Jogeshwari Caves in Mumbai
Jogeshwari Caves, dating back to 520 to 550 AD, are some of the earliest Hindu cave temple sculptures located off the Western Express Highway in Jogeshwari (East) in northern Mumbai (Bombay).
They are a 45-minute journey from Church Gate Station by train and a further 3 kms. by road from Jogeshwari Station.
The caves are accessed through a long flight of stairs leading to the main hall.
The cave temple has a huge central hall, with many pillars.
At the end of the hall are a Shrine and a Shivalinga.
Idols of Dattatreya, Hanuman, Devi Mata, Jogeshwari and an orange Ganesh line the walls.
There are also relics of two doormen.
Unfortunately, the caves are surrounded by encroachments – huts and all kinds of dwellings.
The caves are classified as endangered.
Sewage and waste enter the premises.
The caves are also infested with bats.
The boundary walls of the cave temple have disintegrated.
Bombay High Court to the rescue
In October 2007, Janhit Manch, a NGO (Non Government Organisation) filed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) requesting the Bombay High Court to order removal of encroachments around four caves around Mumbai – Jogeshwari, Mahakali, Mandapeshwar and Kanheri caves.
The Bombay High Court appointed Shiraz Rustomji, Advocate as Amicus Curie (friend of the court).
The Bombay High Court sought a report from a court-appointed committee spelling out minimum intervention measures to rid the heritage monuments of illegal infringement.
As directed by the Bombay High Court, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) carried out survey of the four caves and informed the court that there were 750 illegal encroachments around the caves in Jogeshwari.
Shiraz Rustomji informed the court that the encroachments were not just within the barred 100-metre radius of the caves, but were also on the monument itself.
He further told the court that in the committee report submitted to the court, the ASI had suggested removal of encroachments between 17-40 metres from the site.
The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) told the court that none of these structures had obtained a construction certificate from the corporation, but they have been standing for a long period of time. On 23 July 2008, Justices JN Patel and KK Tated of the Bombay High Court asked the ASI, State Government and the BMC to present an action plan for removal of encroachments from the area around Jogeshwari caves, a heritage site.
They accepted all the suggestions made in the committee report and sought a check on the state government’s rehabilitation policy for the encroachers.
The encroachments around Jogeshwari Caves will be removed soon.
The ASI will provide security personnel.
Once more, the caves will attract more tourists.
Encroachments are the bane of most of our caves and important historical sites.
A 1992 notification prohibits any construction in the prohibited zone of 100 metres around ancient monuments, while a further 200 metres is designated as ‘regulated zone’, where development is permitted only after the ASI’s approval.
But we have come to such a sorry state of administrative inefficiency that Government bodies need court orders to goad them in to discharging their duty.