The City of Caves (Gharapuri) Art, Om & Altered States on Elephanta Island

Elephanta Caves

One hour after setting sail (crossing 10km of the Arabian Ocean) just south of Mumbai, India, we land. Setting foot on ‘Elephanta Island’ or Gharapuri, the City of Caves, we began the hot trek upwards… to Elephanta Caves.

Dug deep into the volcanic rock formation, these caves were built well over a millennium ago.

Excavated by hand and covering an astounding 60,000 square feet. Entering cave number one of five… and the scale of things is quite mind blowing.

Elephanta Caves

It’s impressive enough that it’s carved out of solid rock, a temple structure complete with detailed sculptures and reliefs, but there is much more to Elephanta Caves…

The Elephanta main cave follows a ‘mandala design‘ (according to archaeologist George Michell). Geometrically laid out in this balanced, mathematical, artistic way, representing the divine source from which creation emanates.

Elephanta: 60,000 Square Feet of Temple Caves

John Vincent at Elephanta Caves

Sunlight filtering through the doorway, casting a dramatic light on the colossal pillars lining the interior, our expedition begins…

What is it that drove people to create these kind of amazing places?

Spending decades, centuries, a life-time constructing these marvels… this takes real devotion.

What was it they trying to say? What message did they want to travel through time?

I believe that at the heart of the Elephanta Caves lies a profound message! A message as relevant today, as ever… a message about the spiritual journey of the individual soul.

Through intricate sculptures, reliefs and architectural design, the caves offer deep insights into the stages of spiritual evolution… and ultimately the path towards enlightenment.

The ultimate goal of the spiritual journey: Union with the Divine.

Shiva and Parvati

The Shiva and Parvati depiction… a celebration of divine love and partnership, and also the triumph of good over evil.

Representing the Cosmic Balance and Harmony between Shiva (the Masculine Principle) and Parvati (the Feminine Principle), these are mind-bogglingly remarkable rock-cut sculptures. The intricately carved figures (some standing up to 20 feet high) were made to express these philosophies and pass them on throughout time.

The Hindu Cosmology teaches the interconnectedness and unity of all things and existence… with the divine permeating every aspect of creation. This is the same message that quantum mechanics teaches us… and the timeless message of Animism.

Om in a Small Cave

But these caves go even further back in time…

The remains of a Buddhist Stupa and caves for meditation have been uncovered and date as far back as 2200 years ago…

Finding one of the smaller caves, deeper into the complex, an urge to start ‘toning’ took me.

Lord Shiva

Shiva (who the temples caves are dedicated to) is the original master of Yoga.Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ’ is the main Buddhist Mantra, so Om (or Aum), seemed like the obvious sound to chant…

Joining me, my traveling companion brought in the feminine energy and timber to the vocal toning.

Suddenly the small cave filled with sound…

Volume is an interesting phenomena. The energy of the vocal toning became concentrated as the sound-waves interacted with the cave walls, reflecting back, enriching the overall tone and creating a denser sound field.… almost like they were designed for this exact thing!

The effect was mesmerizing… taking me back, years in time, to the first powerful experience of over 150 people chanting ‘Om’ sitting in a circle, under a Banyan tree… the chorus effect and magnitude of the sound resonating my body.

Trapped within the cave walls, the sound waves transformed the experience of our vocal toning… leaving me to meditate for a short time alone in this cave my partner wondered off…

Vocal Toning at Elephanta Caves

Shiva is the first teacher of the science of Yoga and Elephanta Caves has one of the oldest sculptures depicting him Meditating in Lotus Position.

Thousands of years later… here I am, in lotus, deep in meditation . . .

Dissolving into the formless…

One with All . . .

“The goal of life is to radiate happiness from each and every cell of your being”
Shiva Sutras

‘Sadashiva’ the 18 foot tall: Trimurti Sculpture

Five Faces of Shiva

Shiva in the roles of: Destroyer, Preserver and Creator

“Everything is nothing, and nothing is everything”

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