Elephanta Caves also known as Gharpurichi Leni is located on Elephanta Island in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple complex area is approximately 60000 square feet and consists of a central hall, two lateral ones, several subsidiary shrines and courtyards. Also, the temple complex has three routes. The entire place is carved out of solid natural rock with intricately carved sculptures of idols. Among the low hills, a number of caves were excavated between the 5th and 8th centuries and filled with a profusion of majestic sculpture.

Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

The architecture of Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

There are mainly seven caves where the true excellence of ancient Indian architecture can be examined. Elephanta Caves have some highly prepared rocks; However, there are also some hard untreated rocks. The most prominent manifestation of sculpted caves can be seen in the two major groups of caves here.

History of Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

No one really knows for sure who created these cave temples, which king or dynasty chose to leave their imprint in stone on this island. The Portuguese named the island Elephanta after the figure of an elephant that stood at the door of the caves. At the same time, it was Portuguese soldiers who vandalised the caves and defaced many of the sculptures.

The Elephanta caves are dedicated to the many aspects of Shiva and they have some of the most powerful depictions of the many moods of this complex deity. There are a number of smaller shrines around the main cella and the panels of sculptures along the walls illustrate many episodes from the life of the god, like his marriage to Parvati, fighting the demon Andhaka and his bringing Ganga to earth. From the docks, a flight of stairs leads to the entrance of the cave which has a columned verandah with figures of dwarapalas, or doorkeepers, at two ends.

Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

Shiva Temple

The mandapa has sculptures on all sides but the main icons are along the south wall. These giant sculptures of Shiva and his consort Parvati with their attendants’ groups of apsaras, demons and dwarfs carved not just with superb technique and artistry but also with a fervour that sensed even after the figures  so cruelly mutilated. The sculptures done in high relief carved in deeply cut niches in the wall and guarded by dwarapalas set against pilasters. religious.

The rest of the cave minimally decorated as if to create an ambience focussed on the main deity, a temple where only Shiva is present to receive your devotions. Here he is Nataraja, the cosmic dancer as he dances the tandava his enraged dance of destruction. He is Yogishwara, the supreme ascetic seated in the dhyana mudra on a lotus and he is also Ardhanarishvara, half male and half female as a symbol of the active and passive forces of nature.

Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

The most famous portrait of Shiva,  the three-headed bust of Maheshwara, also called Trimurti, on the south wall of the cave. The image is six metres high, with Shiva wearing a high ornamental crown as the king of all three worlds. The magnificent sculpture has Shiva’s three faces showing benign, angry and serene expressions that capture the essence of the god with supreme artistry.

He is the detached creator on the right holding a lotus, the kind preserver in the centre and the ruthless destroyer on the left with a snake writhing around his neck. Chiselled with extraordinary passion by some long-forgotten sculptor this image has a power that only a true genius could have carved out of rigid stone. There are many beautiful shrines to Shiva but through their majestic sculptures, these artists made sure Shiva dances only at Elephanta.

Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Elephanta Caves assigned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1987. Thus, a remarkable site visited by many tourists during their visit to Mumbai to explore the historical and spiritual wonders. Also, every February, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) organizes a spectacular dance festival at Elephanta Island.


How to reach Elephanta Caves Shiva Temple

The best travel option to Elephanta Caves is to catch a boat or ferry service from the Gateway of India in Mumbai. It may take around 1 hour by sea to reach Elephanta Caves. You can also opt for economy boats, which charge less for tickets. The first boat leaves the island at 9:00 am and the last at 5:00 pm.

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