Monday, February 11, 2013

Mumbai and Aurangabad

On Saturday after a flight from Kolkata to Mumbai, we check in at the Taj Mahal Palace. This is the grand hotel in Mumbai. The older part was built in 1903 when the even then wealthy Mr. Tata was refused entry to a British hotel because he was brown. The Tata's are now the wealthiest family in India and one of the wealthiest in the world. They still own the line of Taj hotels as well as car/truck companies plus many other businesses. The Palace is over the top luxurious. At $600/night we would not be staying in a place like this except as part of a tour that gets a break on the price. The buffet lunch would be $66 a piece. We chose something less pricey off the menu (hamburger and fries for USD $22).
We stay in the new tower addition

Our guide looks like a tiny guru.

 We head off on foot through the gate called the Gateway to India for a one hour tour boat ride out to the Elephanta Caves. We have to hop from boat to boat to disembark and take a putt putt train to the bottom of the hill that we will climb up to the main cave.

These caves were carved out of solid rock as Hindu temples beginning in 200 BC. When the Portuguese arrived here they destroyed some of the statues.

There are 120 steps up cave #1, the biggest and best one, through a gauntlet of vender stands. About 1,000 people live on the island, venders and guards. Also monkeys, cows and goats.

Although you can pay for a ride up in a sedan chair, I make it up myself, slowly. Cave number one is a temple to Shiva. We learn a lot about Shiva. The multiple head of Shiva is the most famous statue.

The famous multiple heads of Shiva

It is dark as we arrive back at the dock at the Gateway. The open area teams with venders; still, the whole thing has the feel of the Malecon at Puerto Vallarta.

Sunday morning we have a drive around Mumbai. We see Victoria Terminus, a fancy railway station. At least on the exterior. The gutters end in gargoyle water spouts like European cathedrals.
Victoria Terminus

The hanging gardens are gardens on soil placed on top of a huge water tank that serves Mumbai. Topiaries and exotic flowering plants are abundant.
the hanging gardens

kites taking off

Kite on a rubbish pile

 The kites (large raptors) are sitting on some piles of dirt and plant debris and carrying off bits. To built nests? The kites are coming from the quiet tower where the Pharsee sect places their dead. The Pharsees are an ancient sect of Zoroastrians who worship a fire god and believe that bodies of the dead should be placed in the open to decay. The Pharsees also do not allow marriage outside the sect and allow no one to join the sect. They are reduced to marrying cousins and this has caused problems with lack of genetic diversity. The Tata's are Pharsees.
The quiet tower where the Pharsee dead are laid out

We also see the largest single family house in the world with 27 floors. But the family does not live here. Bad Feng Shui.
The tall house in the background is the biggest private dwelling in the world.

a Sufi saint is buried here

A shopping stop where I buy a caftan and a shawl and William buys a shirt.

Another long train ride. We are in coach and arrive in Aurangabad after dark. Our guide finds us quickly and we hustle out to the bus. William and I manage our cases, because even though we are staying abroad for 2 ½ more months, we packed light. We can rinse out our clothes and they dry over night. Some others have huge incredibly heavy cases that are hard to manage and by this stage of the trip are more than half full of dirty clothes.

Monday February the 11th

We ride the bus for about an hour to the Ellora caves. The first cave we see is a Jain cave. This cave was carved and used as a temple in the 11th century AD. The Jain deities look like Buddha statues except for the fact that they are naked. The figures are stylized carvings so that the Jain carvings look like Buddhist carvings which look like Hindu carvings.

The next cave we visit is the Buddhist monastery and temple. The acoustics are phenomenal. Our guide does a chant to demonstrate. A lovely image of Buddha is in front of a stupa. The roof is carved to look like it is made of arched wooden ribs.

Me and Buddha

The last temple is a Hindu temple. This is a Shiva temple with the interior temple carved in the form of a giant chariot resting on the backs of elephants.
The chisel marks are plain on the ceiling

We also go to the mini Taj Mahal. A smaller tomb built in a smaller style to the Taj Mahal.

We arrive back in time for Wm to go for a swim and to take some pictures of the grounds.

This is also a Taj Hotel

We make the obligatory shopping stop, but Bill and I are shopped out for now. I might have bought a necklace, but I can't find exactly what I want to go with my new shawl.

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