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A Visit to Elephanta Caves in Mumbai

Welcome to Elephanta Island

I have heard about Elephanta Caves from lots of people. All of them said whenever you visit Mumbai you must see the Elephanta Caves. I was always wondering what is so special about these caves? Are there lots of elephants in these caves? Or are these caves in the form of elephants? These questions were always occupied in my mind. So, finally i got a chance to visit these caves. I was so excited to hear that i am going to see these caves.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. We decided to leave early in the morning to escape from the heat of the sun. We took the local train to reach Churchgate station and from there we took a taxi to reach Gateway of India. From Gateway of India we took the ferry to Elephanta Island. The island is located in the Arabian Sea. The 50 minutes boat ride from Gateway of India to Elephanta caves was really worth the price. The evening boat ride was awesome with the scenic beauty of the setting sun.

Once you land on the island you have to walk some distance to reach the stairs which takes you to the caves.You can also take a toy train to avoid walking at a very nominal cost of rupees 10. There is a small fee for the entry to the caves.

The island itself is really very beautiful, and covered with the small shops till the end of the stairs. To climb up the stairs can be tiring, there are more than 100 steps, with shopkeepers selling handicrafts and other things on both sides of the paved path. We walked through many shops and restaurants, these shops made the island look like a small market place.

Elephanta Caves

Main sculpture at Elephanta Caves

After completing all the stairs you will see the first cave.The cave is a world heritage and was designated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. There are two groups of caves– five Hindu caves and two Buddhist caves. Hindu caves are dedicated to God Shiva.

The Elephanta Caves consist of one main cave and several smaller caves. We immediately followed people to see the first cave.It is the main cave of the Elephanta island. In the main cave there were number of sculptures, all relating to Shiva.

Lord Shiva as Natraj – The Cosmic dancer

The beautiful Shiva Nataraja next to the main entrance was really impressive even in partial ruined state. At the entrance of the caves is the famous Trimurti, the trinity of Elephanta : the centerpiece of the cave was the big statue of three heads Shiva. Aghora or Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half) or we can say there’s Lord Brahma the Creator, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and Lord Shiva the Destroyer. Unfortunately, many of the sculptures inside have been damaged. We were hugely impressed by the Trimurti, a massive depiction of Shiva with three heads.

Lord Shiva as Ardhanarishvara

On the left side of Trimurti there was Ardhanarishvara. It shows divinities assembled around Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati. The 5.11 m high Ardhanarishvara depicts a four-armed Shiva. Shiva is shown as a half male – half female depicting Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati as one.

Wedding of Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati

On the right side there was Kalyanasundarmurti, depicting Shiva’s marriage to the goddess Parvati. The couple is often depicted performing the panigrahana (“accepting the hand”) ritual of a Hindu wedding, where the groom accepts the bride by taking her hand into his hand. And next there was Shiv Ling and Dvarapalas at the entry of the door.

A little further to the south there is cave No 3. Pillars in the front of rooms have been preserved, sculptures of door-keepers of shrine are partly preserved.There were many other interesting and beautiful depictions in the caves. Famous sculptures of Hindu caves are Ravana holding up the Kailash, Shiva-Parvati on Kailash, Ardhanarishvara, Trimurti, Wedding of Shiva, Shivling, Nataraja, Kartikeya, Yogishvara, and Matrikas. On the hill above the Great Cave there is a broken stone lion– possibly one of guards in the entrances of Great Cave.

Toy train at Elephanta Island

More and more people visit Elephanta Caves to witness the masterpieces preserved in the caves of Elephanta island. Unfortunately most of the tall statues were destroyed and only a few are still standing. However, the famous caves are still worth a visit. There were lots of monkeys too. View of Arabian Sea from top of the island is mesmerising. The caves are beautifully carved. Elephanta Island is an excellent weekend get away from Mumbai. It was a really good experience. Please note that  Elephanta island is closed on Monday.

As a nature lover, I request you all who visits such historic places to keep such places clean and green.

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