Location: Elephanta Island, Mumbai Harbour, Maharashtra
Located approximately 7 km from the shore of Mumbai is the Elephanta Island, popularly known as Gharapuri. This green island attracts visitors with its unique rock cut caves dating back to 6th to 8th centuries – the Elephanta Caves. These caves are grouped into two – 5 Hindu caves forming a larger group dedicated to Lord Shiva and another group constituting two Buddhist caves called the Stupa Hill. Elephanta Caves have also been declared as the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The Elephanta Caves are truly like an expression of art. The main cave or the Shiva Cave has a pillared mandapa (hall), open porticoes and an aisle. Each wall is adorned with carvings of the deity and the central, three-headed idol or the Trimurti is an iconic attraction of the cave. The three faces incarnate three forms of Shiva – Bhairava or the destroyer towards the east, Vamadeva or the creator of joy towards the west and Tatpurusha or the master and preserver of harmony in the center.
There is also a mini train that will take you from the dock side to the entrance of the caves at a nominal charge of Rs 10 per head, or else you have to traverse 120 odd steep steps to reach there. Apart from four or five larger caves, other caves are not maintained and can be avoided. Also, if time permits and you are comfortable trekking further, you can climb up to the Cannon Hill which gets its name because of an old cannon lying there.
The journey to reach the caves is in itself like a joy ride. It takes around and hour to reach the Elephanta Island by boat from Gateway of India. Cool weather and the views of the Arabian Sea make the place worth visiting.
Beware of monkeys and do not feed them.
Hire a guide for the best of information about the site.
Carry safe drinking water with you.
Avoid buying overpriced souvenirs from the island. Better stuff is available in Mumbai.
Wear comfortable footwear as you will have to trek up to reach the caves once you are at the Elephant Island.
There are some restaurants too where you can eat out.
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Monday)
Entry Fee: Rs 10 (Indians), Rs 250 (others), free for children under 15 years.
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