Ideal Time: 4-5hours
Open Time: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: SAARC, Myanmar, Thailand citizens: INR 10,
Foreigners: INR 250,
Children (under 15 years): Free,
Village entry fee: INR 10,
Photography Charges: Free
Videography Charges: INR 25
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Elephanta Caves is a specimen of rock-cut art and architecture from the times of medieval India. The caves are located on the Elephanta island which is situated at a distance of 11 km from the city of Mumbai. Natively known as Gharapurichi Leni, the Elephanta Caves that exist today are ruins of what were once elaborately painted artworks. It also provides an amazing view of the Mumbai skyline.
The history of the Elephanta Caves has no solid proofs and is based on a number of inferences drawn from speculations and postulations. It is believed that the Elephanta Caves were built by Pandavas, however, some also credit the same to Banasura, the demon devotee of Shiva. Local tradition dictates that the caves were not built by the hands of men at all.
Historians date the Elephanta Caves back to late 5th - 8th century AD but excavations of Kshatrapa coins dated to 4th century AD have also been unearthed here. Records are available from the defeat of the Mauryan rulers of Konkan by the Badami Chalukyas emperor Pulakesi II. At that time, Elephanta was known as Puri or Purika and was the capital of the Konkan Mauryas. As a result of this, some historians believe that the caves were built by them during their reign.
Other historians have attributed the caves to the Kalachuris who are believed to have some relationship with the Konkan Mauryas. These assumptions are based on the fact that the Elephanta caves are dedicated to Pashupata Shaivismsect, a sect to which Kalachuris as well as Konkan Mauryas belonged. Other than these, the Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas are also believed to have been behind the creation of these magnificent caves.
Following the rule of the Chalukyas, Elephanta Caves fell into the hands of the Gujarat Sultanate, who surrendered it to the Portuguese in 1534. The Portuguese renamed the island as "Elephanta Island" due to the huge stone statue of an elephant that was situated near the island. Elephanta Caves saw major deterioration under the Portuguese until 1661, when the caves came under the territory of the British.
The main cave was restored in the 1970s but the other caves are still in a very deplorable condition. The Elephanta Caves got featured in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Site in 1987 and became an even more popular tourist destination after that.
The whole complex of the Elephanta Caves is built on an area of 60,000 square feet and it has seven caves. The main cave was the Hindu place of worship under the Portuguese rule. It has a pillared mandapa, open porticoes and an aisle. The walls are carved out of stone and a number of deities make an appearance here. The main cave has a statue of Ravana lifting Kailash mountain, Shiva-Parvati on Kailash, Ardhanarishvara which is a manifestation of Shiva and Parvati in the same body, Trimurti which is the three forms of Lord Shiva, Gangadhara which is a cascade of the Ganges from the heavens to the earth, a depiction of Shiva's wedding, Shiva slaying Andhaka, Nataraja or a depiction of Shiva performing the Taandav, Yogishvara and the Shiva Linga. The east wing shrine of the Elephanta Caves has carvings on Kartikeya, Matrikas, Ganesha and Dvarapala upon its surface, while the west wing has Yogishvara and Nataraja adorning the caves.
Since the Elephanta Caves are located on an island, one has to take a ferry to the islands which make up for a joy ride in its own right. The first boat leaves from the Gateway of India ferry point at 9:00 AM while the last one leaves at 2:00 PM sharp. The ferry can cost anywhere between INR 130 to 150 according to the type of ride you choose. The ferry skimming through the waters of the Arabian Sea is especially enjoyable for children, and you can also grab some snacks on the go.
Winter months from November to February are the best time to visit the caves. Avoid peak monsoon season (June to August ) as the sea becomes unpredictable and ferry schedules get disrupted. Morning hours are better to visit this destination.
From any point in Mumbai, catch a local train to Churchgate or CST station. From there you can either walk to the Gateway of India or hire a taxi. Alternatively, you can reach the Gateway of India directly through the local bus. On reaching the Gateway of India, you have to hire a ferry to the Elephanta Caves.
3 months ago by Pranjali Kureel
As a history enthusiast, I loved Elephanta caves with their grandeur and rock-cut architecture. The huge stone sculptures like 'Trimurti' and 'Ardhnareshwar' blew my mind. The ferry ride to the island on which these caves are situated isn't so much fun for people like me who experience seasickness. I visited Elephanta caves in the month of June when the weather was hot and humid which makes the long walk till caves even more tiring. However, the shops on the way are good for shopping as they sell a variety of stuff like metal/shell jewellery, bags, souvenirs etc. at affordable prices (Rs. 50- 450). It is advisable to visit the place in winter months and carry a water bottle to stay hydrated.
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