompanied them.

My second Mumbai local train ride came to an end at around 11.30 AM in the morning of that day at Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). We took a cab from the station to reach the iconic Gateway of India.

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The ‘Oh So Popular’ Photo Pose At the Gateway Of India

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Checking Out The Cellphone Photos

Elephanta Island is located on the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai. Ferries leave from the Gateway of India to the island on a regular basis. The first ferry from Mumbai coast to Elephanta Island leaves at 9 AM and the last one leaves at 3 PM. The departure time of the first ferry the other way round is 12 PM and the last ferry is at 5.30 PM.

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Ferry Booking Details At The Gateway Of India Dock

The entrance to the Gateway of India is well guarded. Everyone who intends to visit the seafront needs to queue up. They are allowed in only after a thorough security check. Just by the side of the entrance is the ticket counter. Tickets for ferries leaving for Elephanta Island, Alibaug and some other places can be purchased from here.

Our tickets cost us INR 180 each. It was written on the ticket “Do not travel on upper deck; do not pay extra charge”. Unfortunately, we saw this later. We boarded the boat from the docks of the Gateway of India. The first thing we noticed when we were boarding the launch was that some co-travellers were paying a man and straightaway going to the upper deck. The man let us climb up the stairs when we paid him INR 10 for each of us.

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The One In Which I Missed The Tip

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Taj Hotel

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Don’t Mind The Overedited Photos

Now seated on the upper deck I observed my co-passengers. Sitting just opposite to us were a group of Caucasians; behind them a large group of Bengalis shouting and yelling like typical tourists. Everyone was trying to get a seat under the shade of the make-shift canopy. And then there was that one couple – sitting in the open air portion of the upper deck under the blazing sun wrapped up in each other’s arms, in search of a few precious moments of privacy.

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Upper Deck Of The Boat

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My Chandler Bing!

The launch chugged on and the shore shrunk farther and farther away from us. From the Arabian Sea the monumental beauty of the Gateway of India increased exponentially. The architecture of the Taj Hotel struck the eye even more.

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View Of Gateway Of India From The Boat

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View Of The Taj Property From The Boat

How odd that it felt so soothing in the company of a small set of complete strangers right in the middle of a sea!

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I Live For Views Like This

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The Brooding Me

The journey was not a short one. We don’t exactly remember how long it took but it was definitely more than an hour. Elements of the sea kept us from checking the time. When we were a considerable distance away from the coast a flight of sea gulls surrounded our boat.

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Seagulls

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Our Constant Mates

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The birds gave us company the entire time until we reached the island. We watched our winged companions chase each other — the vast expanse of the open sea did not scare them; if anything it made them free. If there exists something called “next life” (which I strongly don’t believe in) I would love to be born a bird. Not an ostrich ofcourse – something that can fly.

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The sprawling Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and its complicated network of building were visible far away in the horizon.

 

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Finally we saw our boat pacing towards the direction of a green hill – The Elephanta Island. The Elephanta Island is host to a series of caves. The island owes its popularity to these caverns, the insides of which boast of rock cut sculptures. Hindu deities and characters from the epic Mahabharata and Ramayana can be seen intricately carved out of the basalt walls. The influence of Buddhism is also present in abundance.  The artists and masterminds of this historical delight are not known. Several theories and controversies regarding the origin of the caves float on the internet.

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Elephanta Island

The greenery of the island is worthy of praise. Everything around Mumbai turns brown in the dry season so the abundance of green caught us by surprise.

Our vessel moored and we boarded off the boat. The events of the rest of the day will be fodder for my next blog post.

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The Island Dock

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I have been to the mountains a hundred times but my stint with the open sea has always been quite limited. Now that I am living in a beach town (technically, at least), all that is going to change. I am making sure I thoroughly enjoy each bit of my new lessons of living by the sea. May my voyage of self discoveries never end!

P.S : I went for this daytrip again in early June and the journey to the island wasn’t pleasant at all. Even in the middle of the sea there was no breeze and not a single seagull!

Do you plan to visit the Elephanta Islands soon? Do you have some questions regarding the trip? Go ahead comment below and let’s get talking! Have you already been here? Share your experience with us by commenting!

*****

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36 thoughts on “Elephanta Chronicles: Voyager In The Arabian Sea

  1. Raghav says:

    Wonderful post and very descriptive. Mumbai has so much culture and places to see that often people get there not know what all is there, mostly overshadowed by the glitz and the glamour, also a part of this world class city. Although I am yet to visit the Elephanta, I am aware that it is one of those few places where the locals and tourists both go on a daily basis. The boat ride in the Arabian Sea must have been refreshing. Enjoy your time in the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris says:

    The Gateway of India has always inspired my imagination in several ways, most notably as a child it made me think of the exotic (when travel seemed a distant dream) and of the ocean, or more aptly, the ocean going British Empire.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and such a shame it wasn’t as pleasant the next time

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Suzanne says:

    I totally understand your anxiety about traveling with heavy luggage in India. Although I didn’t make it to Mumbai, your pics of the Gate of India are certainly wistful. Maybe I’ll get there someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kidsandcompass says:

    I would love to visit Mumbai one day; it sounds like such a bustling city. And beautiful too, from your photos, especially the Gateway and the Taj Hotel. I also love the close up of the gull that you got. Look forward to hearing more about Elephanta Island!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wanderingmed says:

    Such a fun article. I spent time in Mum so myself but never managed to get to Elephanta island. Your article makes me want to return and visit. Love the photographs, especially of the birds!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Full-Time Tourist says:

    I have yet to go to India, but Elephanta Island sounds like a fantastic day trip from Mumbai! I really appreciated you mentioning the sign forewarning not to go on the upper deck or pay an extra fee. I also loved the photos you included of the ferry pulling away from the dock in front of the Taj hotel! India is truly a beautiful country & I hope to visit soon!! Definitely will be coming back to this post & your upcoming one to help inform my future travels! Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jean says:

    Oh looks like a fun adventure. I love that you included a few fail photos! We all have those. Hopefully you get the right outfit and to spend more time exploring your new life by the sea.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Patricia Steffy (@PLSteffy) says:

    The photos and descriptions of the Gateway of India are incredible! Being able to see it from the sea really gives you a great idea of the scope of the place. I love the idea of the caverns on Elephanta — though I have mixed feelings about a longish, hot sea voyage. I think I’d brave it just to check it all out. It’s fascinating to me and a world unlike anything I’ve been to personally!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kavey Favelle says:

    Haaa, this made me smile. All my Indian family seem to pack heavily, when one of my favourite cousins visited us in UK one time, I had literally never even seen such a giant suitcase as hers in my life! I have not heard before about Elephanta island. The boat trip sounds serene but am curious about what there is to see on the island?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tania Mukherjee says:

      I don’t generally move around with 50kg luggage but this time it was different, I was permanently shifting my base! The primary interest of the Elephanta Island are the Hindu and Buddhist caves.

      Like

  10. rhiydwi says:

    Oh wow I wish I’d known about Elephanta Island before my trip to Mumbai. I was situated just around the corner from CST so it would have been the perfect little trip! I love boat journeys too – the rougher, the better!
    Although the rigorous security checks to get through to the Gateway of India?! Oh my, does that bring back some amusing memories! The security guard took my pen – not because it was particularly threatening, but because she just liked it. I had 3 more in my hotel room so thought I’d just let her keep it. And then the constant requests to join Indian families for photos! So funny to think about how many people now have a family picture with some random British girl in the middle.
    I really enjoyed reading this – I love your writing style 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tania Mukherjee says:

      Yikes. What a security guard! Did she explicitly requested you to gift her your pen just because she likes it?? Many Indians always go crazy when they see a foreigner around them, particularly the white skinned ones — some are in awe, while some wonder how their own life will never be like the white skinned foreigner’s life. Though some are just pervs. Staying in close vicinity around CST you could have easily managed Elephanta, may be you should return someday in future ! 🙂

      Like

  11. rovingjo says:

    I have never been to India but if I go I would love to do this trip like you did. I hope I am blessed with some breeze and seagulls for company as you were on that first trip. Because a long boat ride with neither sounds rather dull. Although the views might make up for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Megan Indoe says:

    Oh my gosh I can’t get over how heavy your baggage was! Hahaa how did you carry that thing! This seems like a great day trip from Mumbai, you’ve described it really well and I love the photos! It looks like an incredibly photogenic place.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Iza (@IzaAbao) says:

    It is so funny that you brought so much stuff but then not quite enough. I can relate to you very well. Haha! The ferry is nice but what if it rains?
    The views look really nice and relaxing. It was interesting to know that everything turns brown in Mumbai in the dry season.

    Liked by 1 person

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