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Elephanta Caves

Elephanta Caves or Elefante Caves are ruins of Shaivite cave temples mostly dedicated to Hindu Shiva and some Buddhist stupas on Elephanta Island or Gharapuri off Mumbai Harbor or 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of Mumbai City or 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) west of Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mahārāshtra State, India.

The Elephanta Caves are carved from dense basalt rocks in the mandala layout and contain statues that cut stones to show the syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography. Carving depicts Hindu mythology with monolithic Trimurti Sadashiva or three-faced Shiva, Nataraja or Lord of dance and Yogishvara or Lord of Yoga.

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The cave was completed in 550 AD which is associated with various Hindu dynasties. The site has been badly damaged by Islamic jihadists in the region and Portuguese colonists set up bases on the island that cause further damage. The monuments were restored in the 1970s and in 1987 designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The ancient history of this island is not known either in Hindu or Buddhist records. Archaeological studies have found many remains of human settlements with possibilities of the 2nd century BC. The history of the area was first recorded in the era of the Gupta Empire, but does not explicitly mention this cave.

According to Archaeological Survey of India and UNESCO, the site was built between the 5th to 6th centuries. Scholars connect the temples with King Krishnaraja from the Kalachuri dynasty. Elephanta's artwork is inspired by the mythology, concepts, and spiritual notions found in the Vedic texts on Rudra, Shiva, Puranas and the Pashupata Shaivism literature corpus of Hinduism composed by the 5th-century.

The panels reflect widely accepted ideas and stories that are well-known to Indian cave artists and architects in about 525 AD. Mythology varies significantly in these texts and has been much distorted by interpolation, but the Elephanta Cave panel represents the most significant version of the narrative in the 6th century.


Elephanta Island has two cave groups with architectural styles carved out of dense basalt rocks. The large cave group consists of five caves on a hill famous for Hindu statues. Cave 1 is about 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) up the hill and overlooks Mumbai harbor. Cave 2, Cave 3, Cave 4 and Cave 5 in the southeast. Cave 6 and Cave 7 about 200 meters (660 ft) northeast of Cave 1 and 2, but geologically on the eastern edge of the hill.

All caves are stone temples covering 5,600 sq meters (60,000 sq ft) including main space, two lateral spaces, yard, and subsidiary shrines. The main temple complex is Shiva's dwelling place which tells the legends and mythology of Shaivism, but also shows the theme of Shaktism and the Hinduism Vaishnavism tradition.

Cave 1 has a depth of 39 meters (128 ft) from the front door to the rear as the largest cave that has a collection of Ravananugraha, Shiva-Parvati, Mount Kailash, Ardhanarishvara, Sadashiva Trimurti, Gangadhara, Wedding of Shiva, Shiva slaying Andhaka, Nataraja, Yogishvara, Linga , Kartikeya, Matrikas, Ganesha, Dvarapala, Yogishvara and Nataraja.

Cave 2 has a completely destroyed front and rear in the 1970s. Portico has a length of 26 meters (85 feet) and a depth of 11 meters (36 feet) supported by eight columns. Cave 3 is in worse condition with a room as deep as 6 meters (20 feet) and a width of 5.7 meters (19 feet). Cave 4 and 5 are also damaged, although the artwork still shows the caves used to be the Shaiva shrine. Elephanta Caves

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Location: Elephanta Island, Mumbai City, Maharashtra State, India.

Routes and public transport: Flights to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai City. Drive to Gateway of India and take a ship or ferry from there for a sea trip of more than 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) in 1 hour.

Available tickets for luxury ships and economy ships. The first ship to Elephanta Island at 9 am and the last ship from Elephanta Island at 5 pm. Alternate flights to Navi Mumbai International Airport in Navi Mumbai City, then use the boat to Elephanta Island.

Advice: Elephanta Island has an area of 16 sq kilometers (6.2 sq mi). Overnight stay on Elephanta Island is not permitted, but Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel is a good place to take a nap during the day. The hotel also serves food and drinks. Check-out time at this hotel is 5:00 PM.

Walking uphill will take you to a local antique market that sells statues made of marble, jewelry, clothing, paintings of Lord Shiva, and many stunning timber items. Some local food vendors at Cannon Hill and outside the cave for wild berries, tea, coffee and snacks.

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