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Elephanta Festival

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Celebrating the living heritage of Indian dance, art and sculpture, the Elephanta Festival has gained popularity over the years by creating a wide platform for local and national artists, dancers and musicians to showcase their talents. Started in 1989, the Elephanta Festival is one of the most prominent festivals in Mumbai celebrated to promote tourism and culture in the city. Organised by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in association with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the yearly Elephanta festival, is usually held at the world-renowned Elephanta Caves (a World Heritage Site) and sometimes at the Gateway of India. This year the festival will be held from March 15-16, 2014 at both the locales. “Last year we hosted the festival against the backdrop of the caves solely. However, this year we are thinking of doing the day activities at the caves and the evening cultural programmes at the Gateway of India. This is because people face difficulty while returning home from the Elephanta Caves at late hours. Though we requested BEST (The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking) and the railway to have trips during late hours, this hasn’t proved beneficial,” states Dr Jagdish Patil, managing director, MTDC.

Dr Jagdish Patil

The day activities, which span from morning to six in the evening includes guided tours, painting competitions, to name a few. While the evening cultural programmes which consists of classical dances, plays, skits, instrumental and vocal recitals continues till 10 in the night. Apart from displaying myriad talents from across the nation, this festival also promotes local creativity. “We are supporting the local community to have their traditional cultural programmes in the Tarapur village,” opines Patil. The festivities start with a folk dance from the local fishermen (Koli).

As for arrangements, there are launches ferring visitors at intermittent intervals to the heritage site. “We hire launches, which make three to four trips to the caves in a day,” mentions Patil. Seats are also arranged on the open ground at the Gateway of India for the cultural programmes accommodate around 2500 visitors. This year, MTDC is planning to install screens on various roads across Mumbai including – Carter Road, World Seaface, Juhu Chowpatty. “If the monitoring committees of these areas allow us to install screens then thousands of people will be able to witness the festivities. However, permissions for this are still on way.” reveals Patil.

Festival highlights

The highlight of the festival are the several ethnic food stalls displaying the traditional food of the region. In addition, the illuminated Maheshmurti (Shiva idol) located in the main cave of the Elephanta Island is also a prominent attraction during the festivities. The idol is lit up at night, providing an amazing backdrop to the entire setting. Over the years, the festival has become a huge attraction for domestic and foreign tourists. However, the international tourists become aware of this festival only during their visit to the city. “There was a gap of three years since the 26/11 Mumbai attack. So next year we are trying to bring consistency in the date of the festival and preparing a calender of events for the same so that international tourists can fix their dates to visit the festival. This will help us to draw more foreign tourists as well as measure the impact of the festival,” explains Patil. Elephanta Caves is located at a distance of 10 kilometres from Mumbai Harbour. The initial name of the Elephanta Caves was Gharapuri which means, ‘a peaceful living place of Lord Shiva’. The name Elephanta Caves was given by the Portuguese, after a carved elephant was found on the island.

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)

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