Elephanta Caves

About Elephanta caves

Elephanta caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful carvings and sculptures. In the vicinity of the financial capital of India, Mumbai, these caves offer you the much-needed peace from the chaos of the metropolitan. It is a good place to look into the past culture and art. Here you will find two categories of caves; one is the Hindu rock art and the other is the Buddhist rock art. The place is still worshipped by the locals, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. One can spot some resemblance to the Ajanta and Ellora caves, which are around 300 km from Elephanta.

History of Elephanta caves

Not much is known about the origin of the Elephanta Caves. The island was previously known as Gharapuri and renamed as Elephanta by Portuguese. These are believed to have built in the 7th century. It is still unclear as to which dynasty ruled when the caves were being built. However, historians are of the opinion that prince of the Chalukya Dynasty, Pulkesin II, built the Shiva shrine to celebrate his victory. The hugeness of the project and the great craftsmanship has led historians to come to a conclusion that only a powerful kingdom could have built such a large and magnificent architectural marvel as it needed great artisans to carve such sculptures out of solid rock.

Location of Elephanta caves

The Elephanta Caves are located around 10 kilometres of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. To be precise, the Elephanta Caves are in Uran Taluka, in Raigad district of Maharashtra. The location is an island hill, almost 7 km from the mainland of Mumbai. The proximity to Mumbai makes it seem that the place is a part of Mumbai.

The latitude and longitude are 18.9583 degrees N and 72.9306 degrees E, respectively.

Architecture of Elephanta caves

The whole complex is built on an area of 60,000 sq feet and comprises seven caves that date back to AD 600. Cave 1 impresses the most. It is popular due to the exquisite and perfect sculptures. The caves are devoted to Hindu deities and you can see Buddhist caves as well. Elephant caves showcase the Indian art with its impeccable expressions and the huge reliefs in the caves.

There are two groups of caves. The east comprises the Stupa Hill and contains two caves, one of which is unfinished. To the west are five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave has the famous Shiva idol and is still full of magnificence and brilliance. Besides, the cave has a square mandala and measures around 27 m. The remaining five caves depict Shiva in various forms.

Various temples are cut out of rock, along with columns. The space inside consists of a main chamber and has two lateral chambers, shrines and courtyards. Above the temples you can see the natural rock out of which the temples have been carved. The entrance provided is from three sides. What attracts the visitor most are the Trimurti, Shivalingam, Kalyansundara, Gangadhara, Uma maheswara and Ardhanarisara sculptures, which are all the forms of Lord Shiva.

When to visit Elephanta caves

The place can be visited throughout the year. However, the ideal time is from November to March, when the weather is pleasant. Summers are hot, which is not the ideal time to explore the caves. Monsoons are also not good as the hour-long ride into the Arabian Sea can be extremely turbulent. That is why winter season is the best time to explore these unique caves.

Opening timings

The Elephanta Caves are open throughout the year. The timings are from sunrise to sunset. The caves remain closed on Mondays.

Entrance fees

Entrance fee is Rs. 10 per head for Indians and Rs. 250 per head for foreigners. Entry is free for children below 15 years of age.

Where to stay

The proximity from Mumbai makes it possible to have all types of accommodations for visitors. Mumbai comes with plenty of options when it comes to hotel accommodations. You can get international standard hotels as well as cheap accommodations. Some of the best hotels are:
  • Taj Mahal Hotel
  • Hotel Trident Bandra Kurla
  • Hotel Hyatt Regency
  • Sun-n-sand Hotel
  • Hotel Sea Green
How to reach Elephanta caves

To reach the Elephanta Caves, you have to take a ferry from the Gateway of India. Various ferries are available throughout the day to reach the Elephanta Caves. It takes almost 45 minutes to reach the caves from Mumbai. You can buy tickets from the Gateway of India. The two-way ticket costs Rs. 150 per adult and Rs. 90 for children below 7 years. If you want the upper deck, Rs. 10 extra will have to be paid. There are two types of ferries, deluxe and economy.

If you want to reach Mumbai first, then you have plenty of options. You can reach by air, train or road, as all are convenient modes of transport.

Last Updated on : January 24, 2014