Elephanta Cave Temples

About Elephanta Cave Temples
Vital Information for Visitors
Address:

Elephanta, Elephanta Island, Raigad, Gharapuri, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Open & Close:

Open on all day except Monday

Entry Fees:

For Indians – INR 40 pp
For foreigner – INR 600 pp

Visiting Timing:

09 AM – 05 PM

Duration:

Approx 3-5 hrs

Significance:

Evolved Bramanical rock-cut architecture

Attraction:

Elephanta Dance Festival

The Elephanta rock-cut cave temples at Elephanta Island, nine kilometers northeast of Apollo Harbor, are major tourist attraction of Mumbai. They are thought to have been carved between 450 and 750, when one used to know the island by the name of Gharapuri, the City of Fortress. The Portuguese renamed it Elephanta because of a large stone elephant near the shore. This statue collapsed in 1814 and the British removed the remaining pieces to Victoria Gardens where it was assembled and still stand today. Unfortunately the Portuguese out of their traditional disdain for other religions caused considerable damage to the sculptures of Elephanta cave temples, although their size, beauty and power remain impressive. Elephanta in Mumbai is reached by boarding a ferry / steamer from Gateway of India. The caves have been named and clustered as under:

Cave 1 is the largest & main cave. It is 39 meter deep from front side to back. It has been a place of worship for the Hindus before the arrivals of Portuguese. British tried to stop further damage of these caves for the first time, officially in 1909. The monument was restored in 1970s. The historical, artistic and architectural significance of Elephanta caves came into notice of International bodies and got listed in 1987 under UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The cave has several entrances among which main entrance faces north and two side entrances face east and west. The main entrance has four pillars. The temple is inside the cave which has pillars to support the above portion of hill and create symmetric rhythm in temple. Sadashiva Trimurti is considered a masterpiece. It is carved on the south wall of the cave and faces the north entrance. The sculpture has a height of 6 meters and represents Panchmukhi Shiva by showing three headed Shiva. It is also known as Maheshmurti. Gangadhara sculpture is in the right of the Sadashiva Trimurti. Shiva and Parvati are shown in it in a standing pose. Shiva brings the river Ganga from heaven to serve people on earth but Ganga got contained in his hair. The artist has carved a small three bodied goddess above the head of Shiva, presenting a symbol of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. This sculpture has a height of about 5 meters and width of about

4meters. Ardhanarishwara sculpture is on the east side of the Trimurti. It is a four armed sculpture which represents the interdependence concept of Feminine and Masculine aspects of the universe. In this sculpture Goddess Parvati represents feminine and Lord Shiva represents masculine aspects of the universal existence. Andhakasura Vadha is on a wall near the west entrance. It shows Bhairava or Virbhadra (a form of Shiva) killing the demon Andhaka. The face of Bhairva has an expression of anger. A hand holds a bowl to collect the blood of Andhaka because if the blood drop touches the ground it had the power to become a new demon. Although legs and five arms out of eight has been damaged. Kalyanasundara depicts the wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is shown calm and young while Parvati as shy. King Parvata is shown giving hand of Parvati into hands of Shiva. Brahma is shown as priest. Gods and goddesses have shown witnessing the marriage of the two. Yogishwara sculpture proves ancient tradition of Yoga in India . Near the north entrance Shiva is shown in Yoga posture. According to the Hindu mythology, Shiva is considered the lord of Yoga. Shiva is shown sitting on a lotus and his legs are crossed. He wears a crown and his chest is shown vaulting forward to give a breathing effect of Yoga. Natraja sculpture is on the west side of the north entrance. His body and arms are shown in Lalit Mudra, a symbol of occupying the whole space. His face in tatpurusha form indicates preserving nature of Shiva. Natraja sculpture has eight handed Shiva and represents the dancing and destroying aspects of Shiva. Shiva’s family members, an ascetic, a Rishi, gods and goddesses have also shown in this sculpture.

Canon Hill is home to Cave 2 to 5. Cave 2 is in the south- east of the main cave. This cave is in unfinished condition. The front of this cave was completely destroyed and was restored during 1970s with four pillars. Cave 3 is to the next of cave 2. It has six pillars at its entrance and a Mandapam with pillars. Cave 4 is much damaged. There are three cells for monks. Cave 5 is also unfinished and much damaged. It has no artistic element remained.

Stupa Hill houses cave 6 & 7. Across the walkway of Cave 1 or main cave, there are two Buddhist caves up on the hill. Caves have remains of a ‘stupa’ and water tanks. One cave is a large hall known as Cave 6 or Sitabai’s temple. The hall has three chambers at the back. The central one is a shrine and rest place is reserved for monks and priests. The hall has no decorating element except the main shrine gate. There is no sculpture remained in this cave. It was converted into a church by the Portuguese. In the north of Cave 6 , there is Cave 7 which is damaged. As per the opinion of the scholars, it was with three cells. Near Cave 7 to the east side, there is a dry pond with several Buddhist cisterns at its bank. Near the north end of the hill, there is a mound recognized as remains of a Buddhist ‘stupa’.

The island has two groups of caves. On the western hill, there is group of five caves. This group is known for its Hindu sculpture. The primary cave is numbered as cave 1. Western hill is also known as Canon hill. The two hills containing caves are connected by a walkway. This hill mainly contains the Buddhist ‘stupas’ and hence it is also known as Stupa hill.

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