Elephanta caves is one of the most significant monumental designs of Maharashtra. It not only adds to the beauty and heritage of the state but also contributes to tourism as one of the most famous tourist spots of India. The famous Elephanta Caves also termed as Gharapurichi Leni or Gharapuri are a set of carved caves situated on Elephanta Island or Gharapuri. The island is positioned on the arm of the Arabian Sea and it consists of two group of caves- the first is a hefty group of five Hindu caves and the second is a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves encloses rock cut stone sculptures demonstrating the Shaiva Hindu sect which is primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated back to the period in between the 5th and 8th centuries and the identity of the respective original draughtsmen is still in a state of ambiguity. The caves are carved out of solid basalt rock and all these caves were painted beautifully on the past but as of now only the outlines linger. The main cave was basically a Hindu place of worship untilbastal rock
the Portuguese rule began in 1534. This war led to relentless damage of the caves but were later refurbished in the 1970s and was also designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the beauty and glory of the caves and at present they are maintained by the Archaeological Survey Of India.
History and Legend of Elephanta Caves
It is believed that no inscriptions on any of the island have been discovered and the ancient history of the island is speculative. As per the legend about the caves, the Pandavas, heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata and Banasura, the demon disciple of Lord Shiva were both ascribed with constructing temples or cut caves to live. It is also a popular belief that according to the local tradition, the caves are not believed to be man made.
The Elephanta Caves do not have a precise date and acknowledgment of their origin. According to Archaeological excavations few of the Kshatrapa coins date back to the 4th century A.D. According to the historical origin of the caves, the origin of the caves can only be mapped out to the conquer of the Mauryan rulers of Konkan by the Badami Chalukyas emperor Pulakesi II in a sailing battle in 635 A.D. Following the battle, the Elephanta was then termed as Puri or Purika and was also doled out as the capital of the Konkan Mauryas. Some of the historians feature the caves to the Konkan Mauryas and also marked that the caves dated back to the mid-6th century.
The Chalukyas who conquered the Kalachuris as well as the Konkan Mauryas are believed to be the initiator of the main cave by some people in the mid-7th century. The Rashtrakutas are the last pretenders of the main cave which is estimated to the early 7th to late 8th century. It is also believed that the Elephanta Shiva cave to a certain extent bears a resemblance to the 8th century Rashtrakuta rock-temple Kailash at Ellora.
Significance of the Elephanta Caves
- One of the most significant feature of the Elephanta caves is that the Trimurti of Elephanta portraying the three faces of Shiva is similar to the Trimurti of Brahma, Mahesh and Vishnu which was the the royal emblem of the Rashtrakutas.
- The nataraja and Ardhanarishvara monuments are also featured to the Rashtrakutas.
- At the entrance, there are four doors with three open doorways and a passageway at the back.
- An astonishing fact about the Elephanta caves is that each wall consists of large carvings of Shiva which is more than 5 meters in height. The central Shiva relief Trimurti is positioned on the south wall and is edged by Ardhanarisvara on its left and Gangadhara to its right.
- The rest of the sculptures interrelated to the legend of Lord Shiva are also seen in the main hall at premeditated locations in the restricted cubicles which include Kalyanasundaramurti portraying Lord Shiva’s marriage to the Goddess Parvati, Andhakasuravadamurti or Andhakasuramardana, the slaying of the demon Andhaka by Lord Shiva and Shiva-Parvathi on Mount Kailash which is the abode of Lord Shiva.
Apart from these, the following are the imperative features of the Elephanta Caves:
- Ravana lifting Kailash
- Shiva-Parvati on Kailash
- Wedding of Shiva
- Shiva slaying Andhaka
East Wing Shrine
West Wing Shrine
Festivals celebrated at Elephanta Caves
The major festival celebrated at Elephanta Caves is the festival of Music and Dance which is being organised every year by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) ever since 1989. This festival is one of the major attractions of the Elephanta caves which have the propensity to grab the attention of audience worldwide. The main emphasize of the festival is the elucidated Maheshmurti which is basically the Shiva idol in the main cave of the island. The festival also includes group of people performing the Folk dance. These folk dances are executed by the local fisher folk and the ethnic local food assortments add an extra tinge to the vibes of the festive fun. Over the years, the festival has successfully become a major tourist magnetism for the people of the country in particular and the world in general for the incoming domestic and foreign tourists.
Elephanta Caves Timings
- The Elephanta Caves is open on all days of the week except for Monday
- The opening hours are from 7:00AM in the morning to 7:00PM in the evening
- The visiting hours vary from 4 to 5 hours
- The entry fee per person for Indians is Rupees 10
- The entry fee per person for Foreigners is Rupees 250
How to Reach : Road , Rail, Air
By Road: Multiple transportation facilities are available for Elephanta Caves from Mumbai and nearby areas. Boat and Ferry ride facilities are also available from Gateway of India.
By Rail : Mumbai is one of the major railway junctions and all parts of India are connected with Mumbai. Therefore, trains are always available on everyday basis from Mumbai , Bandra or Lokmanya Nagar junctions. Local trains from Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal or Churchgate are also available.
By Air : The nearest airport to reach Elephanta Caves is the Mumbai Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
Where to Stay
There are numerous hotels and lodging facilities in and around the Elephanta Caves. Some of them are:
- Hotel Milan International
- Hotel Parle International
- Hotel Airlines International
- Ibis Mumbai Airport
- Taj Santacruz
- Bawa International
- Hotel Transit
Where to Eat
There are numerous reasonable restaurants in and around Elephanta caves with multiple cuisines. Some of them are : Elephanta Port Restaurant and Bar, Britannia and Company Restaurant, China Bistro, Bistro Grill, Le Cafe, VIG Refreshment, Ladoo Smart, West 1, Fruits and Foods Island, Sindh Pani Puri House, The Korner House, Aroma Garden, Bar-B-Que Corner, Cafe Amar, Veggie’s Delite, Rajkot Farsan Mart, Spice Kitchen, Arkshita, Croissants, Blue Park Restaurant, Hotel Sadanand Restaurant, Spring Onion, Sweet Passions, Hotel Vishnu Restaurant, Toran, Olde Baileys, Ming China, Salt ‘N’ Pepper, Vasant Refreshments, Oceanic, Ribbons and Balloons, Kunjvihar, Hotel Shree Devi Restaurant, Koolers, National Hindu Restaurant, Kaboom.