Etched in stone

Mumbai must be proud of its colonial-inspired architecture, with several city monuments serving as symbols for the metro. But there are several historic jewels that are languishing in darkness, ignored by public interest, that date back to centuries earlier, reflecting its rich ancient past. To focus on this oft-forgotten factor, renowned archaeologist Dr Madhukar Dhavalikar will conduct a talk, Cultural Heritage of Mumbai that will discuss the importance and the state of these structuresin the city.

The Elephanta Caves house one of the world’s biggest stone sculptures. Pics/ Pradeep Dhivar

Stone Age in the city
“Mumbai has had residents as long back as half a million years ago. Archaeological surveys have uncovered tools belonging to man of this period in the area of Kandivali. Another area of importance in the suburbs is Nalasopara. It even has a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible, as Ophir, a port that had trade relations with King Solomon and supplied luxurious goods such as ivory, gold, peacocks and even monkeys!” says Dhavalikar. Dhavalikar says that the period since the Stone Age till the time when the city went to the other rulers such as the Gujarat Sultans and Portuguese serves as the ancient period, which will be the section covered by him in the talk. 

Dhavalikar informs us that Nalasopara was also known as Shurparaka that also has connection with Mauryan king Ashoka, who built a stupa to enshrine the begging bowl of Buddha and also, erected his famous edicts (which describe Buddhism). Other important locations that connect with the history of Buddhism include the Kanheri Caves, Mahakali Caves and Jogeshwari Caves, which served as a college for priests at the time. “The Mandapeshwar Caves in Borivali were destroyed by the Portuguese and what now stands there is Mount Poinsur. But one of the biggest gems are the Elephanta Caves, home to one of the biggest sculptures in the world,” says Dhavalikar.

The Jogeshwari Caves like several other monuments in Mumbai, lie in ruin

Neglect and ruin
While Elephanta might have received the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag, not all historical sites hold that importance today. “The Parel Shiva statue lies in a makeshift hut surrounded by slums. The statue has lost all its relief features and Mumbai weather with its humidity and rains wrecks havoc to these structures. People need to understand that these statues are not meant to be worshipped as family deities but these need to preserved as heritage objects in museums. The same can be said about the Eksar memorial relics near Borivali, which are relics of a naval battle dating the 12th or 13th century. It is said that the Yadava king who defeated the Silhara king, threw everything that belonged to him in the sea, even elephants. These relics need to be preserved,” reminds Dhavalikar.

> Nalasopara
> Kanheri Caves
> Jogeshwari Caves
> Elephanta Caves
> Mandapeshwar Caves
> Parel
> Eksar relics near Borivali

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