Travel-India

Elephanta Caves

Located in midst of Arabian Sea, a short distance from the Mumbai shores, Elephanta caves are age-old caves dating back to 5th-7th centuries.

Elephanta Caves are very popular amongst both local and foreign tourists. Accessible by an hour long ferry ride, which offers nice views of Mumbai’s skyline, Elephanta Caves are well-located on an island with about 7 km circumference.

The island was earlier known as Gharapuri and was renamed to Elephanta by the Portuguese after the giant structure of an elephant they came across when they landed here. Today the structure stands in Jijamata Garden in Mumbai.

History of the caves is not very clear though the architecture indicates that those were formed during the Chalukas and the Rashtrakutas dynasties. Since then the area was ruled by various dynasties, Portuguese and Marathas from whom it went under the rule of the British.

 

And though no documents have been found to specify anything, it seems that Elephanta caves were meant for something important when they were created.

Elephanta caves are grouped into two groups, one containing 5 Hindu caves and another containing two Buddhist caves.

The Hindu caves are apparently built by Hindu sect Shaivas, devotees of Lord Shiva as the caves are primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The main entry to the caves is from the north side which leads one to a huge hall with a number of pillars. Here stands the Maheshamurti, an 18ft tall three-headed idol of Lord Shiva.

The front or the centre head presents a detached, meditative and other-worldly Shiva in his ‘tatpurusha’ aspect. The left head symbolises the ‘aghora’ form that is the turbulent and fearsome and the tight one presents him as ‘vamadeva’, that is pleasing and lovable. Maheshmurti is the main attraction of Elephanta Caves.

Closeby, there are many other sculptures representing Shiva in various forms like Nataraja where he is performing a divine dance, Gangadhara where he is bearing the Ganges, descending from heaven to earth, in his locks, Ardhanarishvara where masculine and feminine energies are merged into one depicting the unanimity of the opposites.

Elephanta caves seem to have suffered a lot at the hands of Portuguese who evidently practiced target shooting here. And then the visitors were not so considerate either causing immense damage.

 

Elephanta caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 and are currently maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.

Every year in the month of February, a dance festival is organised here by MTDC.

 

 

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