Solid Rock carvings dating back to 600 A.D., the Elephanta Caves in Mumbai is the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising of seven historical caves dedicated to Lord Shiva. Mark your presence at this heritage destination at the Elephanta Island and get a close encounter with the ancient heritage and the religious part of India, still blooming under rocky caves.
Fast Facts/ Quick Knowledge
- Location: Island of Elephanta, Mumbai Harbor, India
- Categories: Hindu Temples, Sacred Caves, World Heritage Site
- Status: Heritage Monument
- Description: City of Caves
- Created: 7th Century
10 kilometers northeast of Apollo Bunder in Mumbai, the island of the Omen Sea lets you an opportunity to behold the famous Elephanta Caves. The group of sacred Hindu rock carving temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in the sculpted caves is an explicit example of ancient heritage wonders. Containing a collection of rock arts related to the cult of Lord Shiva, the Elephanta Caves majestically resides on the arms of Arabian Sea.
Description of the Elephanta Caves
The cave complex is comprised of the groups of shrines, courtyards, inner cells, grand halls and porticos arranged in the splendid symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
The caves have been categorized into two, the larger one with the group of five Hindu caves and the smaller one with two Buddhist caves. So in total the Elephanta consists of seven caves where the most renowned one is the Mahesha-Murti Cave that bears an impressive size of 27 meters square supported by the rows of six columns each. The main temple comprises of a large pillared mandappa(hall) and a free standing square shrine at the western part of the hall. The gigantic pillars and reliefs in the cave bring different aspects of Shaivaite iconography. The perimeters of the caves have been studded with sculpted compartments with the images inspired from the Hindu mythology. The sculpted images around the caves are depicted Lord Shiva as Andhakasuravadha, impaling the demon of darkness, as Kalyanasundara-the gentle loving god, as Ardhanarishwara, Shiva and Shakti, male and female, Nataraja-Shiva as the cosmic dancer and as Ravana anugraha -the destroyer of enemies.
At the Maheshamurti panel, Lord Shiva has been demonstrated as a creator, protector and destroyer, a must watch site for everyone at least once in a life time. The entrance of the cave is being found with the famous Trimurti, the celebrated trinity of Elephanta: Lord Brahma, the Creator, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and Lord Shiva, the Destroyer.
Unfortunately some of the sculptures have been destroyed by iconoclastic Portuguese rulers while taking potshots on the Hindu Gods with their rifles. But still the sublime beauty of this world heritage site is maintained and had been the most featured and attracted part of India specifically selected for the Indian Heritage tour.
Best time to visit
Although tourists can catch the plumping part of this ancient site throughout the year but November to March is the ideal time to visit this island.
To get access to the Elephanta, the image of which is larger than life, one can find a direct access from Mumbai itself from the Gateway of India harbor. The nearest airport is the Mumbai International Airport which is 20 kms away from Elephanta and the nearest railheads are Churchgate & Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.