Location: Elephanta Island, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Built in: 5th century
Dedicated to: Lord Shiva
Attraction: Cave temples cut out of rocks
Significance: Listed as World Heritage Site
How to reach: One can easily reach Elephanta Cave Temple by taking Motorboats from Apollo Bunder near the Gateway of India in Mumbai
Elephanta Cave TempleElephanta Cave Temple embraces the perfect expression of Indian art in the outline of striking sculptures and carvings. Located at Elephanta Island, the temple lies at a distance of 10 kms from the Gateway of India, at Mumbai in the sate of Maharashtra. The metropolis Mumbai is connected with all parts of India either by air, rail or road. In order to reach Elephanta Caves, one can take motorboats from Apollo Bunder in Mumbai. Cut out from the rocks, Elephanta Cave Temples are the major tourist attraction of Mumbai.
In the earlier times, Elephanta Island was known as Gharapuri and it was the capital of Konkan Mauryas. The island 'Elephanta' was forenamed after the statue of an elephant, sited near the landing area of the island, by a Portuguese. The cave temples of Elephanta are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Rich in sculptural content, the earliest temples trace their origin in the 5th century B.C. Elephanta Caves represent Lord Shiva in his 'lingam' as well as in his typical life form originating from the Shivalingam in the colossal image and in 8 evident forms.
The main chamber embraces the mysterious image of Trimurthi Sadasiva (Lord Shiva). This huge image is 20 feet tall, depicting Lord Shiva with three heads and highlighting him as the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the world. The gigantic idol represents Panchamukha Shiva, where he is also portrayed as the savior and bestower of blessings. Considered as the masterpiece of Indian art, this image is expected to have been stood here in the same manner for conceivably a thousand years.
The huge temple complex sprawls in the area of 60,000 square feet on Elephanta Island. It comprises one sanctum sanctorum, two lateral chambers, courtyards and numerous additional shrines. The temple has three doorways for entry and exit. The axis of the temple is marked by doorways that lie on the east and the west. A hall with 20 pillars, lines the axis and a 'Shivalingam' is placed in its western end. Standing on square bases, the pillars comprise grooved columns and are crowned with channeled soften carvings.
All these massive pillars are carved out of the rock and really inspire awe of the onlooker. The whole temple is analogous to a gigantic sculpture and to a matter of fact; one can walk through the corridors and chambers of this sculpture. The walls of the entire temple are carved with scenes, depicting the Indian mythology. The whole complex is believed to have been created by a process of rock removal. A number of the rock surfaces are finished to a great extent, still many are left unprocessed bare rock.
On the southern wall, one can see beautifully sculptured images of Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara. In the western side of the northern entrance, there are images of Nataraja and Andhakaasuravadamoorthy and in its east; images of Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy are visible. In the east of the main shrine, there is a courtyard comprising an additional shrine. On its entrance, there are six pillars, out of which, four are free standing and two are occupied. It takes to a hall, which is ornamented with sculptured panels portraying folklore from the Shiva Purana.