Elephanta Caves

Rock Cut Temple

 

Overview

Elephanta Island is located near Mumbai, 10 kilometres to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The name, Elephanta was given by the Portuguese as there was a large elephant sculpture in the island, when it was held by them as a naval outpost. Otherwise this island was known as Gharapuri.
 
The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the Lord Shiva. UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
 
The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries. The known history is traced only to the defeat of Mauryan rulers of Konkan by the Badami Chalukyas emperor Pulakesi II  in a naval battle, in 635 AD. Elephanta was then called Puri or Purika, and served as the capital of the Konkan Mauryas. Some historians attribute the caves to the Konkan Mauryas, dating them to the mid-6th century, though others refute this claim saying a relatively small kingdom like the Konkan Mauryas could not undertake "an almost superhuman excavation effort," which was needed to carve the rock temples from solid rock and could not have the skilled labor to produce such "high quality" sculpture.
 
Later, Elephanta was ruled by another Chalukyan dynasty, and then by Gujarat Sultanate, who surrendered it to the Portuguese in 1534. By then, Elephanta was called Gharapuri, which denotes a hill settlement. The name is still used in the local Marathi language. The Portuguese named the island "Elephanta Island" in honour of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant that was then installed on a mound, a short distance east of Gharapuri village. The elephant now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai. Portuguese rule saw a decline in the Hindu population on the island and the abandonment of the Shiva cave  as a regular Hindu place of worship, though worship on Mahashivratri, the festival of Shiva, continued and still does. The Portuguese did considerable damage to the sanctuaries. Portuguese soldiers used the reliefs of Shiva in the main cave for target practice, sparing only the Trimurti sculpture. They also removed an inscription related to the creation of the caves. While some historians solely blame the Portuguese for the destruction of the caves, others also cite water-logging and dripping rainwater as additional damaging factors. The Portuguese left in 1661 as per the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal. This marriage shifted possession of the islands to the British Empire, as part of Catherine's dowry to Charles.
 
 
The island has two groups of caves in the rock-cut architectural style.  The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All caves were painted in the past, but only traces remain. The larger group of caves, which consists of five caves on the western hill of the island, is well known for its Hindu sculptures. The primary cave, numbered as Cave 1, is about 1.5 km up a hillside, facing the ocean. It is a rock-cut temple complex that covers an area of 5,600 m2, and consists of a main chamber, two lateral chambers, courtyards, and subsidiary shrines. It is 39 metres deep from the front entrance to the back. The temple complex is the abode of Shiva, depicted in widely celebrated carvings which reveal his several forms and acts. On the eastern part of the island, on the Stupa Hill, there is a small group of caves that house Buddhist monuments. This hill is named after the religious Stupa monument that they display. One of the two caves is incomplete, while the other contains a Stupa made in brick.
 
Though the main cave was restored in the 1970s, other caves, including three consisting of important sculptures, are still badly damaged. The caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 as per the cultural criteria of UNESCO: the caves "represent a masterpiece of human creative genius" and "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared".
 
This cave has a large open verandah with a massive unsupported rock formation overhanging above. There is a beautiful doorjamb carved around the entrance to the main shrine at the center. There is also a Shivalinga at the main shrine. Nataraja Panel is located at the entry point of the main cave, opposite to the Mahayogi Shiva at Elephanta. After the three panels which are located in the deep wall of the cave. The fifteen large reliefs surrounding the lingam chapel in the main Elephanta Cave not only constitute one of the greatest examples of Indian art but also one of the most important collections for the cult of Shiva. The caves are the most magnificent achievement in the history of rock-architecture in western India. The Trimurti and other colossal sculptures with their aesthetic setting are examples of unique artistic creation. 
 
One statue shows Shiva bringing the Ganges River down to Earth, letting it trickle through his matted hair. He is also depicted as Yogisvara, lord of Yogis, seated on a lotus, and as Shiva Nataraja, the many-armed cosmic dancer. Left of the Mahesamurti is Shiva as both male and female, Ardhanarishvara, an aspect suggesting the unity of all opposites.
 
 
Elephanta Caves Time: 9 am to 5 pm
The cave is closed on Monday.
 
Best Time to Visit: October to March
 
Entrance Fee,
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC -  Rs. 10 per head.
Others - Rs. 250/- per head
children up to 15 years - free
 
 
How to Reach,
By Ferry/Boat 
To go to Elephanta Caves, one will have to go to the Gateway of India in Mumbai and take a boat/ferry ride from there. The journey takes one hour by sea. Tickets for a deluxe boat are Rs. 140 for adults and Rs. 90 for children. Economy boats charge Rs. 20 less on both tickets. The first boat leaves at 9:00 AM and the last boat from the island leaves at 5:00 PM.
 
Nearest Railway Station: Chembur Railway Station
Nearest Airport: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport 
 

Location

Country
India
State
Maharashtra
City
Mumbai
Location
Mumbai.
Address
Elephanta Caves, Uran, Raigad district, Apollo Bandar, Gharapuri, Maharashtra 400094
Contact Info
Phone:
Mobile :
Fax :
Near Cities
Nearest Bus Terminal
Gateway of India
Nearest Railway Station
Chembur (CMBR)
Nearest Airport
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
IN
latitude : 19.088699340 longitude :72.867897030
Corporation : Mumbai
GPS Code : VABB
Open Year
5th and 8th centuries
Architect
Rock cut
Visiting Hours
Elephanta Caves Time: 9 am to 5 pm The cave is closed on Monday

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