Elephanta is an island off the Mumbai coast (which also called Gharapuri), the one in the middle is the biggest and most ornate. Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, labyrinth of cave temples represent some of India’s most impressive temple carving dedicated to Lord Shiva. The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. It was the Portuguese who named the island as “Elephanta” because of a large stone elephant near the shore (this collapsed in 1814 and was moved by the British to Mumbai’s Jijamata Udyan).
How to get there?
The ferry tickets to Elephanta is sold at a kiosk near the ferry point adjacent to the Gateway of India. There are two types of ferries: Luxury, which is less noise and decent crowd, which will cost you INR 180 for return journey and Economy, a big boat, more crowded which will cost you INR 120 for return journey. If you wish to sit at upper deck in Economy or Luxury ferry (which is highly recommended), you need to pay INR 10 at the ferry to the local crew.
The first ferry leaves at 09:00 AM from the Gateway Of India for Elephanta. It takes an hour to reach. The last boat leaves the Gateway to Elephanta is around 02:00 PM. Similarly, the first boat for return from the Elephanta to Mumbai is at 12 noon and the last boat is at 05:30 PM. Frequency of boat service is on every half an hour.
The ferries dock at the end of a concrete pier at the island, from where you can walk for 1 km or take the miniature train ride to the stairway leading up to the caves.
*Ferry timings may fluctuate during the rainy season. For the safety reason, avoid to travel to Elephanta Island during rainy time because the ferry can be suspended anytime.
Elephanta Caves timings: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM (Monday closed).
Exploring the Elephanta Island.
While climbing up the stairs, you will find small shops selling food, souvenirs and much more on the left and the right side. Be careful while climbing up, some people throw food, or plastic which can cause you slip. Wear good walking shoes and avoid sandals or heels.
Island is populated by numerous monkeys. Be careful, monkeys in this area eager to snatch away anything to eat or drink. Do not entertain them or you will be in danger.
A. CANNON HILL
While in Elephanta do visit Cannon Hill. Once you reached at top, on right the trek through an unpaved trail to the hilltop, it will takes you to an old militarily hub overlooking the Arabian Sea which was once the harbor during Portuguese era. Two cannons were placed here to protect the harbor from pirates. The dais on which the cannons are placed can actually turn a full circle thereby providing 360 degrees field for attack. The views from here is completely breathtaking. Sit here some while and forget the world exist.
While trekking down to go to Elephanta caves, you can sit to have snacks or refill your water bottle. I met this lady, she was kind and were sharing some Raj Bunder village stories. (If you reading this and happen to visit Elephanta Caves, do stop by here and give her my regards :)).
B. ELEPHANTA CAVES
After exploring Canon Hill you can come down and take a right turn to go to Caves. There is a counter of Archaeological survey of India where you have to buy a ticket of INR 10 for Indians and INR 250 for Foreigners. No charge for camera but video camera charge is INR 25. The ticket counter is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Elephanta caves covers an area of appx 60,000 sq feet and the caves created by carving out the rocks and the rock surfaces are polish finished while some are untreated bare rock. There are total 7 caves, 5 caves were based on the Hinduism (Brahmanical and Jain) and the other 2 caves were based on Buddhism.
There is an interesting history attached to Elephanta Caves. It is believe that Pulakesin-II, the warrior king from the great Chalukya Dynasty is credited with the construction of a significant portion of some caves. The island remained under the control of several kingdoms and dynasties over its history – Chalukyas of Badami, Mauryas of Konkan, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas of Deogiri, the Marathas. It is believed that prior to being the Shiva caves, these caves were actually Buddhist Caves and during the reign of Konkan Maurya period in 6th Century AD, they reconstructed it to Shiva Caves. During the early phases of colonial rule before the Britishers, the area came under the control of the Portuguese. There are historical records of the then travelers who have shared that a great deal of damage was done by the Portuguese soldiers to these caves.
The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels depicting legends from the Shiva Purana. In the cave, starting from the right side, the principal figure in this compartment which is first seen is of Shiva as Nataraja (the King of Dancers).
The next sculpture represents Andhakaasura Vadh (killing the Demon), Shiva as the killer of the demon Andhaka and is one of the finest specimens of sculpture of the period to which the cave belong.
A few paces from this compartment will bring you to the north door of an interesting linga shrine – Shivalingam.
Move forward after the courtyard in-front of the shrine, you will come across to the beautifully carved, but much damaged sculptured image of Kalyanasundara (marriage of Shiva and Parvati).
The next compartment encloses a colossal sculptured of rare workmanship. Shiva as Gangadhara (Shiva carrying river Ganges).
The next compartment is, containing the colossal figure of Mahesh-Murti-Shiva, often called as Trimurti, the most striking sculpture in the cave. The three faces of Gods representing Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer). Trimurti, therefore symbolizes the oneness of God.
Move to the east you will find sculpture of Ardhanariswara (Shiva in one form of Shiva & Parvati), Shiva is represented as half-male and half-female, with one of the four hands on the male side leaning on the bull Nandin. The left or female arms have broad arms and a long solid bracelet with thick jeweled rings at the ends.
Further east is a much damaged panel in the panel in the south wall of the east aisle, which depicts Parvati in a somewhat affectionately angry mood towards Shiva – Uma Maheswara (playing dice).
Proceed towards the north of the eastern side, the Ravananugraha Murti (Ravana crushed under Kailasa). Thid depicting Ravana attempting to uproot Kailasa, the sacred home of Shiva.
The next panel is the last in the series of the principal sculpture – Yogishwara Shiva (Shiva in meditation). Here Shiva sits cross-legged on a padmasana. The stalk of the lotus firming the seat is held by two Naga figues visible to their waist. The much damaged sculpture. Wish someday it gets repaired and the next generation can still understand this.
Walk further and you will reach at the big open hallway where the caves ends. Sit there some while before going back 🙂
Relax and enjoy the surroundings but don’t harm the environment.
After exploring the Elephanta caves and listening to some unknown guard stories about caves which I didn’t really believe about paranormal activities happen in the night (might happen because it is complete dark after sunset) and some other people who were sharing stories about architecture as well completely ignoring selfie obsessed freaks, I was freaked out at the time I saw a woman was chased by a monkey because she was trying to click his picture and the flash was on. I understand monkey’s are cute but anyone don’t like to be poked unnecessarily. Please make sure not to do anything stupid which can cause harm to any living being or the environment. Educate the people to not throw garbage anywhere. Stop them, but do not argue or yell on them if they are angry. Understand this, morons are everywhere, you can try to protect the environment, but not all will understand this. Hope someday 🙂
There are many restaurants at Elephanta Island near Jetty or while you climb up which serves juices, veg and non-veg food. They have rest rooms too as well there is a pay and use public toilets.
…until next time!☺️
Happy reading and be adventurous!★