Elephanta Caves - Gharapuri, Maharashtra

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 15, 2022, 6:00

The Elephanta Caves are located on island hills of the Gharapuri island around 11 km north-east of Mumbai's Apollo Bandar and 7 km off the mainland's shore, with a perimeter of 7 km. They are a red hot tourist attraction and draw in tons of visitors every year. Read below to learn everything about Elephanta Caves.

Significance of the Elephanta Caves

When it comes to the Elephanta Caves, caves 2-5 are mostly unfinished or damaged, Cave 6 is historically noteworthy since it was renovated and utilized as a Christian church by the Portuguese during their colonization of the island.

It is also called the Sitabai's temple cave there are four pillars and two pilasters in the portico. The back of the hall features three chambers, one of which is a shrine, and the others are for monks or priests, preserving the authenticity of the Caves.

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Notable features of the Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves were carved out of the rock between the 5th and 6th centuries AD the most important amongst these is Cave 1 which measures 39 meters from the front entrance to the back, the cave's main body measures 27 meters square, excluding the porticos on the three open sides and the back aisle, and is supported by six-column rows.

The cave features a major entrance on the north, as well as two other entrances on the east and west, and a central hall with six rows of pillared columns, six in each row except for the western corner, which has a Lingam shrine. There are about three large square recesses on the plan, divided off by pilasters and each of them bearing a gigantic image of a Dvarapala.

At the entrance of the cave is a 7-meter-tall sculpture of lord Shiva called Sadashiva' which represents the three aspects of Shiva:

  • The Creator
  • The Preserver
  • The Destroyer

A figure of Ardhanarisvara, a form of Siva with male and female energy, is carved on the east panel, and representations of Siva and Parvati playing chausar are sculpted on the west panel.

Andhakasuravada murti, the cosmic dance of Nataraja, Kalyanasundaram murti, Gangadhara murti, Ravana shaking Kailasa, and Siva as Lakulisa are among the other famous panels in the main cave.

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Facts about the Elephanta Caves

  • The Elephanta Caves archaeological components are all preserved in their natural contexts.
  • By exposing the buried stupas, more archaeological material can be revealed, and more information can be gained.
  • As of now, the caverns are currently being affected by saline action and general rock surface erosion.

Despite some modifications to the facade and pillars conducted to safeguard the monument's structural stability, the property's originality has been largely preserved since its placement on the World Heritage List.

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FAQs on Elephanta Caves

Q1. How to reach the Elephanta Caves?

To go to the Elephanta Caves, one must first travel to Mumbai's Gateway of India and then take a boat/ferry ride from there. By sea, the journey takes one hour.

Q2. What do the Elephanta Caves consist of?

The Elephanta Caves feature rock-cut stone sculptures of Lord Shiva and Hindu mythology, but the Portuguese soldiers destroyed and damaged most of the artwork.

Q3. Which was the year when the Elephanta Caves were announced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The Elephanta Caves were primarily announced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Q4. When were the Elephanta Caves built?

The Elephanta Caves were carved out of the rock between the 5th and 6th centuries AD.