India // Mumbai //

Elephanta

An hour’s ride northeast across Mumbai harbour from Colaba, the island of Elephanta offers the best escape from the seething claustrophobia of the city – as long as you time your visit to avoid the weekend deluge of noisy day-trippers. Populated only by a small fishing community, it was originally known as Gherapura, the “city of Ghara priests”, until the island was renamed in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese in honour of the carved elephant they found at the port – now on display outside the Dr Bhau Dadji Lad Museum in Byculla. Its chief attraction is its unique cave temple, whose massive Trimurti (three-faced) Shiva sculpture is as fine an example of Hindu architecture as you’ll find anywhere.