Elephanta by George Michell – Book Review
This slim volume is on the UNESCO world heritage site of Elephanta caves near Mumbai. Noted historian Goerge Michell wrote the book. And it is a good reference guide as and when you visit the monument. Elephanta caves on an island off Mumbai are the first known Hindu caves. All the other caves dated before this one, are either Buddhist or Jain caves. Be it at Ajanta or in Karla. This cave holding a unique and giant image of Shiva with three faces makes it important both from history, art history and religious history perspective.
The author has explained each and every aspect of the cave with pictures and sketch diagrams. He has used high-resolution pictures to help you visualize and explain what he mentions in the text. The sketch diagrams of the images, and the orientation in perspective. It also, explains the highly geometric and symmetric base of the cave. The book explains each and every carving on the wall with pictures along with the stories and episodes from Shiva’s life that they depict. Even where the images have been lost, an attempt is made to fill in the gap.
Also, at the end of the book, there are chronicles of various travelers who first visited the island. And wrote about these caves. Though, their naïve recordings of the discovery of a strange cave with even stranger carvings on its walls. The recordings are entertaining at this point in time but each of them had a valuable observation that eventually would have led to building up the story of Elephanta caves. The name itself comes from a sculpture that is no longer in-situ now.
I enjoyed reading it as I had visited Elephanta a few years back. And have a keen interest in ancient Indian Art history.
I recommend this book if you are visiting Elephanta – it will enrich your whole experience.