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Elephanta festival wows Maharashtra

The two-day Elephanta Festival exposed visitors to the living heritage of Indian dance, sculpture and art.
By HT Correspondent | ANI, Elephanta Island, Maharashtra
UPDATED ON FEB 16, 2008 08:47 PM IST

The two-day Elephanta Festival concluded here on Saturday with visitors expressing happiness and joy over being exposed to the living heritage of Indian dance, sculpture and art.

For aficianadoes of culture, the Elephanta Festival held at the sixth century heriitage site is a major draw.

First started in 1989, this festival is a tribute to classical performers and an initiative to popularise Indian classical dance and heritage art forms.

The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in association with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) organised this year's festival.

Folk dances by local fisherfolk and ethnic local food varieties added to the ambience. India's leading artists enthralled audiences with their music and dance recitals against the backdrop of the magnificent caves.

The festival featured some eminent artistes of India, including Ananda Shankar Jayant (Kuchipudi), Neena Prasad (Mohiniyattam), Zakir Hussain (Tabla), Shallu Jindal (Kuchipudi), Sanjeev Abhyankar (Vocal) performing in front of the jampacked audiences.

The main highlight of the festival is the illuminated Maheshmurti (Shiva-idol) in the main cave of the island.

The performers as well as the audiences were excited at being part of this festival.

"To come and perform at Elephanta was a big dream for me because I'm a student of history and archaeology too. Elephanta has a special place because it belongs to Lord Shiva (Hindu God of destruction) and as a dancer Nataraja (The Hindu God of Dance) is very close to all of us. So I'm feeling very special because I'm performing here for the first time," said Ananda Shankar Jayant, a classical dancer.

Echoing the sentiment was James Thomas, an American tourist.

"I have been coming to India since 1988, I fell in love with the country and I think entertainment (In the festival) here is just outstanding," said James.

The Elephanta Caves was earlier known as Gharapuri. This land was renamed Elephanta by the Portuguese, after the majestic carved elephant on this island.

The main temple here has large pillars and nine marvellous sculptured panels, set on the wall, which are awe-inspiring. The sculptures display the changing moods of Lord Shiva, with the magical interplay of light and shade intensifying the overall effect.

Hindu scriptures tell us that Lord Brahma's (Hindu God) attempt to create the human race was futile since he had only created the male species.

Realising this, Brahma sought the help of Lord Shiva who obliged by assuming the form of Ardhanarishvara. 'Ardha', 'nari' and 'ishvara', meaning, 'half', 'woman' and 'God' respectively, is depicted in the transformation of one side of Lord Shiva's body into that of a woman. This prepared the way for procreation and the emergence of the human race.

The sculptures at Elephanta bring out this dichotomy, where the contrasting gender components of the god are clearly expressed. Perhaps the message is that gender differences are therefore complementary and contained within a single entity.

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