After a gap of five years, the Maharashtra government's winter signature event, the 29th Elephanta Festival, will return to its home base -- the Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea -- this Saturday, an official said.
The last time, it was held in the island in 2013, after a gap of four years since the last one in 2008 at the venue. It was closed owing to security issues after the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attack and held at an alternate venue, Gateway of India.
The two-day event, hosted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), will open on the small island on January 27, with a cultural extravaganza comprising dance, music, art performances and competitions for the audiences.
"The artists shall interpret different art forms and revive its eternal significance, especially because the festival is synonymous with Maharashtra's culture, vibrant colours, customs and traditions, reflecting its rich diversity and cultural legacy," Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal said.
Among the top artists participating this year are "Dance of Love" by Zia Nath and Sanatan Chakravarty, a musical fusion featuring India's foremost female tabla player, Sangeeta Trivedi with Chetan on flute and Jayendra Patel on keyboard, and Dhrut by choreographer-dancer Sumeet Nagdev.
The Maharashtrian folk dance "Lavani" shall be performed by two acclaimed sisters -- Skruti Badade and Aishwary Badade, a Kathak performance by Mumbai medico Parinita Shah, the first Sufi Night performance by well-known singer Hans Raj Hans, Sand Art by Nitish Bharati, and the second Sufi Night rendering by the Wadali brothers - Puranchand and Lakhwinder.
There will also be competitions for the visiting audiences -- TreasureHunt@Elephanta, Sculpture@Elephanta and Paint@Elephanta, each carrying a prize of Rs 30,000 for the winners.
The Elephanta Island, locally known as the Gharapuri Isle, is some 16 square kms and situated around 10 kms off the Gateway of India in the Arabian Sea, falling under the jurisdiction of Raigad district.
It has three small villages -- the capital Rajbandar, and Morabandar and Shetbandar -- with the local population of 1,200 engaged primarily in fishing, rice cultivation, boat repairs and tourism activities on this Unesco World Heritage site.
Inhabited since the 2nd century BC according to archaeological remains unearthed here, the island is famed for its seven big and small rock-cut cave temples carved between the 5th and 6th centuries AD.
Designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1987, the island is accessible by motorboat from the Gateway of India or Raigad, but overnight stay is not permitted for outsiders.
It attracts over a million Indian and foreign tourists annually to view and photograph the ancient, majestic rock-cut cave temples, visit the old canons mounted atop a steep hill that offer magnificent views of Mumbai island to the west and the mainland to the east.
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