ELEPHANTA CAVES: GLORY TO LORD SHIV
For people who love to explore archeological sites, forts, caves and such historical monuments and places, Elephanta caves is a perfect place to lookout for. The centuries old caves were formed to dedicate it to Lord Shiva. Elephanta caves are located on the Elephanta island and is one of the world heritage site recognized by UNESCO and is thus a great tourist destination. Tourists and visitors across all over the world make sure they include Elephanta caves in their list of sight-seeing. The location of the caves is very beautiful and scenic as it surrounded by Arabian sea and is located around 10kms away from stressed life of Mumbai. The scenic of the place is very divine and peaceful with lots of lush greenery around accompanying with the cool breeze coming from the sea.
There are many stories and histories behind the architecture of Elephanta caves. This beautiful world heritage site of India is named by a Portugal who while exploring the place was stunned by the beauty of the sculptures and architect. The Portugal traveller saw the statue of elephant at the entrance of the island and thus he named the place as Elephanta caves and Elephanta island.
The caves are the perfect example of culture of Hindu caves. The place has seven Hindu caves which are divided into two main groups. The first group includes five Hindu caves and the second group consists of two Buddhist caves. The origins of these ancient caves are still not clear, though it is said that it started around 7th century. Before the rule of Portuguese in around 1534, the place was a Hindu abode to worship and was known as Gharapuri. The caves are sculpted from solid basal rock and in the past caves were painted beautifully but in today it is only left with its traces. The famous of all caves is the cave number one out of the six caves which is known as Mahesamurti cave. The giant statue of Mahesamurti is placed in the massive hall. The caves houses number of brilliantly sculpted temples cut from rock. The beauty of the rock cut temples were designed to please Lord Shiva. The complex of the temple is very huge and is spread across over 60000 square feet which showcases three chambers of which one is the main chamber and the other two are laterals. There is a large hall located in the middle of the temple which consists of nine beautifully sculptured panels which showcases and represents the greatest Lord Shiva in its various tempers with the height of 6.3m. The three-headed magnificent sculpture of Lord Shiva signifies it’s meaning beautifully, the one facing right signifies as Creator, the center face signifies the protector and the left one signifies the destroyer of evils. The other sculptures in the caves, like near the doorways and side panels portrays the significance of Shiva’s powers. The design of the magnificent temple represents the significance of its energy. Since the history of the world heritage site, Elephanta caves is still not clearly defined, some archeologists and historians has a belief that it would have been built by the brave prince of Chalukya dynasty Pulesin 2 to showcase his bravery by celebrating his powers and few states that the caves might be built by the great King of Kalchuri in sixth century.
Stupa hill is located on the east side of the island. The name derives from the beautiful Stupa monument with its religious significance which caves showcases. Buddhist monuments are located in this caves in which one of the cave is which contains the Stupa monument is built with the bricks and other cave is left incomplete. During the Portuguese time in 1534, they tried to take the statue of elephant to England but were not able to lift it and hence is now preserved at Bombay museum known as Bhau Daji Lad Museum at Jijamata Udyan. The statue was collapsed in 1814 but had been reassembled and is now located in the garden of the museum. Many of the precious statues and sculptures were damaged in the time of Portuguese.
Apart from the history and architecture significance of the place, the serene of the place is just mind-blowing, specially in winters. Since the caves are on island, the only way once can access the place is by taking a ferry from Gate Way of India. The view of city’s skyline from the Elephanta caves is just awesome. Away from all the city’s pollution and stress, the calmness and soothing serenity appeals everyone for a half day trip as a picnic to Elephanta caves. There is one resort of the Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel, which provides great Indian food with a beautiful view, though they do not provide accommodation for night stay. One can only rest there in the day time. There are no such hotels or lodges providing accommodation. The nearest option for hotels and accommodations is only in Mumbai after reaching Gate Way of India.
Elephanta caves are only accessed by sea ways, by taking boats or ferries from Gate Way of India. There are various options available in selecting the boat ranging from the economy one to the deluxe one. The journey from Gate Way of India to the island takes one hour. The first boat to the island is at 12 noon and the last one is at 5.30pm, tickets are booked from the Gate Way of India.
Thus one should not miss the fun of the boat ride along with the beautiful scenic views and the place of historic significance.