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Location : Near Mumbai, Maharashtra
Built in : Period between ninth and twelfth centuries AD.
Famous for : Shiva Temple
Visiting time : 9.00 in the morning to 5.00 in the evening.
Visiting fee : Citizens of India and neighboring countries - Rs. 10/-
Foreigners: $ 5
Entry is free for children below the age of 15
Best visiting time : November to March
Closing days : Monday
How to reach here : The only way to access these caves is through ferries which can be accessed from Gateway of India. It takes only 15 minutes to reach here in a boat.
Located at a distance of 10 km from Mumbai, the sculpted Elephanta caves are named after a gigantic elephant called Gharapuri which roamed here. Recognized as a world Heritage Site, these exclusive caves will attract your attention on their very first sight. Dating back to 7th and 8th centuries, these splendors of architecture were influenced from Hindu mythology.
Comprising of seven caves, Elephanta Island will leave you mesmerized with its rich cultural heritage. Collections of splendid artworks, Elephanta caves are a testimony of the excellent craftsmanship of the bygone era. Lord Shiva is the main deity that is depicted by these Hindu and Buddhist caves.
Historical Background :
As a tourist, the first thing that you will notice about the caves is their unique architectural style. Made from volcanic basalt rocks, they are believed to be built by the Pandavas and the demon Baser. The excavations of coins belonging to 4th century have made the historians conclude that the period of construction lies between 5th and 8th centuries. There are several opinions regarding the creator of the cave, some historians consider that Chalukya kings were responsible for that while others attribute Konkan Mauryas to be the real constructors of the caves.
If you were thinking that Elephanta Caves is all about Hindu Temples, you are wrong. There are two set of caves that form part of this colossal structure; the larger group of caves, five in number, belong to Hindu architecture while the other group houses Buddhist caves. Out of all the caves, Great Cave or cave number 1 will interest you most.
Cave 1 : This impressive cave is famous among the tourists for its exclusive rock-cut sculptures and pillared hall. Stone columns support this hall and are joined by capitals. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this particular cave is accessible by a series of 1000 steps. This entrance is adorned with Shiva sculptures in different forms. The Shiva shrine which is located centrally has multiple entrances. Inside the shrine, there are several carved images of the deity. At one place, he is shown to be accompanied by mythological characters. Scenes from his marriage to Parvati and demon Ravana attacking Kailash have also been illustrated here. As you go further, images of other divinities in Gupta style of architecture will be seen.
One of the most impressive carving in this cave is of Shiva and his consort Parvati sitting on Kailash. The gods are seen with numerous attendants. The scenic beauty of the place is aggravated by the pictorial representation of royal people and several animals. Another amazing panel that will keep you engaged in site-seeing is of Ravana who is shown to be lifting mount Kailash in a fit of rage. The depiction is amongst the most exclusive illustrations of Elephanta Caves.
Trimurti : Shiva shown as Trimurti will leave you spell bound. As you look at the image, you will come to know about the various manifestations of the deity. Half of his face is sculpted as a cheerful young man and represents vitality. The feminine side illustrated near to Brahma is a symbol of beauty. The remaining half of the face shows Shiva in his terrifying mood.
Gangadhara : Shiva bearing the sacred Ganges River which is shown to be flowing from his head is worth noticing. Shown with Parvati and other incarnations like Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra, this brilliant piece of architecture will catch your fancy.
Marriage of Shiva-Parvati : On reaching south wall, you can have a glimpse of the marriage ceremony of these two deities. Certain parts of the image are missing; this is due to the damage done over time. The adorable image of Parvati is embellished with jewelry and lovely draperies are worth the admiration.
East wing : There are a number of courtyards in this wing, some of which are inaccessible. You can marvel at the sculpture of a winged tiger which is shown with a raised paw. Other attractions here include a linga shrine, a 4 armed doorkeeper and mother goddesses.
West wing : This is characterized by the presence of chapels and shrines. Multiple forms of Shiva are illustrated in the interiors. At one place he is shown in the form of a yogi; at other places, he is depicted with six arms and three eyes.
If you are a History enthusiast, Elephanta Caves are surely going to tie an everlasting bond with you.