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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Long before I visited Orchha I knew it was a great location for sunsets. In fact, I was completely oblivious that the place even existed until I one day stumbled across some photos of the sun setting behind the Chhatris.

At that very moment I knew it was somewhere I should look into further. Less than an hour later I realised just how much Orchha has to offer with the Chhatris, FortChaturbhuj Temple, and Lakshmi Narayan Temple, plus the close proximity to world heritage sites such as Khajuraho and Sanchi. It didn’t take long for me to build out a 10 day itinerary that encompassed all of these and lot more besides, starting and ending in Bhopal.

Having now returned from Orchha, I thought it might be useful for others to know where the best locations are to capture the sunset with those Chhatris and the Betwa river in the foreground. I went on a few evenings to scout locations, the weather conditions were not perfect for sunsets so you might be faced with a more impressive scenes than I was during my stay in Orchha.

Option 1 – On the bridge

This is where the majority of people go to capture the sunset at Orchha. Here you have the classic view of the Betwa river in front and the scene dominated by the Chhatris.

It’s almost perfect except for a couple of slight inconveniences…

As you can see from the above photo, the bridge is only just wide enough for a single vehicle, and there’s no barriers at the side of the bridge either. So, every time a vehicle tries to use the bridge in either direction, you need to walk back to the bank and get off it. This bridge is one of the major routes into the town, so it’s hugely busy. To be frank, it’s a quite dangerous.

The second issue is the barbed-wire fence to your left, which is the direction of the setting sun. This prevents anyone entering the Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary (more on that shortly), so you have to try and get far enough long the bridge to get the fence out of sight, whilst also trying to simultaneously ensure you’re not about to be bumped off into the river by a passing vehicle. I can’t swim, enough said about this option I think.

Option 2 – On the banks of the river

Because of the fenced off area right by the bridge to the west, another option is to go east, slightly further away from the Chhatris and shoot them with the bridge in the foreground (see above map for location).

For those not wanting any humans or vehicles in the sunset shot, this will pose some challenges, but if you embrace the situation it can work to your advantage I think. You do miss out on having so much of the river in the foreground, but it is at least safe. Here you can sit on the rocks, set up a tripod, and have a bit more of a relaxing experience.

Note : This area is rife with aggressive and confident monkeys, don’t leave any bags or camera equipment away from you as they will certainly come over and take things.

Option 3 – Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary

This wildlife sanctuary owns a good portion of the southern bank of the river Betwa immediately west of the bridge, which accounts for all that barbed wire fencing right by the bridge itself. I have to confess I didn’t visit this place, reviews were extremely mixed and there was quite a high entrance fee with camera. I’m also not convinced it would be the best place, you would be directly opposite the Chhatris but perhaps a little too close. I would love to hear from anyone that gives this location a try.

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

The Cathedral of the Holy Name is a Roman Catholic Cathedral located in the Colaba district of South Mumbai. The Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Bombay and headquarters of the Archdiocese of Bombay and is a short 10 minute walk from the Gateway of India.

Prior to the construction of the Cathedral of the Holy Name, Catholic worship in south Mumbai was focused at Fort Chapel in Meadows Street which was built in 1767. This little chapel attracted worshippers from far and wide, and within a 100 years was no longer able to accommodate the large congregations that attended Sunday Masses.

The then Archbishop, Theodore Dalhoff, felt the need to secure of new site for a church, and one that could also accommodate not only a new church, but also a school and residences. In 1900 he entered negotiations with the “Bombay Improvement Trust”, and subsequently secured a site of 4,642 square yards on Wodehouse Road to realise his ambitions.

The plans for the Cathedral complex were approved by the trust in 1901, and less than a year later on July 9th 1902 the foundation stone was laid by the Archbishop. Less than three years later on January 15th, 1905 the Church of the Holy Name was blessed and opened to the public for worship.

In early 1942 the church status was raised to “Pro-Cathedral”, before becoming a fully-fledged Cathedral on March 3rd, 1964.  In 1998 the Cathedral was recognised as a Heritage Building, recognising it as an architectural treasure not just for Catholics who worship here, but also for the entire city.

The Gothic architecture of the building is quite impressive, with buttresses, spires, stained glass, a pipe organ, and frescoes. The Cathedral houses a bell gifted by Pope Paul VI, a stole decorated in gold by Pope John XXIII, and a stole with a red hat gifted by Pope Pius XII.

If you’re exploring South Mumbai it’s well worth dropping into the Cathedral to take a look for yourself. As well as being a beautiful building to look at, it offers a great sense of tranquillity from all the hustle and bustle of city life that lies just outside.

You’re welcome to ‘Like’ or add a comment if you enjoyed this blog post. If you’d like to be notified of any new content, why not sign up by clicking the ‘Follow’ button.

If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…

KevinStandage1@gmail.com

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Located deep within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Kanheri Caves are a group of 109 Buddhist rock-cut monuments dating from the 1st – 10th century A.D.

Prior to land reclamation during the 19th and 20th centuries, the area around the caves was known as Salsette Island and was probably quite heavily populated in ancient times. Similar (but much smaller) cave complexes exist at nearby sites such as Jogeshwari, Mahakali and Mandapeshwar, all of which are well worth exploring if time permits.

This suggests that Salsette Island was an ideal location for the settlement of a large Buddhist community. With ancient trade routes nearby it would have enabled the monks to come into contact with the merchant community, who in turn would provide continuous patronage in the form of gifts and endowments, which is evident from the various inscriptions that have been found here.

Kanheri Caves (1896), from the Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency by James M. Campbell

The 109 caves are located on three hills, with a stream flowing between the northern and southern hill which collects water at the eastern end. It’s clear that the monks here did all they could to utilize every drop of rain water, with a complex series of small water channels cut to enable almost every cave to have it’s own water cistern.

As you can see from the map above, the site is vast and nothing can quite prepare you for that. There is no definitive route around the complex, and at times you can get a little disorientated as to where you actually are within the overall site. Each cave has it’s own number, sometimes labelled at the front of the cave but not always. The cave numbering system is primarily down to the order in which they were originally recorded, so you’ll find for example Cave 42 right next to Cave 72.

What follows is a pictorial account of the main highlights at Kanheri, along with a brief description of what can be seen. This is numerical order, as it seemed the only logical way to go about it.

Cave 1

Facing west, Cave 1 is a Buddhist monastery (vihara) with two gigantic pillars very similar to those that can be seen in Cave 1 at Elephanta. Attempts to make this a two storeyed cave appear to have been abandoned, probably due to a defect being discovered in the rock.

Cave 2

Also facing west, Cave 2 consists of three stupas each set in their own chambers and a vihara. Mortise holes on the façade of the cave suggest that there was once a large wooden roof at the front. Having a shrine with more than one stupa is relatively unusual, so it’s interesting as to why this was deemed necessary at Cave 2.

The most elaborately carved chamber houses Stupa 3, with multiple panels depicting Buddha in a standing or teaching attitude, often the same image repeated many times over.

Cave 2 has five inscriptions in total, one records a gift of a refectory by Nakanaka from Nashik, another a gift of a water cistern by Svamidatta, a goldsmith from Kalyana.

Cave 3 – Chaitya Cave

Cave 3 is the largest and most visited cave at the site, with a substantial courtyard the entrance to which is flanked by two guardians (dvarpalas). One of the highlights of Kanheri Caves has to be the carvings found here on the side walls of the vestibule.

Here are two gigantic 7m high statues of Buddha, the photos don’t really portray the sense of scale, but they’re hugely impressive. On the left leg of the Buddha to your left as you enter the cave there’s some graffiti – “A Butfer, K.B., J.B., J.S., 78” which (perhaps unfortunately) records a visit by Ann Butfer, K Bates, John Butfer and John Shaw in 1678.

Flanking the central entrance to the hall are four donor couples.

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Constructed in 1431, the Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and tomb (dargah) situated on a small islet, 500m from the coast in the middle of Worli Bay in Mumbai.

Access to the mosque and tomb is only possible at low tide, as the causeway is submerged during high tides. You can view the high and low tide times for Mumbai here.

The mosque was built in memory of a wealthy merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Shah Bukhari, who was born in Uzbekistan and travelled widely in the 15th century before settling in present-day Mumbai.

There are many miracles attributed to Sayyed Peer Haji Shah Bukhari both during his lifetime and after his death. One such story has the Saint praying in his hometown when a lady passed by crying and screaming. When he enquired about her crying, she pointed to an empty vessel in her hand and said that she had dropped some oil, and if she went home without the oil her husband would beat her. The Saint asked her to be calm and went with her to the place where the oil had been dropped. He then took the vessel from the wailing lady and pushed the earth with his thumb. Oil immediately came out like a fountain, and the vessel was filled. The Saint gave her the vessel full of oil and she went away happy.

Shortly afterwards, the Saint was troubled by dreams of having wounded the earth by striking it in this manner with his thumb. Full of remorse and grief, and with the permission of his mother, he travelled to India with his brother and finally reached the shores of Mumbai, near Worli. His brother went back to their hometown with a letter from the Saint informing his mother that he was keeping in good health and that he had decided to stay at this place permanently in order to the spread the word of Islam.

Before his death he advised his followers that they should not bury him at any proper place or graveyard, but should instead drop his shroud (kaftan) in the ocean and he should be buried by the people where it is found.

His followers obeyed his wish, the shroud came to rest on a small mound of rocks rising above the sea, from where his tomb and mosque was subsequently built.

With thousands of visitors each week and exposed to the saline winds, the structure is in a state of constant erosion. Extensive renovations have been undertaken in 1960, 1964 and again in 2008, with the building now clad in white marble from Makrana (Rajasthan), the same source of marble used for the Taj Mahal in Agra.

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Elephanta Island is home to one of the finest rock-cut temples in India, and any visitor to this small island of great scenic beauty is likely to focus their attentions on the main cluster of five temples located on the western hill. But for those wishing to dig a bit deeper into the antiquity that this island has to offer, a quick look at any map of the island will give you some pointers as to where to go next.

Caves 6 and 7 are located outside the main temple complex on the opposing eastern hill, known as ‘Stupa Hill’. My previous blog post on the Elephanta Caves details how to find these two much less visited caves.

Having successfully found them, I decided it was time to get a little more adventurous and try and locate the stupa that the hill is named after. Some maps show two stupas on Elephanta island; Stupa 1 on the crest of the hill and labelled as ‘unexcavated’, and Stupa 2 down by the shore of the island labelled as ‘unexplored’. With limited time, I decided to only try and locate Stupa 1, which is dated to the 2nd century A.D.

So this blog picks up the trail from Cave 7 in my previous blog, heading north-east following a stone/rock lined path that was rapidly becoming lost in the undergrowth.

This pathway is clearly very old and soon headed into thick woodland of palms, tamarind and mango trees. I decided it was best to try and stick to the path as much as I was able to, as in all probability would take me to the location of the stupa. A modern water pipe runs parallel to the ancient path for some of the distance.

Before long I passed on my right what is marked on the map as a pond, but on other maps it is labelled as a tank. This doesn’t appear to be man made but it is a huge, and although when I visited it was dry it must have possibly served as a source of water for the inhabitants of the island in the past.

Shortly after passing this pond, the stone lined path seemed to come to an abrupt end in front of three stone cut tanks. These are also marked on the map right next to the location of the stupa. One of the tanks was home to a rotting drowned dog, so I’m afraid there are no photos of that tank !

From the tanks, if you look up you will in fact be staring straight at the Stupa 1. Although completely overgrown, the distinctive shape of the dome (anda) is plainly visible despite being untouched for some 1,700 years.

In terms of size, I would estimate that this stupa is of a similar proportions to Stupa 2 or Stupa 3 at Sanchi.

As the monument is in the declared “core archaeological zone” of Elephanta Island I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as overgrown as this. There doesn’t appear to have been any attempts to clear the stupa of vegetation or trees for many years (if ever) and this does pose a threat to the monument.

Removal of trees from archaeological sites is not always necessary, particularly if the trees are stable and relatively mature. However, for a site such as this it is utterly essential. The root growth with young trees can be rapid and quickly damage archaeological remains, especially masonry or brick built structures such as this. In addition, the act of a tree throw (when a tree blows over) can pose a significant risk to archaeological sites, as it can throw up massive root plates that damage any structures the roots have entwined themselves into.

Encircling the stupa is a band of very rough stones, from a distance I was hopeful these may be the fallen remains of a balustrade, but I couldn’t see any evidence that the stones had been worked to any great degree. Instead they appear to be the remains of a revetment, now in ruins but certainly forming a distinctive band around the monument.

I searched the area around the stupa looking for any signs of worked stone. A few rough bricks were lying..

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Prior to my long overdue visit to Mumbai I did quite a bit of research on locations for photography in the city, and discovered that just a stones throw from my hotel a couple of the colonial buildings are lit up at night. So off I set one evening armed with my tripod to check them out…

In a bid to boost the city’s tourism, the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station is now lit up with over 16 million colourful lights at night. In September 2009 a Pune based architect, Kiran Kalamdani, was appointed to undertake the project by Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).

It’s a hugely impressive sight, if you have a tripod then you can have all sorts of fun and games trying to capture this. The station is lit using 25 different themes which change during every festive occasion, so for International Women’s Day it was bathed in pure pink.

Just across the road, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai building it also lit up at night. When I arrived it was pure purple, but by the time I had set up the camera and composed the shot, it has changed to white. For the next hour it didn’t change colour again, so I don’t know how often that occurs.

These buildings are surrounded by busy roads, but fortunately there is a viewing platform that has been constructed in front of the Municipal Corporation building. You’ll need quite a wide angle lens here to fit that building into your shot.

If you’re staying or find yourself in the Fort district of Mumbai on any evening it’s well worth heading for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station to see this for yourself.

You’re welcome to ‘Like’ or add a comment if you enjoyed this blog post. If you’d like to be notified of any new content, why not sign up by clicking the ‘Follow’ button.

If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…

KevinStandage1@gmail.com

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 2M ago

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, Elephanta Caves consists of seven rock-cut caves located on Elephanta Island (or Gharapuri, “the city of caves”), just outside Mumbai Harbour.

The seven caves at Elephanta are split into two clusters; caves 1 – 5 are on the western hill, and the lesser visited caves 6 and 7 are on the eastern hill. The eastern hill is also known as Stupa Hill, named after a 2nd century Buddhist stupa that crowns the summit, which I also explored and will blog about shortly.

Although partially damaged by time and vandalism, the 6th century carvings at Elephanta are considered to be of the very highest quality, and have inspired awe in foreign visitors ever since the Portuguese arrived here almost 500 years ago.

A ferry service from the Gateway of India runs every 30 minutes starting at 9 – 9.30am and takes about an hour to reach the island. You can get further details on this ferry service here.

Having arrived on the island it’s a short but steep climb up 120 steps to reach the main complex entrance, and then on to Cave 1.

Cave 1

By far the most important and famous of all the caves on Elephanta Island, today it is accessed from the north taking you directly into the main cave, but it’s believed the original primary entrance would have been from the east, next to eastern wing.

The cave has a very deliberate geometric layout. It is divided up into 37 bays, separated by columns. The bays are laid out in an inner square of 5 x 5, with a group of three outer bays on each side of this inner square.

There are two key axes running through the cave; a north-south axis leads from todays entrance to an enormous triple-headed Shiva statue, the east-west axis starts from the eastern courtyard, passes through a Shiva shrine and lingam and leads through to the western courtyard.

Cave 1 is dedicated to Shiva, and as your eyes adjust to the dim light be prepared to be overwhelmed by the scale of volume of the large relief panels that are all over this cave.

What follows is a brief description of each of these panels, starting with the left panel as you enter, and then going clockwise around the cave.

Shiva as Mahayogi or Lakulisa

Now badly damaged, this panel shows Shiva in meditative mood, seated in the lotus position. A very similar panel to this one can also be seen at Ellora Caves. Brahma (with three heads riding a swan) and Vishnu (riding an eagle) are in the top corners.

Some scholars have argued that this panel may actually be representing Lakulisa, the 28th incarnation of Shiva, although despite the damaged nature of the carving there seems little evidence of a lakula (club) which Lakulisa is always depicted holding.

Ravana shaking Kailasa

This is a massive carving showing the king of Lanka, Ravana, being humiliated in the hands of Shiva. Ravana tried to lift Kailash mountain, the home of Shiva, in an effort to carry it to his hometown of Lanka.

Shiva and Parvati are shown seated on the mountain, one of Shiva’s arms is outstretched to Parvati, possibly indicating that she should not panic. She is seated to Shiva’s left, with Bhringi near his feet and Ganesha and Vishnu also present. The ten-headed, twenty-armed Ravana  is at the bottom of the panel, attempting to lift the mountain. Almost identical panels to this can be seen in Cave 16 and Cave 21 at Ellora.

Shiva and Parvati at Kailasha

This is a badly damaged panel showing Shiva and Parvati seated on Kailash mountain. You can just make out the rough outline of a bull, Shiva’s mount Nandi, with some figures either side.

Above Shiva and Parvati are shown various structures, houses and palaces, which represent their home on Kailash

Although now the most damaged panel at Elephanta, a pristine identical panel is again preserved at Ellora in Cave 21.

Ardhanarisvara Shiva

This is a beautiful panel showing Shiva as Ardhanarisvara (part man, part woman), a transformation that allowed Shiva to produce all living creatures. Notice how the female side (representing Parvati) has more jewellery, with accentuated hip, single large breast, as she looks into a mirror.

On the male side, one of Shiva’s many arms is resting on a wonderfully naturalistic carving of a Nandi. There’s also Kartikeya (Shiva’s son) riding a peacock, Brahma riding swans, Visnu on a Garuda, and Indra riding his elephant. Ardhanarisvara is considered the ultimate concept of the union of male and female.

Sadashiva / Mahesha / Trimurti

It’s hard not to enter cave 1 and immediately head for this carving, it is utterly spectacular. Carved on the back (south) wall, exactly opposite the main entrance, is the three-headed bust of Shiva, identified as Mahesa, Mahadeva, or Sadasiva. Often thought as representing the Trimurti, it is colossal, measuring nearly 6m high on a 1m high platform.

It is awe inspiring, carved into a deep recess the image projects forward, benefiting from a little light provided by the entrance opposite.

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 3M ago

The Mahakali Caves, also known as the Kondivite or Kondivita Caves, are a series of rock-cut shrines 5km south-east of Jogeshwari Caves in Mumbai.

With excavations dating from between the 1st century B.C. and 6th century A.D, the complex consists of 19 caves cut into the summit of a hill; 15 caves on the south-east side and 4 caves on the north-west side. Long before the urban sprawl of Mumbai swallowed up this area it was known as Marol village, and several fresh water tanks used to exist which have long since disappeared.

There’s been a number of variations in the naming of this site. J.M. Campbell (1882) refers to them as Kondivite or Kondivti Caves on account of the caves being close to Kondivti village, Fergusson (1880) names them as Kondiwte Caves, whereas S.R. Wauchop (1933) elects to call them Mahakel Caves. Ironically for a Buddhist monument, the present day name of Mahakali Caves is derived from a nearby Hindu temple.

Some efforts have been made here to protect the monument from encroachment and misuse. The site now has a perimeter fence, hopefully preventing them from being used as illicit liquor distilleries, or frequented by sex workers. This and encroachment by shanty dwellings was quite prevalent until quite recently

Upon entering the complex the first set of monuments you will reach are the string of 15 caves on the south-east side.

 

South-East Group

Caves 1, 2 and 3

These three caves are connected with each other, the middle one is the largest with an open courtyard and pillared portico.

At the far end of the rectangular hall is a seat for an icon, and behind that a stupa has been carved on the back wall.

 

Cave 4 (Vihara Cave)

A flight of five steps takes you up to a verandah and then into the Vihara cave hall. Chambers on either side lead to a further three cells.

It’s quite a large space, but devoid of any intricate carvings. However, immediately outside the entrance is a roughly hewn cobra with seven hoods.

There’s some speculation as to whether this carving is associated with a Sarpala (or Snake pond) that exists at the foot of the hill.

 

Cave 5, 6, 7 and 8

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 3M ago

Jogeshwari Caves in the Andheri district of Mumbai are amongst the earliest rock-cut cave temples built by Hindus in India. Dated to 520 – 550 A.D, they were once richly ornamented, but sadly due to their damp location the caves have been slowly crumbling for centuries.

Locating the caves is not easy at all. Google maps has the pin in the right district, but it is certainly not in the right place, and don’t expect any signage or hints of the caves at ground level. Your best bet is to get broadly in the right area, and ask the locals, although even by doing that it took me three attempts before anybody was able to point me in the right direction !

Jogeshwari Caves are extremely well hidden, cut into a low hillock they are at a much lower level than their surroundings. The urban growth of Mumbai has completely engulfed the caves, they are utterly hemmed in by buildings, including the roof.

Access into the caves is via a narrow passage cut into the bedrock, seemingly descending into a dark underworld, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Conditions are not great here, open drains adjoin the caves and there are pools of stagnant water everywhere.

Jogeshwari Caves consists of an impressive cavernous large hall, with 20 carved pillars and a square shrine in the center containing a Shiva linga. It’s plan very much resembles Cave 1 (the main cave) at Elephanta and Cave 29 at Ellora, although the excavations here are considered to be slightly earlier than Elephanta.

It’s a very surreal experience, just a few meters away above and around the cave is the hustle and bustle of urban life going about its daily routine, and yet hidden away from all of that is this massive excavation offering a feeling of space and peacefulness. Caves normally give a sense of claustrophobia compared to their surroundings, and yet here it’s the complete opposite.

Still a place of active worship by locals, some scholars believe that the caves were excavated under the patronage of the Maurya of Konkan, Kalachuri. As well as being one of the earliest Hindu caves in India, Jogeshwari is also the largest in terms of length.

There are a few shrines within the cave, including a 1,500 year old Ganesh, painted fluorescent orange and adorned with garlands. Two massive human guardian figures stand on either side of a doorway beyond, along with fragments of ornamentation.

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Kevin Standage by Kevinstandagehotography - 3M ago

Located near Mount Poinsur in the Borivali suburb of Mumbai, Mandapeshwar Caves is an 6th – 8th century rock cut shrine dedicated to Shiva.

The caves today stand behind an open clearing in front of a main road. It’s believed that at one time the Dahisar river ran in front of it, but over the passage of time the river has changed its course. What is left of that river is now about 300m away from the caves.

Shanty dwellings also use to crowd around the caves, with the excavations used as gambling dens, until local NGOs cleared the area some time back. Clearly these caves have seen a lot over the centuries, and the more recent events is just the tip of the iceberg.

The main cave consists of a pillared forecourt with three side chambers. Stylistically the cave is almost identical to Cave 21 at Ellora in its plan and sculptural decoration.  The central sanctum has a small Shiva linga and is still worshipped today, a small nandi in front of the sanctum entrance also reminds us that this is a Shiva temple.

There are some relief panels that have survived the cave’s turbulent history. One depicts the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, another with Shiva as Nataraja. Considering all that this cave has endured, it’s surprising that anything has survived at all.

There’s a second smaller cave next to the main cave, undecorated and with crudely shaped pillars. It almost suggests that this cave was never fully completed, or had some sort of peripheral use that did not warrant any specific carvings.

A walk around this small site yields much evidence of a troubled past. As a Hindu temple, it was specifically targeted by the Portuguese, who asserted their religious beliefs over it by literally building a monastery and church right on top of it.

The ruined remains of that structure, dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and consecrated in 1544, can still be seen today above the cave.

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