- Location: 10 km from Mumbai, on Elephanta Island
- Attractions: Elephant statue, Rock cut temples, Shivalingam, Trimurti Sadashiva image.
History of Elephanta CavesThe ancient history of the Elephanta cave is conjectural, since no inscriptions on any of the caves have been reported at best. The building of temples and cut caves here are primarily credited with the Pandava of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and Banasura, the demon devotee of Shiva. Local people still believe that the caves are not man-made.
Art historians have dated the Elephanta caves in the late 5th to late 8th century range. To confirm this, the archaeological excavations have found a few Kshatrapa coins from the 4th century. The defeat of the Mauryan rulers of Konkan in a naval battle, in AD 635 by the Badami Chalukyas emperor Pulakesi II is the start of the known history is traced so far. After this war, Elephanta caves were named as Puri or Purika, and act as the Konkan Maurya's capital. The Portuguese renamed this island as Elephanta Island in honor of an elephant black stone statue. This elephant is now placed into the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai.
Portuguese rule saw a decline in the Hindu community on the Elephanta Island and the abandonment of the main cave as a normal Hindu location of worship, though worship on Mahashivratri, proceeded and still does. The Portuguese did substantial impairment to the sanctuaries. Portuguese soldiers utilized the relief of Shiva in the major cave for target perform, freeing only the Trimurti sculpture. They furthermore removed an inscription associated with the creation of the caves. While some historians solely accuse the Portuguese for the destruction of the caves, other ones furthermore cite water-logging and dripping rainwater as added impairing components. The Portuguese left in the year 1661 as per the wedding ceremony treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza of Portugal. This wedding ceremony shifted possession of the islands to the British Empire, which has considered as one of the Catherine's dowry to Charles.
Also check out the History of Mumbai
The Main Elephanta CavesThe main cave, also called the Shiva cave, the large Cave or Cave 1, which is 27 meters square in design with an auditorium. At the entry there are four doorways, with three open porticoes and an aisle at the back. The roof of the auditorium has hidden beams supported by stone columns attached together by capitals. Different from other Shiva shrines, the entrance of the cave is aligned with the north-south axis.
The northern entry to the cave, which has 1,000 steps, is flanked by two panels of Shiva dated to the Gupta period. The left section depicts Yogishvara and the right displays Nataraja. The central Shiva shrine is a freestanding rectangular cell with four entrances, situated in the right part of the major auditorium. Lower shrines are located at the east and west finishes of the caves.
Elephanta Caves - UNESCO World Heritage SiteThe Elephanta Island is a calm and a scenic isle with green foliage and innocuous primates scampering about. One of the major locations to see on this island would be the Elephanta Caves. Upon entering the caves, a huge auditorium supported by large pillars and a large 'Mahesamurti' figurine will greet the visitors. This amazing, three-headed Shiva sculpture is the main attraction of these caves. Other sculptures of Shiva, in the Ardhanarishvara and Shiva Nataraja forms, can also be seen here.
The total cave complex is about 60,000 sq.ft and which is made up of natural rock. For the photographic enthusiastic persons, this cave always serves as their best place, since the background of the Arabian ocean makes this Elephant-shaped rock structure, a beautiful one. Those wanted to look around and soak in the nature can spend their evening time by exploring the Elephanta caves with a guide or just relax on the beach or walk up the Cannon Hill.
Preservation of Elephanta CavesThe risks to Elephanta Caves have been recognized as the following: developmental stresses, mainly due to its location within the Mumbai harbor, anthropogenic force due to development of population of the groups residing on the Elephanta island, industrial development of the dock facilities close to the island, no risk preparedness plan to address natural calamities such as cyclones, earthquake and terrorist attacks, unsustainable tourism and tourist amenities on the island and poor administration of the heritage monument. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage is the organization engaged with the Archaeological Survey of India in making better local situations at the cave spot. Recently a book has been published in order to make awareness in public to preserve Elephanta caves by UNESCO, INTACH and the Government of India jointly.
Shopping at Elephanta CavesFirst of all, one wouldn’t believe that they can do some shopping at a small island just off the coast of the Arabian Sea for souvenirs, but forgot about that, and get ready to be pleasantly shocked by the local Elephanta souvenir collection that one can take back to their sweet home. People can get into the flea market located just few steps top to the island.
Women's can consider this small market as a paradise to shop the lovely sculptures made of jewelry, marble, clothes and paintings of Lord Shiva and many amazing products of the wood work. There is no better spot to do the shopping for souvenirs of Indian artifacts, than the Elephanta Caves. Visitors should know about how doing a better bargaining in the barter world of elephant caves, since the prices are seems to be a bit exorbitant here.
Eating Out and Accommodation Options Near Elephanta CavesNo need to worry about the food and accommodation in Elephanta Island. If the visitors are interested in traditional Indian food, an MTDC hotel present here, offers a fine local cuisine at a reasonable rate. There are many other local food restaurants at Cannon Hill and outside the Elephanta caves selling tea, wild berries, coffee and other nourishment for the persons just looking for quick snacks. No one has the permission to stay overnight on Elephanta Island. The Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel or MTDH provides good accommodation facilities to rest during the daytime and to take a quick siesta!
How to Reach Elephanta CavesThe best traveling option to the Elephanta Caves is to catch a boat or ferry service from the Gateway of India in Mumbai. It may take around 1 hour through sea to reach the Elephanta Caves. Deluxe boats charges Rs.140 for adults and Rs.90 for the children. If someone does not have that much money to spend for their travel, they can also choose the economy boats, which charges less for both tickets. The first boat takes off at 9:00 AM and the last boat leaves at 5:00 PM from the island.
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