25 July 2010

2000 year old caves are there

'What does that mean? Does it mean that the caves are in that direction or does it mean that they exist' asked Cat and Dem almost in-sync like most other questions/opinions they've shared with me in the last two days! In Indian English 'xyz is there' strangely more often refers to xyz being in existence.

Till yesterday Cat and Dem were acquaintances from my days in London - we had crossed paths because of friends and work quite a few times but we probably didn’t know each other enough to claim to be friends. They are here in Bombay for 3 days as they conclude their 3 month trip of discovering India and a bit of themselves :-)

They started their grand India tour in April when they landed in Bombay and headed south.. Three months later, here they are again waiting to catch a flight back to London having seen more of India (south/north/west) than I have in my entire life. As you can imagine they are quiet tired, but the traveler in me is not able to let them leave the city without showing them something here! Given the fact that they have a flight to catch early tomorrow I was given a difficult task of choosing only one place in Bombay to show them.

Keeping in mind that they've probably had more than their share of the noisy Indian streets/bazaars I decided to take them to the oldest and possibly the quietest part of the city, to a place that is as far away from it as possible but still within it! But these girls had no idea what we were going to see, I had left it as a surprise!

Bombay is one of the few large cities in the world that has an entire forest bang in the center of it. The Borivali national park is no city park... it's a real forest - complete with dense tree cover, lakes, waterfalls and even wild leopards.

This morning we headed straight for Borivali and once we got to the entrance of the national park I told them that we had to take a long walk to deep inside the forest to get away from the madness of the city to see a very special place.… We walked.. and walked and walked some more till we finally got to what seemed like the end of the road.. the place was lined up with lots of cars and hoards of people (so much for my attempt to find them a quiet place in the city!). The crowded road lead straight into some small hills which we could see from far was covered in tiny rows of people scattering up its slopes like lines of ants on a foraging expedition.. it was now time to reveal to them why we had walked soo much and why the heart of the forest was filled with these loud groups!

Not only is the Borivali national park home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, it even has its own lost city - a monastic city of a 100 odd caves carved into its rocky hills by Bhuddist monks. The oldest of which are over 2000 years old.
The famous Kanheri caves of Borivali are one of the most notable sights in the megacity and probably also the most unexpected. Everyone knows that Bombay is one of India youngest cities, a toddler in a country filled with ancient places.. yet here at its heart, deep inside the forest is one of the most impressive relics of a bygone way of life.
Although most of the caves here are quiet austere there are a few exceptions (around 5 of them) which are inspiring to say the least – complete with elaborate sculptures carved onto the cave wall surface and interesting sequence/scale of spaces.

Thankfully in their 3 months in India, Cat and Dem had missed all the other caves in the country (some of which - like the ones in Ajanta and Ellora - are far more elaborate), so the choice of bringing them to see the caves turned out to be a great way to end their first trip to India.
After exploring some of the caves and soaking in a bit of the amazing ambiance it was time for us to head back into the concrete jungle.

I’ve got some friends coming over tonight and the girls are insisting on cooking something special :-)

Some how I get the feeling that I’ll really miss - Cat and Dem…It always amazes me that people you think are worlds apart from you can be soo close! Have a safe journey home and back to India...

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