Incredible India

On our last day in “incredible India” (the slogan emblazoned on most of the tourist buses) we took a bus, a boat, a mini tourist train, and climbed 120 steps lined with vendor stalls in the incredible heat to reach . . .. . . Elephanta Caves. They are located on Elephanta Island in the Mumbai Harbor. The island contains a number of Hindu cave temples carved from solid basalt rock. The best estimate is the caves and sculptures were created by various Hindu dynasties between the 5th and 7th centuries. When the Portuguese discovered the island, they named it Elephant Island because of the elephant statue they found there. Most of the sculptures are damaged, but there is some debate about who did the most damage. Our guide blamed the Portuguese who used the sculptures for target practice. However, there is also reason to believe that Muslims did the damage when they occupied the area.This is a sampling of the carvings in the caves. Most of them depict a legend related to Shiva or the other Hindu gods. The area around the caves had a lot of monkeys. Not all of them were as docile as this mother. We were warned not to show any food as they could be very aggressive trying to take it from you. One man had to be protected from a monkey when he tried to take a drink of water from a bottle.

This picture shows two iconic sites in Mumbai, or Bombay as many residents still call it. On the right is the Gateway of India built to commemorate the visit of the British Monarchs in 1911. The Gateway was not completed until 1924. On the left is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a five star luxury hotel built in 1903 that is on many lists of top 100 hotels in the world. It was the site of a major terrorist attack in 2008. The high rise behind the Gateway is a new wing of the hotel. The boats in the foreground are typical of the one we took to Elephanta Island.This is the main railway station in Mumbai. It serves more than five million people a day.There are a lot of pigeons in Mumbai!

What do you call a building that is 27 stories high and cost over one billion dollars to build?You would call it the home of a very wealthy India couple and their three children. They have a staff of 600 to take care of them and the building. If I spent a billion for a home, I would hope it would be more attractive. Despite half the population of people living in slums, Mumbai has the highest density of billionaires of any city in the world.This is the Dhobi Ghat, the largest open air laundry in Mumbai. About 7000 workers, almost all of them men, work here to wash, bleach, dry, and iron the laundry. Flogging is an important part of the washing process. They go throughout the city to collect the dirty laundry and return it neatly pressed. Many of their customers are hospitals and hotels, but ordinary citizens (even those who might own a washing machine) are regular customers.We visited the Gandhi Museum, located in the house of a friend who he stayed with when he visited Bombay.Shopping stalls lined many of the streets. This block was filled with used book stores.While this picture could be from Mumbai, it is really one I forgot to include in Goa. The thing to note is the workers on top of the bamboo scaffolding with no safety harness. OSHA would have a fit!

Mumbai was our last port in India. I think many passengers feel as I did when I first visited Mumbai many years ago – they don’t want to ever go back. But the more you explore India and get to know its people as we did on several OAT tours, it really is Incredible India. We have two sea days before reaching Muscat, Oman.

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