Mumbai

There's plenty to see in Mumbai, but it doesn’t have much in the way of the stationary monuments that London, Paris, Delhi, and other major cities possess. The art of experiencing Mumbai lies in eating, shopping, and wandering through the strikingly different neighborhoods and the various markets. Think of Mumbai as a 50-km (30-mile) -long open-air bazaar.

Colaba, headed by Gateway of India, is the tourist district and main drag for visitors, and from the Gateway of India to Colaba Market, along the main road, is a walkable stretch of hotels, pubs, restaurants, and interesting shops. Churchgate and Nariman Point are the business and hotel centers, and major bank and airline headquarters are clustered in skyscrapers on Nariman Point.

The district referred to as Fort—which includes Mumbai's hub, Flora Fountain—is filled with narrow, bustling streets lined with small shops and office buildings, as well as colleges and other educational facilities. Another upscale residential neighborhood, Malabar Hill, north of Churchgate on Marine Drive, is leafy and breezy, with fine, old stone mansions housing wealthy industrialists and government ministers.

Shopping and people-watching are most colorfully combined in Mumbai's chaotic bazaar areas, such as Chor Bazaar, Zaveri (jewelry) Bazaar, and Crawford Market (aka Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market). Many of the city's newest and trendiest shops and restaurants are now out in the suburbs—where more and more people have been moving due to soaring real-estate prices and a lack of space—but South Mumbai still retains some of the very best.

Some travelers opt to stay in the suburbs, either in Bandra, at the end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link; or in Juhu, a popular coastal suburb between Mumbai and the airports (about 20 km [12 miles] north of the city center). Juhu's beaches aren't clean enough for swimming, and the place can be scruffy, but staying out here is a good way to observe everyday Indian life beyond the shadow of Mumbai's skyline. Sunday nights bring families down to the beach for an old-fashioned carnival, complete with small, hand-powered Ferris wheels, and lantern-lit snack stalls hawking sugarcane.

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  • 1. Ajanta Caves

    Ruins

    Set in a wide, steep, horseshoe-shaped gorge above a wild mountain stream, the Ajanta caves reward intrepid travelers—you'd be surprised how...

    Set in a wide, steep, horseshoe-shaped gorge above a wild mountain stream, the Ajanta caves reward intrepid travelers—you'd be surprised how few are willing to make the trip here, a three hour-drive from Aurangabad—with a stunning glimpse into ancient India. India's greatest collection of cave paintings dates back two millennia and is housed within massive carved stone caverns. If you can make it only to either Ellora or Ajanta, choose Ajanta for the comparative lack of crowds, and the pristine serenity of the forest.It's believed that a band of wandering Buddhist monks first came here in the 2nd century BC, searching for a place to meditate during the monsoons. Ajanta was ideal—peaceful and remote, with a spectacular setting. The monks began carving caves into the gray rock face of the gorge, and a new temple form was born.Over the course of seven centuries, the cave temples of Ajanta evolved into works of incredible art. Structural engineers continue to be awestruck by the sheer brilliance of the ancient builders, who, undaunted by the limitations of their implements, materials, and skills, created a marvel of artistic and architectural splendor. In all, 29 caves were carved, 15 of which were left unfinished; some of them were viharas (monasteries)—complete with stone pillows carved onto the monks' stone beds—others were chaityas (Buddhist cathedrals). All of the caves were profusely decorated with intricate sculptures and murals depicting the many incarnations of Buddha.As the influence of Buddhism declined, the number of monk-artists became fewer, and the temples were swallowed by the voracious jungle. It was not until about a thousand years later, in 1819, that Englishman John Smith, while tiger hunting on the bluff overlooking the Waghora River in the dry season noticed the soaring arch of what is now known as Cave 10 peeking out from the thinned greenery in the ravine below; it was he who subsequently unveiled the caves to the modern world. Incidentally, tigers are not too far from this area (the thick forests from Ajanta to Kannad are the Gautala wildlife sanctuary). Today the caves at Ajanta and Ellora have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.Both Ajanta and Ellora have monumental facades and statues that were chipped out of solid rock, but it's at Ajanta that you can also see India's most remarkable cave paintings, which have survived the centuries. The monks created these by spreading a carefully prepared plaster of clay, cow dung, chopped rice husks, and lime onto the rough rock walls, and painting pictures on the walls with local pigments: red ocher, burnt brick, copper oxide, lampblack, and dust from crushed green rocks. The caves are now like chapters of a splendid epic in visual form, recalling the life of the Buddha, and illustrating tales from Buddhist jatakas (fables). As the artists told the story of the Buddha, they portrayed the life and civilization they knew—a drama of ancient nobles, wise men, and commoners. Keep some loose change with you, and if you're not sightseeing with a guide, ask one of the attendants at each cave to tell you a bit about its significance; tip them ten rupees for their kindness. Where to Start? The caves are connected by a fair number of steps; it's best to start at the far end at Cave 26 and work your way back, to avoid a long trek back at the end. The initial ascent, before you reach the cave level, is also quite a climb, at 92 steps. Palanquins carried by helpers are available for the less hardy, for Rs. 400. Flash photography and video cameras are prohibited inside the caves (shooting outside is fine), but for an extra Rs. 5 added to your admission fee, lights are turned on in the caves as you enter. Right outside the caves, a shoddy MTDC-run restaurant, predictably called the Ajanta, offers simple refreshments; this is the only refreshment area or stall near the caves. What is the most important to see? Opinions vary on which of the Ajanta caves is most exquisite: Caves 1, 2, 16, 17, and 19 are generally considered to have the best paintings; caves 1, 6, 10, 17, 19, and 26 the best sculptures. (The caves are numbered from west to east, not in chronological order.) Try to see all eight of these caves, at least.Most popular at Ajanta are the paintings in Cave 1. These depict the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva Padmapani. Padmapani, or the "one with the lotus in his hand," is considered to be the alter ego of the Lord Buddha; Padmapani assumed the duties of the Buddha when he disappeared. Padmapani is depicted with his voluptuous wife, one of Ajanta's most widely reproduced figures. When seen from different angles, the magnificent Buddha statue in this cave seems to wear different facial expressions. Cave 2 is remarkable for its ceiling decorations and the murals relating the birth of the Buddha. For its sheer exuberance, the painting of women on a swing is considered the finest. It's on the right wall as you enter, and when you face the wall it's on the left side. Cave 6 is a two-story cave with lovely detail. Climb the steep steps to the second floor, where there are pillars that emit musical sounds when rapped. On the first floor is an interesting well/undergound tank just outside the cave.The oldest cave is Cave 10, a shrine dating from 200 BC, filled with Buddhas and dominated by an enormous stupa (a dome, or monument, to Buddha). It's only in AD 100, however, that the exquisite brush-and-line work begins: in breathtaking detail, the Shadanta Jataka, a legend about the Buddha, is depicted on the wall in a continuous panel. There are no idols of Buddha in this cave, indicating that idol worship was not in vogue at the time (although Cave 19 does contain idols of Buddha, showing the progression of thought and the development of new methods of worship as the centuries wore on). Guides and caretakers will enthusiastically point out the name of the Englishman, John Smith, who rediscovered the caves—his name, along with "1819" underneath, is carved on the 12th pillar on the right-hand side of this cave. (It's Cave 10, with its domed arch that Smith first spotted).The monk-artists seem to have reached their zenith in Cave 16, where a continuous narrative spreads both horizontally and vertically, evolving into a panoramic whole—at once logical and stunning. One painting here is especially riveting: known as The Dying Princess, it's believed to represent Sundari, the wife of the Buddha's half-brother Nanda, who left her to become a monk. Cave 16 has an excellent view of the river and may have been the entrance to the entire series of caves. Cave 17 holds the greatest number of pictures undamaged by time. Luscious heavenly damsels fly effortlessly overhead, a prince makes love to a princess, and the Buddha tames a raging elephant. (Resisting temptation is a theme.) Other favorite paintings include the scene of a woman applying lipstick and one of a princess performing sringar (her toilette)—this last is on the right-hand wall as you enter, and as you face the wall on the farthest right pillar. Cave 26 is the more interesting of the caves on the far end. An impressive sculpted panel of a reclining Buddha is on your left as you enter. It's apparently a portrayal of a dying Buddha on the verge of attaining nirvana. His weeping followers are at his side, while celestial beings are waiting to transport him to the land of no tomorrows (no rebirths).A number of unfinished caves were abandoned, but even these are worth a visit if you can haul yourself up a steep 100 steps (alternatively, you can walk up the bridle path, a gentler ascent in the form of a crescent pathway alongside the caves); from here you there is a magnificent view of the ravine descending into the Waghura River. There's an even easier way to reach this point: on your return by car to Aurangabad, 20 km (12 mi) from the caves, take a right at Balapur and head 8 km (5 mi) toward Viewpoint, as it's called by the locals. A trip to the Ajanta caves needs to be well planned. You can see the caves at a fairly leisurely pace in two hours, but the drive to and from the caves takes anywhere from two to three hours. Come prepared with water, lunch or snacks (from a shop in Aurangabad, because you won't get much here except packed items like potato chips at the visitor center, and nothing once you enter the caves), comfortable walking shoes (that can be slipped on and off easily, because shoes are not allowed inside the caves), socks to pad about the cave in and not get your feet dirty, a small flashlight, a hat or umbrella for the heat, and patience. Aurangabad can be hot year-round, and touring 29 caves can be tiring. The paintings are dimly lit to protect the artwork, and a number are badly damaged, so deciphering the work takes some effort. The Archaeological Survey of India has, however, put a lot of effort into making the caves more viewable, including installing special ultraviolet lights to brighten certain panels. Shades and nets installed at the mouth of each cave keep out excess sun and bats.There's no longer direct access to the caves. All visitors are required to park their cars or disembark from their coaches at a visitor center 3 km (2 mi) from the caves. A Rs. 6 ticket (Rs. 10 for an air-conditioned bus, which go less frequently) buys you a place on frequently departing green Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) buses to the caves. Remember to carry the most important (and just enough) possessions with you because it's a long haul back to retrieve snacks, guide books, or hats, or to dump extra belongings. The visitor complex has stalls with people hawking souvenirs, film, sodas, water, and packaged and fresh hot snacks—plus lots of irritating hawkers and unknown guides that need to be assiduously ignored and firmly dismissed. MTDC operates a small hotel (25 rooms, 15 with a/c; 24/3824–4230) 5 km (3 mi) from the caves, at Fardapur. A cloak room is available at the caves to deposit bags for Rs. 5 per bag.

    100 km (62 miles) northeast of Aurangabad, , Maharashtra, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Foreigners US$5, light fee Rs. 5 (includes all caves), video camera fee Rs. 25, parking Rs. 50
  • 2. Chowpatty Beach

    Chowpatty | Beach

    Chowpatty Beach and the rest of long, elegantly curved Marine Drive are the essence of the mammoth, cheeky, beautiful seaside beast that is...

    Chowpatty Beach and the rest of long, elegantly curved Marine Drive are the essence of the mammoth, cheeky, beautiful seaside beast that is Mumbai. Chowpatty gives a taste of the bazaar and mela (festival) rolled into one. By day—weekday, that is—it's a quiet, uncluttered stretch of sand, but by night it transforms into a carnival of food and hawkers and touts and amusements of every kind, all lit up like Christmas Eve. In a rapidly changing city, it retains some of the simple pleasures in which Mumbaikars indulged before the economy skyrocketed—and it remains an equalizer of sorts, with parents of every class and caste bringing their families here for an evening of fun. For the casual traveler, it offers a window into the many colors—and smells and tastes and sounds—of Mumbai.A hundred species of salesmen throng the beach in the evening, and especially on Sunday, selling everything from glow-in-the-dark yo-yos and animal-shaped balloons to rat poison. Men stand by with bathroom scales, offering complacent strollers a chance to check their heft. Hand-operated Ferris wheels and carousels are packed with children. A few stalls nearby distribute Mumbai's famously satisfying fast food—crunchy bhel puri (puffed-rice snacks), ragda pattices (spicy potato cakes), and pav bhaji (fried vegetable mash eaten with bread). From the beach, walk southeast down Marine Drive toward Nariman Point and you'll bump into flotillas of evening strollers, cooing couples wandering past the waves in a daze, and dogs and kids being walked by their respective minders. Just about the only thing the area lacks is water that's safe for swimming.

    Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400034, India
  • 3. Babulnath Temple

    Malabar Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    To get the flavor of a large, traditional Indian temple that's nevertheless jammed in the heart of a busy city, a visit to the Babulnath Temple...

    To get the flavor of a large, traditional Indian temple that's nevertheless jammed in the heart of a busy city, a visit to the Babulnath Temple is a must. And climbing the few hundred steps to reach the temple, perched on a hillside, will also reward you with a panorama of South Mumbai. The first Babulnath Temple was apparently built by Raja Bhimdev in the 13th century and named after the babul trees (a type of acacia native to India) that forested this area. The architecture of this imposing shrine, one of Mumbai's most important, isn't especially remarkable, but it's interesting to watch the melée of worshippers coming, going, and milling about. Outside are rows of flower sellers hawking a temple-visit kit—coconut plus flowers plus rock sugar—and a cluster of vendors concocting sweets in karhais (large woks) in the open air. Temple authorities are sometimes prickly about allowing foreigners into the innermost areas, but it's worth a try; more often than not they don't object. For Rs. 2 you can avoid the climb and take the elevator.

    Babulnath Rd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400007, India
  • 4. Banganga Water Tank

    Malabar Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This serene, criminally under-visited temple complex is considered one of the city's holiest sites. It's also the oldest surviving structure...

    This serene, criminally under-visited temple complex is considered one of the city's holiest sites. It's also the oldest surviving structure in Mumbai. The small, somewhat dilapidated temples are built around a holy pool of water and surrounded by the ever-encroaching houses of Mumbai's newer residents. Cows and people mingle freely here, as do bathers who come to obtain the purportedly healing powers of the water. Life around here harks back to earlier, more traditional times.

    Walkeshwar Rd., take the lane just beyond Ghanshyamdas Sitaram Poddar Chowk, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400006, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 5. Bibi-ka-Maqbara

    Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    This 17th-century tomb is also known as the mini Taj Mahal; you can usually see it from the plane when you're flying into Aurangabad. A pale...

    This 17th-century tomb is also known as the mini Taj Mahal; you can usually see it from the plane when you're flying into Aurangabad. A pale imitation of the original Taj Mahal, it is dedicated to the wife of the last of the six great Mughal emperors, Aurangzeb (founder of Aurangabad and son of the Taj Mahal's creator, Shah Jahan). It was supposed to be a shining, white-marble edifice, but money ran out, so only the bottom 2 feet of the monument were built with marble; the rest is stone with a facade of plaster. Somewhat awkwardly proportioned, the structure can be said to illustrate the decline of Mughal architecture.

    550 yards north of the old town, beyond Mecca Gate, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, 431001, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Foreigners US$3
  • 6. Chor Bazaar

    CST | Market/Bazaar

    This narrow thoroughfare, in the center of classic Muslim Mumbai, is lined with dozens of stores crammed with antiques and general bric-a-brac...

    This narrow thoroughfare, in the center of classic Muslim Mumbai, is lined with dozens of stores crammed with antiques and general bric-a-brac: clocks, old phonographs, brassware, glassware, and statues; some of it quite cheap. Over the years the value and breadth of much of this stock has dwindled, but there's still a chance that you'll find an unusual, memorable piece. Haggle. In the same lane a number of shops are engaged in the profitable business of constructing new furniture that looks old; many will openly tell you as much. Some shops do stock genuine antique furniture from old Parsi homes. Around the corner, stolen cell phones and car stereos are being hawked. The Thieves' Bazaar got its name because it's always been the kind of place that sold goods that fell off the back of the truck—or back of the camel—and even today you can't be too sure of the provenance of your purchases. Getting to the Chor Bazaar will take you on a tour of an interesting and very staunchly Muslim neighborhood, where life has a completely different flavor from elsewhere in the city. One street away is an interesting mosque belonging to the Bohri Muslims—the architecture and the people are a mix of Yemeni, Egyptian, Indian, and African—just ask people to point you in the direction of Bohri Masjid (or Mosque).

    Mutton St., off Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rd., off Mohammed Ali Rd., Mandvi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400003, India
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  • 7. Crawford Market

    CST | Market/Bazaar

    Renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule market decades ago, but still known by its original name, this building was designed in the 1860s by John Lockwood...

    Renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule market decades ago, but still known by its original name, this building was designed in the 1860s by John Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard, who was born in this very neighborhood). The market's stone flooring supposedly came from Caithness, Scotland. Check out the stone relief depicting workers on the outside of the building. Come here early in the morning for a colorful walk through Mumbai's fresh-produce emporium, and if it's late spring or early summer, treat yourself to a delicious Alphonso mango—the experience has had many people rhapsodize that they've never truly had a mango until they ate one of these. Everything from cookies and party streamers to white mice and cane baskets is sold in other sections of the market—the meat section can be a bit hair-raising. In the middle lane (Sheikh Memon Street) of Crawford Market, is the chaotic Mangaldas Market, a covered, wholesale cloth market with a tremendous variety of fabrics at hundreds of indoor stalls. Across the street from the market's main entrance on the west, spread across a trio of lanes, is a smaller but popular bazaar area called Lohar Chawl, where the selection ranges from plastic flowers to refrigerators. If you're headed to the market during the monsoon, wear rain boots or shoes you don't mind getting dirty. The floors can become quite mucky.

    D. Naoroji Rd., at L. Tilak Rd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400003, India
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  • 8. CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), aka Victoria Terminus

    CST | Transportation Site (Airport, Bus, Ferry, Train)

    Built by the British in 1888, this is one of India's—and probably the world's—busiest train stations, overflowing at rush hour with enormous...

    Built by the British in 1888, this is one of India's—and probably the world's—busiest train stations, overflowing at rush hour with enormous, surging, scurrying crowds who use the suburban lines that also originate here (Mumbai's suburban trains carry eight million people a day). Although it's been renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, it's still commonly called Victoria Terminus or just V.T., and it bears a hefty statue of Queen Victoria on its imposing dome, the haughty structure combining Indian and Victorian–Gothic architecture for an Eastern version of London's St. Pancras station. Why visit? To spend a few minutes admiring the enormous, incredible building, which is even more arresting lit up at night. If you're brave, walk around the corner to the modern suburban extension of the station around rush hour—9 am or 5:30 pm—and experience Mumbai's maddening crowds. Even better, take a ride on a local train; many say you have not experienced Mumbai unless you have ridden one.

    D. Naoroji Rd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400002, India
  • 9. Daulatabad Fort

    Military Sight

    The imposing fort, built in 1187 by a Hindu king, is surrounded by seven giant walls more than 5 km (3 miles) long. Daulatabad was once called...

    The imposing fort, built in 1187 by a Hindu king, is surrounded by seven giant walls more than 5 km (3 miles) long. Daulatabad was once called Deogiri, or "hill of the gods," but was changed to "city of fortune" when the sultan of Delhi overtook it in 1308. Devote at least half a day to this fascinating fort, considered one of India's most impressive. There's a wonderful view of the plains from the acropolis (fortified city) on the top. As you enter the fort you go through a labyrinth—note the moats, spikes, cannons, and dark maze of tunnels designed to make the fort as impregnable as possible. Equally interesting is the Jami Masjid (large mosque) inside; it was made from horizontal lintels and pillars taken from Jain and Hindu temples. Local Hindus put a lot of store in a puja (worship) done at the top of the fort and then down below, at the exit.

    13 km [8 miles] west of Old Town, on the highway to the Ellora Caves, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Foreigners around US$3
  • 10. Elephanta Caves

    Ruins

    A quick 30-minute ferry ride from bustling South Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves make an ideal half-day trip for anyone who wants a quick glimpse...

    A quick 30-minute ferry ride from bustling South Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves make an ideal half-day trip for anyone who wants a quick glimpse of India's ancient history. Once you arrive at the island, you climb a steep hill, on rough-hewn steps, past trinket sellers and beggars, to get to Shiva Cave; greenery abounds. The temple, carved out of the basalt hillside, is 130 square feet. Inside, each wall has elaborate, 16-foot-tall rock carvings of Lord Shiva, the destroyer, in his many forms, depicting famous events from the Hindu epics. The main sculptures are on the south wall, at the back.The central recess has the most outstanding sculpture, the unusual Mahesamurti, the Great Lord Shiva—an 18-foot triple image. Its three faces represent three aspects of Shiva: the creator (on the right), the preserver (in the center), and the destroyer (on the left). Other sculptures near the doorways and on side panels show Shiva's usefulness. Shiva brought the Ganges River down to Earth, the story says, letting it trickle through his matted hair. He is also depicted as Yogisvara, lord of Yogis, seated on a lotus, and as Nataraja, the many-armed cosmic dancer. The beauty of this stonework lies in the grace, balance, and sense of peace conveyed in spite of the subject's multiple actions. It's all very peaceful and serene. Then you step back outside and see the monkeys.They are everywhere: climbing trees, hooting and hollering, looking for opportunities to get any human food you might be carrying—so we suggest you don't bring any with you (have lunch before you leave Mumbai, or wait until you get back). There are so many monkeys, and they are so comfortable around humans, that they almost distract you from the 1,500-year-old rock carvings. Almost.It's unclear who did the carvings on Elephanta but it is known that the island was originally called Gharapuri; the Portuguese renamed it after a large stone elephant was found near where their boat landed (the figure collapsed in 1814 and is now in mainland Bombay's Victoria Gardens, also known as Jijamata Udyaan). Shortly before the temples were created, Mumbai experienced the golden age of the late Guptas, under whom artists had relatively free range. The Sanskrit language had been finely polished, and under the court's liberal patronage writers had helped incite a revival of Hindu beliefs. It was Shivaism—the worship of Shiva—that inspired the building of these temples.The MTDC leads a tour, every day at 2 pm (book when you arrive), that is good but not essential, and runs a tiny restaurant on the island for refreshments and beer. In February they organize a dance festival here.Getting here: Ferries for the one-hour trip (each way) depart daily every half hour from 9 to 2:30 from the Gateway of India and from noon to 5 from Elephanta Island, unless the sea is very choppy. It's not advisable to visit Elephanta during monsoon season.

    Gharapuri, Elephanta Island, Maharashtra, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Round-trip Rs. 100–Rs. 200 depending on type of seat or boat you choose; Rs. 250 tickets for entering the caves can be purchased at Mahesh Travels at the Gateway of India (22/2282–0139), Closed Mon.
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  • 11. Ellora Caves

    Cave

    In the 7th century, the focus of activity shifted from Ajanta to a site 123 km (76 miles) to the southwest—a place known today as Ellora—although...

    In the 7th century, the focus of activity shifted from Ajanta to a site 123 km (76 miles) to the southwest—a place known today as Ellora—although the reason for this switch is not known. Unlike the cave temples at Ajanta, those of Ellora are not solely Buddhist. Instead, they follow the development of religious thought in India through the decline of Buddhism in the latter half of the 8th century, to the Hindu renaissance that followed the return of the Gupta dynasty, and to the Jain resurgence between the 9th and 11th centuries. Of the 34 caves here, the 12 to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the center are Hindu, and the 5 to the north are Jain.At Ellora the focus is on sculpture, which covers the walls in ornate masses. The carvings in the Buddhist caves are serene, but in the Hindu caves they take on a certain exuberance and vitality—gods and demons do fearful battle, Lord Shiva angrily flails his eight arms, elephants rampage, eagles swoop, and lovers intertwine.Unlike at Ajanta, where the temples were chopped out of a steep cliff, the caves at Ellora were dug into the slope of a hill along a north–south line, presumably so that they faced west and could receive the light of the setting sun.Cave 2 is an impressive monastery. The deceptively simple facade looms nearly 50 feet high; beyond is a lavish interior: gouged into the block of rock is a central hall with ornate pillars and a gallery of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas seated under trees and parasols.The largest of the Buddhist caves is Cave 5. It was probably used as a classroom for young monks. The roof appears to be supported by 24 pillars; working their way down, sculptors first "built" the roof before they "erected" the pillars. Cave 6 contains a statue of Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning—also identified as Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning—in the company of Buddhist figures. The boundaries between Hinduism and Buddhism are fuzzy and Hindus worship and recognize some Buddhist gods and goddesses as their own, and vice versa. For instance, Hindus consider Buddha the avatar of Vishnu. Cave 7, an austere hall with pillars, is the first two-story cave. Cave 10 is impressive: the stonecutters reproduced the timbered roofs of their day over a richly decorated facade that resembles masonry work. Inside this shrine—the only actual Buddhist chapel at Ellora—the main work of art is a huge sculpture of Buddha. Make sure to check out the high ceiling with stone "rafters" and note the sharp echo. The cave has been dubbed the Sutar Jhopdi or Carpenter's Cave and called a tribute to Visvakarma, the Hindu god of tools and carpentry. Caves 11 and 12 rise grandly three floors up and are richly decorated with sculptural panels.Starting with Cave 13, the Hindu caves are the successors to the Buddhist ones, and a step inside these is enough to stop you in your tracks. It's another world—another universe—in which the calm contemplation of the seated Buddhas gives way to the dynamic cosmology of Hinduism. These caves were created around the 7th and 8th centuries.Ellora is dominated by the mammoth Kailasa temple (also known as Kailasanatha, or Kailash) complex, known as Cave 16. Dedicated to Shiva, the complex is a replica of his legendary abode at Mount Kailasa in the Tibetan Himalayas. The largest monolithic structure in the world, the Kailasa reveals the genius, daring, and raw skill of its artisans. To create the Kailasa complex, an army of stonecutters started at the top of the cliff, where they removed 3 million cubic feet of rock to create a vast pit with a freestanding rock left in the center. Out of this single slab, 276 feet long and 154 feet wide, the workers created Shiva's abode, which includes the main temple, a series of smaller shrines, and galleries built into a wall that encloses the entire complex. Nearly every surface is exquisitely sculpted with epic themes.Around the courtyard, numerous friezes illustrate the legends of Shiva and stories from the great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. One interesting panel on the eastern wall relates the origin of Shiva's main symbol, the lingam, or phallus. Another frieze, on the outer wall of the main sanctuary on the southern side of the courtyard, shows the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, from a story in the Ramayana.The Jain caves are at the far end of Ellora. If you have a car, consider driving there once you've seen the Hindu caves. These caves are compelling in their own right, and should not be missed on account of their distance. It's fascinating to climb through the many well-carved chambers and study the towering figures of Gomateshvara (a Jain mythological figure) and Mahavira (an important Jain sage).Because Ellora is such a busy tourist destination, try to avoid coming here during school holidays from April to first week of June. Don't encourage hawkers and unknown guides; they can be a terrible nuisance. Visiting the Ellora caves is in many ways easier than visiting Ajanta, though the rewards are different—even in terms of the practical, Ellora is more accessible: the entire line of caves is parallel to the road and there are not many steps involved. Proximity to Aurangabad and the easy access makes seeing these caves a half-day's adventure; choose either early morning or late afternoon. The winding drive to Ellora is very pleasant, through low-slung hills past old ruins as well as Daulatabad Fort (try to squeeze at least a half-hour stop there, too).

    , Maharashtra, India

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: US$5, video camera fee Rs. 25
  • 12. Gateway of India

    Colaba | Notable Building

    Mumbai's signature landmark, this elegant 26-meter (85-foot) stone archway was hastily erected as a symbol of welcome to Queen Mary and King...

    Mumbai's signature landmark, this elegant 26-meter (85-foot) stone archway was hastily erected as a symbol of welcome to Queen Mary and King George V of England when they paid a visit to India in 1911. In the years following, artisans added decorative carvings and lovely jharoka-work (window carvings), finishing in 1923. Less than 25 years later, the last British troops departed from India through the same ceremonial arch. The monument serves as a launching point for boats going to Elephanta Island, and this is also where luxury liners like the Queen Elizabeth 2 dock on their cruises. The majestic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, built before the Gateway of India, in 1903, now stands just behind it.

    End of C. Shivaji Maharaj Marg, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400005, India
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  • 13. Haji Ali Shrine

    Central Mumbai | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Set far out on a thin, rocky jetty in the Arabian Sea, this striking, dilapidated white shrine was built in honor of the Muslim saint Haji Ali...

    Set far out on a thin, rocky jetty in the Arabian Sea, this striking, dilapidated white shrine was built in honor of the Muslim saint Haji Ali, who drowned here some 500 years ago on a pilgrimage to Mecca. When a coffin containing his mortal remains floated to rest on a rocky bed in the sea, devotees constructed the tomb and mosque to mark the spot. The shrine is reached by a long walkway just above the water. At high tide the walkway is submerged, making the shrine unreachable. But walking there when the sea has completely receded is not too romantic, because the exposed rocks smell of garbage; choose a time in between. The walkway is lined with destitute families and beggars ravaged by leprosy, some writhing, chanting, and (calling on the Muslim tradition of giving alms) beseeching you as you make your way down—this can be a deeply upsetting experience, but it's one that is unfortunately quintessentially Mumbai. Inside, the shrine is full of colored-mirror mosaics and crowded with worshippers praying over the casket, which is covered with wilted flower garlands. Men and women must enter through separate doorways. On many evenings a busker plays quawalis (a style of Muslim music) after the sunset prayers. There's no admission charge, but you may consider giving between Rs. 20 and Rs. 50 to the mosque charity box. The shrine closes at 10 pm.

    Off Lala Lajpatrai Marg, near Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400006, India
  • 14. Jain Temple

    Malabar Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    What may be the most impressive temple in Mumbai belongs to the prosperous, strictly vegetarian Jains, the largely Gujarati followers of Lord...

    What may be the most impressive temple in Mumbai belongs to the prosperous, strictly vegetarian Jains, the largely Gujarati followers of Lord Mahavira. The colorful interior of their main Mumbai temple is filled with marble, but at the same time it's understated and peaceful—check out the intricate work on the walls and ceilings. Jain worship here is rather different from the general chaos at Hindu temples; it's more introspective and humble in aspect, which reflects the Jain faith. At around 8 am daily, freshly bathed Jain devotees in swaths of unstitched off-white cloth walk here barefoot from their nearby—often quite ritzy—homes to pay homage to the splendid idol of Adinath, an important Jain prophet. (Jains show respect by arriving clean and without shoes—originally Jains used to wear only a silk cloth, the highest quality and hence most respectful material, but plenty now also wear cotton, and many others simply make do with ordinary clothes.)

    B. G. Kher Marg, Teen Batti, near Walkeshwar, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400006, India
  • 15. Jehangir Art Gallery

    Fort | Museum/Gallery

    Not a far stroll from Trishna and other famous restaurants, Mumbai's chief contemporary-art gallery hosts changing exhibits of well-known Indian...

    Not a far stroll from Trishna and other famous restaurants, Mumbai's chief contemporary-art gallery hosts changing exhibits of well-known Indian artists. Some of the work is lovely, and all of it is interesting for its cultural perspective. There's usually plenty of art outside as well—when it's not monsoon season the plaza in front of the building is full of artists selling their work.

    M.G. Rd., Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400005, India
    22-2284–3989

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 16. Kamala Nehru Park

    Malabar Hill | City Park

    Children love playing on the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" structure here, at this small park on the eastern side of the top of Malabar Hill...

    Children love playing on the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" structure here, at this small park on the eastern side of the top of Malabar Hill. It's primarily a children's playground—and an old-school one at that, so if your kids are used to the finer things, this park may seem impossibly quaint—but also has gorgeous views of the city below that are worth checking out if you happen to be in the area. From the special viewpoint clearing you can see all of Marine Drive and the Mumbai skyline, from Chowpatty Beach to Colaba Point—try to come up after dark to see why Marine Drive, sparkling with lights, is known as the Queen's Necklace. Just across the road another park, the Hanging Gardens (also known as the Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens), also has pleasant views and a topiary garden. A few minutes north of here, heading down the hill, are the Towers of Silence, where Mumbai's Parsis—followers of the Zoroastrian faith—dispose of their dead. Pallbearers carry the corpse to the top of one of the towering cylindrical bastions, where it is left to be devoured by vultures and crows (a roughly two-hour process) and decomposed by the elements. None of this is visible to would-be onlookers, even relatives, and high walls prevent any furtive peeping.

    B. G. Kher Marg, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400006, India
  • 17. Knesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

    Fort | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The attractive and ornate Knesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is across from Jehangir Art Gallery and behind Rhythm House, at the southern edge of Fort...

    The attractive and ornate Knesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is across from Jehangir Art Gallery and behind Rhythm House, at the southern edge of Fort. Built in 1884 for Bombay's community of Baghdadi Jews, it's sky blue, with lovely stained-glass windows and intricately constructed second-floor balconies. You can visit daily between 10 and 6:30, and are welcome for Sabbath prayers on Friday evenings.

    V. B. Gandhi Rd., Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400005, India
    22-2283–1502

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Donation of around Rs. 100 requested
  • 18. Lonar Crater

    About 160 km (100 miles) and 3½ to 4 hours east of Aurangabad, beyond Jalna, not on the highway to either Ajanta or Ellora, is the Lonar Crater...

    About 160 km (100 miles) and 3½ to 4 hours east of Aurangabad, beyond Jalna, not on the highway to either Ajanta or Ellora, is the Lonar Crater. If you have a day free, or if you have an extra day because the caves are closed, visit this serene 50,000-year-old meteor crater. Off the beaten path and away from postcard sellers, bead hawkers, and soft-drink-stall owners, the 1,800-meter-long crater lake is one of India's more phenomenal sites. It's said to be Asia's largest and youngest crater. Lonar is a peaceful spot, full of wildlife and greenery.

    Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India
  • 19. Magen Hassidim Synagogue

    Central Mumbai | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This is probably Mumbai's most active synagogue, but being in Byculla, it's not really much of a tourist destination and, as a Hasidic synagogue...

    This is probably Mumbai's most active synagogue, but being in Byculla, it's not really much of a tourist destination and, as a Hasidic synagogue, may not be as open to visitors as some of the reform places of worship. This Bene Israel shrine is in the Muslim area of Madanpura. Although the communities of Baghdadi and Cochini Jews have dwindled to just a few thousand, the Bene Israel community continues to modestly prosper. The congregation and caretakers at this well-attended shrine (with about 750 members) can lend insight into the future of this community: Magen Hassidim is the face of India's modern Jews, the ones who generally don't plan to migrate to Israel and who are now part of the nation's mainstream.

    Maulana Azad Rd., near Fancy Market and Jula Maidan, Madanpura, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400029, India
    22-2301–2685
  • 20. Mani Bhavan

    Malabar Hill | Historic Home

    This charming, old-fashioned three-story Gujarati house, painted brown and cream and in a quiet, tree-shaded Parsi neighborhood on Malabar Hill...

    This charming, old-fashioned three-story Gujarati house, painted brown and cream and in a quiet, tree-shaded Parsi neighborhood on Malabar Hill, was the home of Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1934. Now overseen and lovingly maintained by the Gandhi Institute, it houses a library and an interesting and attractively presented small museum on Gandhi's life and work. Gandhi's simple belongings are displayed in his room, including his original copies of the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita (a famous discourse within the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata); other displays include spectacular colorful miniature dioramas of his life, photographs, and some important and moving letters from the fight for Indian independence. Don't miss the humble and polite letter to Adolf Hitler asking him to not go to war.

    19 Laburnam Rd., near Nana Chowk, Gamdevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400007, India
    22-2380–5864

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Rs. 10

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