Today I was off to Jogeshwari, as I had been extremely intrigued by Ashutosh Bijoors blog about his visit to Jogeshwari caves.
Just imagine! A 2000 year old rock cut cave in the middle of Mumbai’s suburban area, and no one seems to have heard about it! I had to check this out. It was just under 50 KM round trip, and would be a nice ride in the rains.
I hit the road by 6 AM, and cycled across the Eastern express highway and then hit the Jogeshwari Vikhroli link road, and then asked my way to the caves.
And when I found the caves, my jaw really dropped!
What an awesome cave temple complex! It was huge – one large central hall, where there is a temple of Jogeshwari devi, one large outside chamber where there are some excellent friezes of Shiva Parvati, and several interconnected passages where there are temples of Ganesha, Maruti etc.
The ASI has done an excellent job of cleaning up the place and removing encroachments – as can be testified by the broken remains of the illegal buildings around it. Its a nice clean and safe place to go to, and since it is a live temple, there are always people around.
It is very close to the other rock cut temple complexes of Mumbai - Mahakali caves and Kanheri caves – though these are Buddhist caves and probably older.
At both the entrances you can see remains of what must have been a richly carved maha dwaar – with large dwarpalas on both sides and sculptures of Shiva on top. At the entrance to the main temple, there are friezes in better condition than the others – imposing large dwarpalas on both sides and panels on top – showing Shiva’s marriage, Shiva being worshipped by Ascetics and Shiva and Parvati in family life.
The pillars and layout of the caves are amazing, and really awe you with their majesty. In their heyday, it must have been an amazing site.
Rather than reiterate what he has presented, I would like the highlight an important point.
We have been always taught that Bombay did not exist before the British – that they were the creators of Bombay. The lands were pointless and undeveloped before they came, and the only thing they liked about it was that it was a safe harbour. Even the name 'Bombay' comes from ‘Bom bahia’ - which is Portuguese for ‘good harbour’. And then they developed this worthless land, filled in the creeks and reclaimed the land, etc and created a city.
But that is completely false, as we can see from these amazing relics of the past.
Mahakali caves, Jogeshwari caves, Kanheri caves, Elephanta caves - these are all giant projects which would have required huge investment, huge sophistication and a rich civilisation. We have Mahim fort – which is more than a thousand years old – but is completely encroached upon.
There was a rich and awesome civilisation here since millennia, and we should be proud of it, celebrate it and protect it.
But we don't.
In any other city in the world, this would be one of the great treasures of the city – but here in Mumbai, it is just a sleepy little forgotten place.
But things are getting better - this temple is no longer dirty and encroached upon. The ASI has done a great job of cleaning it up, and the locals have kept it clean after that.
Reflecting on this, I donned my helmet again and set out for the return ride. It rained, and I was a happy man! Singing in the rain.