Elephanta Caves /घारापुरीची लेणी

We all have been to Elephanta caves atleast once in our childhood either with our family or through our school picnic. Located on Elephanta Island, you have to ride on a ferry ship from Gateway of India to the Elephanta Island which takes around 20 to 35 minutes. The journey is what makes it exciting to reach thess stunning caves.
Consisting of Buddhist and Hindu Caves and some stunning rock sculptures, the name was derived way back from Portuguese who came across a giant 13 feet elephant statue at the entrance. The cave was a home to rock cut cave temples that were entirely dedicated to powerful Lord Shiva. These caves have been recogonized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s so large that the entire cave complex covers around 60000 square feet. These temples were created by carving out rock. The main cave houses the holy Maheshamurti, a three headed sculpture of Lord Shiva in all his forms, the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. Also the best part is you can reach the destination only by boats which are available at the Gateway of India. The boast leave for this island every half an hour.

The Elephanta Caves are a great tourist attraction in the vicinity of the large Mumbai meteropolis. The Elephanta island is located 10 km away from the Gateway of India at Mumbai. These caves house rock cut temples dating back to the 5th century CE.
The Elephanta island was so named by the Portuguese, after the statue of an elephant near the landing area of the island. These rock cut temples dedicated to Shiva Mahadeva are rich in sculptural content.

This rock cut temples were created by carving out rock, and creating the columns, the internal spaces and the images. The entire temple is akin to a huge sculpture, through whose corridors and chambers one can walk. The entire complex was created through a process of rock removal. Some of the rock surfaces are highly finished while some are untreated bare rock.

The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60000 squrare feet and it consists a main chamber and two lateral ones , courtyards and several subsidary shrines. Above the temple is the mass of natural rock.

There are three entrances to this temple. The ones on the east and the west marking the axis of the temple. A 20 pillared hall lines the axis, and on its western end is the cella in shich is enshrined a Shivalingam. The pillars consist of fluted columns standing on square bases, and are crowned with fluted cushion capitals.

Thus in the Elephanta caves, Shiva is portrayed in the non anthropomorphic Shivalingam form, as well as in his quintessential being emanating from the Shivalingam in the colossal image, and in 8 manifest forms.
Also on the southern wall are grand sculptured images of Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara. To the west of the northern entrance are sculptured images of Nataraja and Andhakaasuravadamoorthy, and to its east are images of Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy.

To the east of the main temple is a courtyard, flanked by the secondary shrine. This temple contains six pillars at its entrance, four of which are free standing and two engaged. The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels depicting legends from the Shiva Purana.

Motorboats take passengers from Appollo Bunder near the Gateway of India.The hour-long ferry ride provides a good introduction to Hinduism thanks to the guides on board. Try to plan your trip so you see the sunset over Mumbai on your return journey.The first boat leaves at 9:00 AM and the last boat from the island leaves at 5:00 PM.

Shopping

A small island just off the coast of the Arabian Sea may be the least expected place for shopping for souvenirs, but get ready to be pleasantly surprised with the collection of local Elephanta souvenirs that you can take back home. Once you are on the island, a short walk uphill will bring you to the local flea market. A paradise for women, this little market offers sculptures made of marble, jewelery, clothes, paintings of Lord Shiva and many amazing items of wood work. If you are collecting Indian artifacts, then there is no better place to shop for souvenirs than the Elephanta Caves. While the prices are a bit exorbitant, it always helps to know the basics of bargaining in the world of barter-especially at unique and beautiful places like the Elephanta Caves.

Eating Out
If you are interested in local Indian food, an MTDC run resort offers a fine local spread at a reasonable cost. There are other local food vendors at Cannon Hill and outside the caves selling wild berries, tea, coffee and other refreshments if you are just looking for quick snacks.

Accommodation
Overnight stays on Elephanta Island are not permitted. However, if you want to rest during the daytime, the MTDH (Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel) is a good place to take a quick siesta! This hotel also serves food and drinks. The check-out time at this hotel is at 5:00 PM.

Compiled by – www.placestovisitindia.in Team
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