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Across India by Oliver Optic

But the best informed claim that the figure represents Siva


"You

see that rock," said the viscount; "and it is a very large one. Can you make anything of its shape? I suppose not; nobody can. But that rock gave a name to this island, applied by the Portuguese two or three hundred years ago. It is said to have been in the form of an elephant. If it ever had that shape it has lost it."

[Illustration: "'Snakes!' screamed Mrs. Belgrave."--Page 184.]

After penetrating a dense thicket, the tourists discovered a comely flight of stairs, cut out of the solid rock of which the hill is composed, extending to a considerable distance, and finally leading into the great pillared chamber forming a Hindu temple, though a level space planted with trees must first be crossed.

They entered the cave. On the left were two full columns, not yet crumbled away as others were, which gave the observers a complete view of what a vast number of others there were. Next beyond them were three pilasters clinging to the ceiling. This part of the cavern was in the light from the entrance; but farther along, considerably obscured in the darkness of the subterranean temple, were scores, and perhaps hundreds, of others. The pillars were not the graceful forms of modern times, and many of them had lost all shape.

This temple is said to have been excavated in the ninth century. The walls are covered with gigantic figures in relief. The temple

is in the form of a cross, the main hall being a hundred and forty-four feet in depth. The ceiling is supported by twenty-six columns and eighteen pilasters, sixteen to eighteen feet high. They look clumsy, but they have to bear up the enormous weight of the hill of rock, and many of them have crumbled away.

At the end of the colonnade is a gigantic bust, representing a Hindu divinity with three heads. Some say that this is Brahma, as the three symbols of the creator, preserver, and destroyer, forming what is sometimes named the Hindu trinity. But the best informed claim that the figure represents Siva, the destroyer of the triad of gods. All the reliefs on the walls relate to the worship of this divinity, while there is not a known temple to Brahma.

The principal piece of sculpture is the marriage of Siva to the goddess Parvati; and it is identified as such, wholly or in part, because the woman stands on the right of the man, as no female is permitted to do except at the marriage ceremony. The party wandered through the caverns for two hours, and Sayad and Moro, the only servants brought with them, kindled fires in the darker places, to enable them to see the sculpture. Sir Modava explained what needed explanation. He conducted them to an opening, lighted by a hole in the hill, where they found a staircase guarded by two lions, leading into what is called the Lions' Cave.


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