Friday, 30 November 2012

Elephanta caves, Mumbai

Elephanta Cave Island Is situated about 11 kms northwest of Apollo Bunder near Gateway of India, the departure point for ferries to the famous caves. Elephanta is about 1050 hectores in extant at high tide. It is a range of trap two and a half kilometers in length and about 173 meteres above sea level. The island, which has a coast line of 7 kms, consists of two hillocks separated by a narrow valley and once full of mangroves, but now on the decline. The rocky out crop found on the island is made up of trap, a form of basalt.

There are three small village viz. Raj Bunder, Shet Bunder and Mora Bunder located over the island and still inhabited by people, population roughly being 1600. Farming and fishing is the chief occupation of the habitant people here.

This island was known as "Gharapuri" in the ancient Literature. The first component denotes the Gharis or Guruvas i.e. the sudra priests of shaivite temple. The second 'puri' denotes 'town'. Thus the Gharapuri it would mean the town of the 'Ghari- Priests'. In Prakrit the word ghara means fort or fortification wall in Sanskrit it is called prakara. Which signify that it was once a fortress city. It is an appropriate title for the Island. According to 11th Century inscription on the copper vessle, this place was known as 'Sripuri', meaning wealthy town or town of abundant wealth.

It is popularly believed that different dynasties held their sway over this island such as the Mauryas of Konkan, Trikutakas of Badami, Silaharas, Rashtrakutas, Kalyani Chalukyas, Yadavas of Devagiri and later by the Muslim rulers of Ahmedabad, the Maratha and finally by the Portuguese before it passed in to the hands of British.

In 1534 A.D., the island passed into the hands of the Portuguese. Portuguese landed on this island. They saw a colossal stone elephant that was found on the island and they named it as "Elephanta caves". However, in the early part of 19th century, the highly disintegrated broken pieces of this monolithic stone elephant were reassembled by a British Curator. 

The staute has been now removed to Jijabai Bhonsle udyan Byculla (Mumbai), formerly Bombay's Victoria Gardens. The Portuguese soldiers fired several shots from a big gun into the cave to test the echo, thereby breaking some of the sculptures and pillars.

Very Old Photos Caves Drawings Made on the Spot by W.Westall A.H.A in 1803.

A Drawings Made on the Spot by W.Westall A.H.A in 1803.
In 1909, the main cave was declared a protected site under the Ancient Monuments preservation Act and came under the authority of the Archaeological survey of India.

Elephanta Caves were included in the 'World Heritage' list in the year 1987 by the UNESCO due to their outstanding universal value representing a masterpiece of human creative genius and bear a unique and exceptioned testimony to a cultural tradition.

How to Reach : 

Now Let's Start our Trip to Elephanta Cave Island from Gateway of India, Mumbai you can find ferry for Elephanta Cave Island, tickets available near Gateway of India Adults fare is Rs.150/- & Child Rs. 100/- ( in year 2012) for upper Deck you need to pay Rs.10/- Extra on the Boat. First ferry  Boat is Starts from Morning 9:00 AM & Last Boat on 5:30 PM.

Boat Tickets  
View of  Hotel Taj & Gateway of India From Boat

Ferry Boat with upper Deck

while going towards Elephanta Cave Island in the Indian Ocean you can watch & Enjoy Huge Ships.

Cargo Ship in the Sea

Enjoy Huge Ships

After journey of Approx 40 to 50 mins you can see beautiful Elephanta Cave Island  & North west Jetty.

view of  Elephanta Cave Island

North West Jetty
Elephanta Cave Toy Train & Tax Ticket

Visitors  Enjoy this Small Ride

Sign Board at Base of village

After Reaching to Island a small Toy Train is take you to base of village for Rs.10/-( Return fare in 2012)or you can just walk through the bridge and enjoy cool breeze of sea & Rs. 5/- Gram panchayat Tax only for Adults.

The Caves are a quarter mile off, you have to climb 120 steps to reach the cave temples. in the way you can find some local stalls of caps and mouth watering Green Mango Slice, Avala, Tamarind, Cucumber, and lots more and mainly monkeys, mostly they are harmless if you don't tease them. there are some hawkers in the way selling gift items and guide books.

Local villagers selling food & snacks

Add caption

Monkey eating Corn given by Visitors

Gift Articles Shop ( Idols of  Gods)

Jetty view from top side

An Archaeological Officer is available near the entrance to the Caves. This monuments is under the protected and control of superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological survey of India, mini circle, Mumbai. Entry Fees for Caves is for Indian Visitors is Rs.10/- & Rs. 250/- Foreign Visitors. (in the  year 2012).

Archaeological survey of India Ticket

The first & Main Cave is just few steps ahead.

Entry of First Cave

We guide you to each and every corner of main cave just refer Bold Letters For more details on the topic :


As one enters the cave from the main entrance to the North, immediately to the left and right are sculptured panels Representing Shiva as the Lord of Yogis (Shiva Yogesvara) and the Lord of Dancers(Nataraja). In the former (A) which is to the visitor's left, Shiva is shown sitting on a lotus, the stalk of which seems to spring from the primaeval water, where it is held by two Nagas, the genii of the deep. As yogisvara, he is the supreme master of all yogic disciplines, as well as the teacher of all the arts that give expression to an understanding and realisation of ultimate reality. The figure is badly damaged, but the powerful swelling chest and the silent absorbed face, though broken, express great spiritual strength and clam. Flying above are gods and goddesses with splendid ethereal bodies. In the upper corner to our left can be seen Brahma and Indra seated on their vehicles, the swan and the elephant. Vishnu, who rides on Garuda, is to the right, at the level of Shiva's chest, but the faces of both rider and vehicle are damaged.

Mahayogi Shiva

The opposite panel (B), representing Shiva as the Lord of Dancers, is much better preserved, but here too the lower portion of the sculpture is almost completely missing. The Natraj panel is raised on a platform measuring its width 3.28 meters, height 3.40 meters and depth 3.97 meters. The central Shiva figure admeasures approximately 3.24 meters. Shiva is shown with eight hands. The first right arm, now broken below the elbow, stretches across his chest in a characteristic pose of the Lalita dance. Another of his right hands holds a battle axe, from which a snake surges forward, to rest on Shiva's shoulders. The face, with the elaborate Jatamukuta, is calm and indrawn, as though unconscious of the frenzy of the whirling arms. Note the hair falling over the left shoulder, indicating a pronounced movement to the right which is emphasized by the shoulders of the arm stretched across the chest. The folds of the cloth placed on the right thigh serve only to emphasize the smooth modelling of the limbs. Among the figures to the right is Parvati, and above her is Vishnu, riding on Garuda, both figures being damaged. Indra can also be seen riding his vehicle, the elephant Airavata. At the bottom to the left is a seated drummer, and above him stands the war god Kumara (Kartikeya), the son of Shiva, while above him is a very well preserved image of another son of Shiva, the elephant-headed Ganesha. On the top are two scantily dressed and emaciated ascetics, and next to them is Brahma, who is usually shown riding a swan but is here shown on a seat that is borne by a row of flying swans. Hovering over the great matted locks of Shiva are the usual long-limbed angels.
Brahma, Ganesha, Kartikeya Left side dancing figure of Shiva

There are in all 108 postures of Tandava dance. Parvati was also participating in Tandava dance and she was equally good performer as Shiva. So Shiva by playing hat trick, has raised one of the leg and touched it to his head. The posture is known as Urdhva Tandava posture, but Parvati appears to show hesitance to perform this posture, due to delicacy of womanhood, this also is shown at Ellora in cave No. 16 on the main temple's plinth level. She appears to be surrendering and admitting her defeat and turns her face. Shiva was honored with title of 'Natraj'.

Natraj Shiva


We enter the cave proper now, and it takes a little while before the eye becomes accustomed to the gloom. Immediately in front, the colossal image of Mahesamurti, the Great Lord, begins to take form in the half darkness, and one is irresistibly drawn to it (C). The recess having a depth of 3.2 meters and width 6.55 meters. The height of the bust is 5.43 meters above the base. The total height of the figure is 8.3 meters. The image is set in a deep recess flanked by pilasters, on which are figures of dvarapalas, considerably damaged, and accompanied by dwarf attendants. It is 18 feet high, and represents the crowning achievement of Indian sculpture  not to be ranked second to anything found in the country. The image represents the supreme Shiva, fully manifest. 

The calm central face of Shiva represent Tatpursha or Mahadeva with the full sensuous lip rests on a chest of mighty proportions, which is adorned by rows of necklaces. The high mountain-like locks of hair piled on top of the head are encircled by an elaborate three pointed tiara, which has a crest jewel in the shape of a Kirtimukha (lion-face). One of the hands in front holds a citron, while the other is damaged. The face of destruction, that of Aghora or Bhairava, is to our left, and significantly, is always in shadow, for it is Shiva's manifestation as the destroyer who ends both death and time. The bulging forehead, hooked nose, cruel mouth, and twirling mustache hold terror; and symbols of death, a skull and serpents, adorn his hair, while he holds yet another serpent in his hand. The third face represents the God in his aspect as Vamadeva or Uma, the beautiful god, who is the feminine aspect of creation. The face itself is female in its blossoming beauty, full of solicitude and a sensuous enchantment. The hand holds a lotus, while the hair is decorated with festoons of pearls and fresh flowers and leaves. The fourth face which is not visible is said to represent Sadyajata or Nandin.

On either side of the Mahesamurti is a panel one representing Shiva Bearing the Ganga (Gangadhara Shiva), and the other Shiva Ardhanarisvara, the Lord who is both Male and Female.

Center Face of Shiva

The latter panel (D) to the left of the Mahesamurti, is comparatively well preserved, only the lower portions being somewhat damaged. Shiva, one half of whose body is female, leans against the bull Nandi, the upper hands holding a snake and a mirror. The fusion of the male and female bodies symbolic the Divine Unity, in which all opposites are resolved. The swelling breast and the rounded curve of hip of the feminine body are to the right and the masculine chest and straight slim hips are to the left. The face itself is androgynous in an enigmatic way, being both male and female. Brahma and Vishnu are at their usual places, the former being accompanied by Indra on his elephant. Below them is the war god Kumara, with elaborately dressed hair. In front of Vishnu is Varuna, god of the Waters, riding on a makara, and below are two mutilated but superb figures of women, one of whom holds a chauri across her shoulders. Numerous other figures crowd the compartment so that it appears to be the most elaborate one in the cave temple.


  1. Your Travel blog is absolutely fantastic! Great deal of information on Elephanta caves, Mumbai and this can be useful some or maybe the other way to visitors. Keep updating your blog. Mumbai tourism cannot be defined properly without the mention of the places to visit in Mumbai; especially the beautiful beaches.

  2. Good post with nice photos. Elephanta caves is one of the famous Maharashtra caves. Their cave drawing is beautiful. Get list of caves in Maharashtra and know more about all caves at

  3. Nice post. Images are so beautiful. These rock-cut marvels are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that you must feast your eyes on at least once in a lifetime! Check out all details, timings, entry fee, best time to visit of Elephanta Caves.

  4. My trip to Elephanta Caves – Maharashtra – India

  5. Your sense of image description is awesome, the complete experience was detailed even in the images, nice post, you can even explore more about Elephanta at Elephanta Caves - UNESCO GLORY.

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