Mumbai: The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) organised the cultural 'Elephanta Festival' at the historical site of the Elephanta Caves off the Mumbai coast, where the audience were treated to an exotic blend of Indian classical music performances to dance fusions with western jazz.
The weekend festival was inaugurated by Maharashtra's Minister of Public Works and Special Assistance Chhagan Bhujbal.
The participation by international artists like saxophone player George Brooks and jazz musician Elie Afif in Indian art forms left the audience spellbound.
Through enchanting ragas and dance performances, the festival's objective is to promote Indian culture globally and across the nation.
Various stalls of food, Indian jewellery and many more were set up for visitors.
American musician George Brooks said: "Well, I am excited to be performing at the Elephanta Festival. Although I have been coming to India for over 30 years now, I had never come to Elephant Island. So, it's fun to be here for the first time, and of course, its great to be here in the company of these extraordinary musicians like Shujaat Khan, Ganesh and Kumaresh, and this group Vishnamo that we have been playing with actually a few years now so its great to bring it here we will see the caves we will be able to play along with the monkeys on the tress and the parrots and the beautiful views of the water in Mumbai."
The festival not only attracted Indian music and dance lovers, but also gave a chance for artists to participate in the painting competition.
For the enthusiasts of history and heritage, guided tours of the Elephanta Caves will be offered during the duration of the festival.
"We want that whatever ancestral monuments we have, be it Elephanta Caves or Ajanta Ellora, or beaches and forts, all should be shown to people so that the more number of tourists visit this state and explore. I am very happy to see so many people gathered here," said Bhujbal.
First started in 1989, this festival is a tribute to classical performers and an initiative to popularize Indian classical dance and heritage art forms.
The Elephanta Caves was earlier known as Gharapuri. This land was renamed Elephanta by the Portuguese, after seeing a majestically 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 attempt to create the human race was futile since he had only created the male species.
Realizing 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.