The synagogue was built in 1884 by Jacob Sassoon, of the illustrious Sassoon family, in his father’s memory. The Sassoons came to India when Jacob Sassoon’s grandfather, David Sassoon, the treasurer of Baghdad in the early 19th century, fled here with his family to escape the persecution of Jews in Iraq under the Mamluk rulers. The family built several educational, charitable and religious institutions in Mumbai, of which I got to see the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room across the road from the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. You can read more here.
The synagogue is a sky blue building that is somewhat plain on the outside, but exquisite on the inside, with stained glass windows, ornate pillars and beautiful chandeliers. The lower floor is the men’s gallery, and the upper one is for the women.
The 91 year old owner of Britannia, Mr Boman Kohinoor Irani comes around to every table to greet customers and to take orders. The cafe was started in 1923 by his father, who moved to India from Iran. The non-vegetarian members of our group had a lot more to choose from, but there were enough vegetarian options as well. We started with some Rose Raspberry Soda. Bright pink, fizzy and just sweet enough.
The Berry Pulao is Britannia’s most famous dish, and it was what I was most excited to try – a fragrant pulao topped with dried sweet and sour berries (I believe they are called barberries) brought all the way from Iran. It was amazing – totally worth the hype!
There was Dhansak, and Sali Boti and this egg dish which I didn’t eat, and whose name I can’t remember!
For dessert, I figured, why choose between Caramel Custard and Mishti Doi, when I can just have both! Both were delicious.
The cafe is very very popular with both locals and tourists, so the whole world has probably been there already. But if you haven’t, put it on your must-do list the next time you go to Mumbai. The cafe is open only for lunch, does not accept debit/credit cards and is closed on Sundays.
Most of the caves at Karla were built during the Hinayana phase of Buddhism, except a few that were built later during the Mahayana phase. The main cave houses India’s largest Hinayana Chaitya Gruha or prayer hall. At its entrance, is this huge 15m high pillar:
The entrance to the cave is profusely decorated with carved animal and human symbols depicting different phases from Lord Buddha’s life. But He himself is not depicted in a human form anywhere in this cave – this is typical of Buddhist monuments from the Hinayana period.
The Chaitya has a series of carved pillars leading to a rather plain stupa in the center. Check out the wooden umbrella arches that have survived the ravages of time with no signs of decay:
The cave complex also has viharas or dwelling places for monks that were also used to accommodate travelling traders, since the caves are located close to an important ancient trade route.
And finally, this, is the killer view of the hills the monks must have had from the monastery 🙂
The climb begins at the base of the hill, where there are a few very basic shops selling refreshments. If you’ve forgotten to bring something to drink, this is pretty much your last chance to fix that – there’s nothing after this point. There are steps all the way to the top of the fort, so the climb is fairly easy, except in stretches where the steps are no more than slippery moss covered blocks of stone.
We were lucky to be there on a sunshiny day with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds, so at many points on the way up, we were treated to spectacular views of the lush green countryside.
On the way up the hill, you pass three layers of fortification through four huge gates, all of them very well-preserved. The top of the fort is quite empty – a Shiva temple, a Dargah, a well and a tank are about all you’ll see. This was a fort used purely for military purposes.
The place was almost empty, and there was only one more group of tourists, besides us. I read after we got home that we’d missed seeing a scorpion-shaped extension to the fort called the Vinchu-Kata – I wish I’d done my homework before going. No complaints, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the climb and the sensational views 🙂