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Every year, as Shivratri draws closer, the majestic ruins of Elephanta Caves are lit up to serve as a dynamic backdrop for the two-day Elephanta Festival. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring rock art linked to Shiva’s cult, turns into a stage where classical dances and music of India are exhibited and celebrated.
Even though it's located just an hour away from Mumbai, a step into the complex roots you in the mediaeval era in which it was built. Believed to belong to the late 5th century AD, the seven caves spread across a 60,000 sq ft area have witnessed many dynasties come and go. Even though the rock-cut art adorning the walls is dedicated to Lord Shiva, a smaller group of two caves belongs to the Buddhist tradition.
The caves feature stone sculptures depicting the syncretism of Buddhist and Hindu ideologies. These are made from solid basalt rock and narrate tales found in Hindu mythologies. Even though most of the sculptures have worn away, the most impressionable sculptures are that of Shiva’s different avatars–Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of Dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga).
If you have not yet had the chance to explore this part of India’s rich heritage, then this two-day festival may be the best time to do so. During the two-day festival, visitors can witness fantastic performances by known artists and the local community under the starry sky. The fishing community, known as Koli, perform their folk dance and music, including skits and plays.
Dates: February 13 to 15
Entry fee: Entry is free
How to reach: You can take a ferry from Gateway of India to Elephanta Island. The first boat leaves at 9 AM and every 30 mins till 2 PM
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