How many generations of Hindus, how many races, have knelt in the dust before the Trimurti, your threefold deity, O Elephanta? How many centuries were spent by weak man in digging out in your stone bosom this town of temples and carving your gigantic idols? Who can say? Many years have elapsed since I saw you last, ancient, mysterious temple, and still the same restless thoughts, the same recurrent questions vex me snow as they did then, and still remain unanswered. In a few days we shall see each other again. Once more I shall gaze upon your stern image, upon your three huge granite faces, and shall feel as hopeless as ever of piercing the mystery of your being. This secret fell into safe hands three centuries before ours. It is not in vain that the old Portuguese historian Don Diego de Cuta boasts that "the big square stone fastened over the arch of the pagoda with a distinct inscription, having been torn out and sent as a present to the King Dom Juan III, disappeared mysteriously in the course of time....," and adds, further, "Close to this big pagoda there stood another, and farther on even a third one, the most wonderful of all in beauty, incredible size, and richness of material. All those pagodas and caves have been built by the Kings of Kanada, (?) the most important of whom was Bonazur, and these buildings of Satan our (Portuguese) soldiers attacked with such vehemence that in a few years one stone was not left upon another...." And, worst of all, they left no inscriptions that might have given a clue to so much. Thanks to the fanaticism of Portuguese soldiers, the chronology of the Indian cave temples must remain for ever an enigma to the archaeological world, beginning with the Brah-mans, who say Elephanta is 374,000 years old, and ending with Fergusson, who tries to prove that it was carved only in the twelfth century of our era. Whenever one turns one's eyes to history, there is nothing to be found but hypotheses and darkness. And yet Gharipuri is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, which was written, according to Colebrooke and Wilson, a good while before the reign of Cyrus. In another ancient legend it is said that the temple of Trimurti was built on Elephanta by the sons of Pandu, who took part in the war between the dynasties of the Sun and the Moon, and, belonging to the latter, were expelled at the end of the war. The Rajputs, who are the descendants of the first, still sing of this victory; but even in their popular songs there is nothing positive. Centuries have passed and will pass, and the ancient secret will die in the rocky bosom of the cave still unrecorded.
On the left side of the bay, exactly opposite Elephanta, and as if in contrast with all its antiquity and greatness, spreads the Malabar Hill, the residence of the modern Europeans and rich natives. Their brightly painted bungalows are bathed in the greenery of banyan, Indian fig, and various other trees, and the tall and straight trunks of cocoanut palms cover with the fringe of their leaves the whole ridge of the hilly headland. There, on the south- western end of the rock, you see the almost transparent, lace-like Government House surrounded on three sides by the ocean. This is the coolest and the most comfortable part of Bombay, fanned by three different sea breezes.
The island of Bombay, designated by the natives "Mambai," received its name from the goddess Mamba, in Mahrati Mahima, or Amba, Mama, and Amma, according to the dialect, a word meaning, literally, the Great Mother. Hardly one hundred years ago, on the site of the modern esplanade, there stood a temple consecrated to Mamba-Devi. With great difficulty and expense they carried it nearer to the shore, close to the fort, and erected it in front of Baleshwara the "Lord of the Innocent" - one of the names of the god Shiva. Bombay is part of a considerable group of islands, the most remarkable of which are Salsetta, joined to Bombay by a mole, Elephanta, so named by the Portuguese because of a huge rock cut in the shape of an elephant thirty-five feet long, and Trombay, whose lovely rock rises nine hundred feet above the surface of the sea. Bombay looks, on the maps, like an enormous crayfish, and is at the head of the rest of the islands. Spreading far out into the sea its two claws, Bombay island stands like a sleepless guardian watching over his younger brothers. Between it and the Continent there is a narrow arm of a river, which gets gradually broader and then again narrower, deeply indenting the sides of both shores, and so forming a haven that has no equal in the world. It was not without reason that the Portuguese, expelled in the course of time by the English, used to call it "Buona Bahia."
In a fit of tourist exaltation some travellers have compared it to the Bay of Naples; but, as a matter of fact, the one is as much like the other as a lazzaroni is like a Kuli. The whole resemblance between the former consists in the fact that there is water in both. In Bombay, as well as in its harbour, everything is original and does not in the least remind one of Southern Europe. Look at those coasting vessels and native boats; both are built in the likeness of the sea bird "sat," a kind of kingfisher. When in motion these boats are the personi-fication of grace, with their long prows and rounded poops. They look as if they were gliding backwards, and one might mistake for wings the strangely shaped, long lateen sails, their narrow angles fastened upwards to a yard. Filling these two wings with the wind, and careening, so as almost to touch the surface of the water, these boats will fly along with astonishing swiftness. Unlike our European boats, they do not cut the waves, but glide over them like a sea-gull.