Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves are amongst the most popular attractions in Maharashtra. The caves are located on Elephanta Island, in Western India. The Elephant island is situated 10 km away from the Gateway of India at Mumbai. The island got its name “Elephanta” from Portuguese invaders, after they discovered an elephant black stone sculpture on the island. The sculpture was in a poor state of preservation, but later it was repaired and installed at the Jijamata Udyan Zoo in Mumbai. The Elephanta Caves is included in the list of the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. The best time to visit Elephanta caves is from October and February.

Elephanta Caves

It is believed that Elephanta Caves dates back to the period of 5th-8th century. The caves have a historical importance, as it can be traced to the defeat of the Mauryan Rulers restraining the Konkan kingdom by Pulakesi belonging to the the Badami Chalukya dynasty in the battle. It is claimed by some historians that the caves belong to the Konkan Mauryans, whereas some other historians claim that they belong to the Kalachuris. However, it is said that the surviving records recognized Elephanta Island as Puri or Purika, the capital of the kingdom of the Konkan Maurya during the 6th century. Although the creators of the caves are unknown, due to a lack of surviving records, there are many legends and various mythical and non-human figures associated with the creation of the temples.

Elephanta Caves

The Great Cave, also known as Cave 1, was the haven of worship of Hindu deities. This beautiful cave, situated in hillside and faces the ocean, resembles the 8th century Kailash Temple in Ellora Caves. This cave is full with enormous, beautiful sculptures. The main chamber, mandapa, is supported by rows of impressive pillars. There are so many carvings with Shiva that cover each wall in the mandapa, each one is more than 5m high. The most famous sculpture in mandapa is Trimurti, which has three faces of Shiva. Trimurti resembles a Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, royal insignia of Rashtrakutas. The right face represents Shiva as a young person, signifying life. The right half of the face resembles Lord Brahma, the female form of Shiva. Whereas the left half face is of a young man, having moustache and displaying anger, signifying Shiva the destroyer. The central face is in a meditative pose, signifying Shiva praying for the protection of humanity.

Elephanta Caves

Cave 2 is located to the south-east from the Great Cave.. The portal of the cave is destroyed, interior is damaged by water. It has a chapel in the northern end. The irregular chapel is supported by four eight-cornered columns, besides two demi-columns. There are remains of sculptures. However, previous rich artwork disappeared. Cave 3 lies at the south. It is in a worse condition, as it is damaged by stagnant water. The pillars in front of the rooms have been preserved. Across the ravine top from the Great Cave, there is a huge cave chamber, known as Sitabai’s Temple. The portico of this chamber has four pillars and two pilasters. Cave 5 is situated to the north from Sitabai’s cave. It has been abandoned soon after the start of construction.

Elephanta Caves

As for the Buddhist caves, the 173 m high Stupa Hill is situated in the eastern part of the island. The hill comprises of two caves with Buddhist monuments that date back to the 3rd century AD. One of the two Buddhist caves is not complete. The other cave contains a stupa made in bricks. The island contains other remains of buildings and artwork, as this was a place for capital city in ancient times.

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