Elephanta festival to commence from Feb 15

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Mumbai, Feb 7 (UNI) The Elephanta Festival at Elephanta caves, off the Mumbai harbour, will commence from February 15.

The two-day-long event is being organised by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in association with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

The highlight of the festival is the performance of tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain after a gap of ten years.

Apart from Zakir Hussain, Ananda Shankar Jayant will perform Kuchipudi on the inaugural day. Exponent of Mohiniyattam Dr Neena Prasad will perform at the backdrop of world renowned 'trimurti' (trinity) sculpture. Kuchipudi danseuse Sahllu Jindal and one of the finest vocalists from Mewati gharana Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar will perform on the second day of the 18th edition of Indian classical music and dance extravaganza at the world heritage site.

The festival will be inaugurated by State Tourism Minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil on February 15 at 1900 hrs.

Addressing a news conference here, MTDC managing director Bhushan Gagrani said, ''Elephanta is a world heritage site by UNESCO and the festival aims to introduce, promote and popularise the beauty of this monument to tourists all over the world.'' He said the government had appointed INTAC, an agency involved in planning heritage monuments, to convert the Elephanta Island into a tourism spot. But, INTAC is facing local opposition and hence the work could not be completed on time. The island comprises three small villages with a population of about 600 who do not want INTAC to be involved in the planning stage. The planning agency which also wants to be an implementation agency, is therefore being opposed by the locals. They have a perception that INTAC is trying to dislocate them.

The government is planning to appoint another agency only for planning.

''However, monument conservation work, water supply schemes, construction of jetties and toilets have already begun. MTDC already supplies four hours of electricity through diesel pumps. Efforts are on to get solar energy. Permanent electricity is not happening because there are problems of laying undersea and overhead cables,'' he said.

Mr Gagrani said five lakh foreign tourists visit Elephanta caves every year.

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