Elephanta Caves Overview

The Elephanta Caves are a major attraction in Mumbai because of its archaeological significance. This is where the caves are located, must have seen early settlements from 2nd century BC. The caves, however, are estimated to have been constructed sometime between 5th and 6th century AD. One of the biggest caves here measures about 39 metres from the front to the back. The main body of the Elephanta Cave is about 27 square meters, supported by six rows of pillars.

The Elephanta Caves is also called Gharapurichi Leni, located on Elephanta Island in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The whole cave temple complex area is about 60000 sq ft and boasts of the central chamber, two lateral ones, many subsidiary shrines, and courtyards. Also, there are three passages to the temple complex. The entire location is built from solid natural rock with intricately carved sculptures of idols.

There are principally seven caves where one can investigate the real excellence of ancient Indian architecture. There are a few highly-finished rock surfaces in Elephanta Caves; however, some are the stark untreated rocks too. The most prominent expression of sculpted caves can be noticed in the two major groups of caves here.

The first cave represents engravings based on Hinduism, where you will find rock cut stone sculptures, dedicated to Lord Shiva. On the sculpture, you'll see quintessential essence of the Shiva Lingam created in eight manifest forms that are worth viewing. Further, when you head to other smaller caves, you will witness that it’s an example of the Buddhistic rock-cut architecture. So, visit to this site is not about seeing the architecture marvel but also it’s your way to know Indian culture more deeply.

Elephanta Caves were assigned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1987. Thus, it is a notable site visited by many tourists during their trip to Mumbai to explore the historical and spiritual marvels here. Also, every February, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) hosts a fantastic dance festival at Elephanta Island.

How To Reach

You can book a private cab or hire a taxi to reach the Gateway of India. Then for the onward destination, you have to board a ferry that will drop you at the Elephanta caves. Further, trace some steps to arrive at the main temple complex.

Another option is to reach the Gateway of India via the local bus directly. As usual, hire a ferry to head to the Elephanta Caves. The boat is the prime transportation facility to reach this site as it is built on an island.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit the Elephanta caves is in winter months, i,e, between November and February. One must not visit the caves from June to August, which is a peak rainy season in Mumbai. During this time, ferry rides come to a halt as the sea becomes unpredictable.

Other Essential Information

You have to catch a ferry from The Gateway of India to reach the famous Elephanta caves. The ferry service for the island operates from 9 am to 2 pm only. The ferry prices range from INR 130 to INR 150 as per the boat convenience you choose.

Location: Gharapuri, Maharashtra

Timings: 9 am to 5 pm (Monday Closed)

Price: INR 40 for Indian Tourists and INR 250 for Foreigners

Distance from Mumbai: 21.8 Km via Eastern Fwy

History of Elephanta Caves:

The Elephanta caves on the island are believed to date back to the Silhara Kings era. However, there are no solid proves to confirm the same; still, there are several assumptions associated with its formation. Actually, the Portuguese who reached India renamed the island as Elephanta.

The caves are believed to come under the administrations of a myriad of rulers that controlled this area for many centuries till the modern age. These rulers are the Mauryas of Konkan, Chalukyas of Badami, Silaharas, Trikutakas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas of Devagiri, Kalyani Chalukyas, Shahi dynasty of Gujarat, the Marathas, the Portuguese, and even the British.

Additionally, as per the local tradition, people believe that the artisans created the Elephanta caves without at all using their hands.

Architecture of Elephanta Caves:

Elephanta caves is an epitome of Indian architecture depicting the deep-rooted Indian mythology in its every corner. The main cave at Elephanta caves holds an image of Ravana raising Kailash mountain. Further, at Ardhanarishvara, you can see a display of Shiva and Parvati within the same body.

When you go to the end you get to see the Sadasiva display of carved Shiva which is a 20 ft high marvel of the three-headed Shiva, called Trimurti - a classic example of Indian art. This location of Elephanta caves will grab your attention as soon as you enter the temple.

As you head to see the architecture on its southern wall you will be stunned by the magnificent sculptured forms of Ardhanariswara, Kalyanasundaram, Uma Maheswara, and Gangadhara. Further, in the west, one must explore sculptured images of Andhakaasuravadamoorthy and Nataraja and Yogiswara and Ravana Anugraha Murti images in the east.

Beside, Cave One at this place is the most beautiful site from all of the caves present here. This cave is carved out in a way that shows the glory of Buddhist architecture.

Facts about Elephanta Caves:

-Elephanta Caves has over 3000 years old history.

-Under the Portuguese rule, the main cave established at Elephanta Caves was the Hindu place of worship.

-The Portuguese defaced the majority of the sculptures carved within the caves in the 17th century.

-A lot of scholars consider that Christian Portuguese soldiers used the Elephanta caves and the sculptures as a firing range for their target practice.

-Also, until 1661, the Caves witnessed significant decay under the Portuguese. The intruders mostly displaced the cravings and the writings. Yet even today, the place features plenty to admire for the visitors.

-From the years 1872 to 1903, the British India Government charged a temple tax on people who used to come for visiting the Elephanta Caves.

-The Kshatrapa coins excavations that are dating back to the 4th century AD also unearthed from here.

-Some archaeologists associated the Elephanta caves to the Kalachuris supposedly having a specific connection with the Konkan Mauryas.

-Beside, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas are also believed to have been behind the creation of these magnificent caves.

-The enormous elephant model, which is the source of this island's name, is now situated at Jijamata Udyan. It is the oldest public park in Mumbai.

-Proofs of paint found on the basalt caves symbolize that the artworks might actually be painted.

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Point of Interest for Elephanta Caves
Mythological Representations

Mythological Representations

The three-headed Shiva or Trimurti and 'Gangadhar' - a display of the river Ganges, and 'Ardhnarishwar' - image of Shiva and Parvati are the three primary attractions here. Also, view the Nataraja sculpture that has about 11 ft height and about 13 ft width set low in the wall. Apart from these, you will find a plethora of sculptures and images as well in different caves. All will leave you enchanted with their intricate designs.

Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum

You can observe ancient items related to Elephanta Island in this small archaeological museum. The first hall presents the narrations of the displays in Elephanta. The next gallery shows a plethora of black and white photographs of other rock-cut temple architecture of India. Visitors can also see the heritage attractions featuring large maps and a number of other details in another hall.

Cannon Trekking

Cannon Trekking

Elephanta caves are also popular for some trekking grounds. One can trek here to reach one of the two canons situated near Elephanta Caves. You need to hike a narrow path to reach the canons. 

Tourism Board Alliances

Elephanta Caves FAQs

How do I get to Elephanta caves by ferry?

You first need to reach Apollo Bunder near the Gateway of India to get on the ferry and travel through the Arabian Sea and deboard at the Elephanta Caves island.

What is there in Elephanta caves?

At the Elephanta Caves, you get to see seven cave excavations that are dating back to the 5th to 7th centuries A.D. In those caves; you will get to observe a number of idols, engravings, scriptures on rock formations.

Is Elephanta caves worth visiting?

Yes, a lot of tourists prefer to visit this site to experience the historical and mythological wonders. You can also plan a family tour to let your kids know about the deep-rooted culture of the country. So, if you are an architecture or a history lover, you will definitely find this location worth visiting.

Who built Elephanta caves?

According to some historians, it is assumed that the great warrior Prince of Chalukya Dynasty - Pulakesin II built the shrine of Lord Shiva here to honor his triumph. But there are different opinions regarding its originator from various archaeologists and people.

What are Elephanta caves famous for?

There are a lot of engravings, representations, displays, and statues that make it one of the most famous tourist destinations in Mumbai. The structure of lord shiva on Elephanta Caves is considered the most prominent one to explore by several tourists. People visit it to experience the influence of Indian mythological culture and architecture.

How much time will it take to see Elephanta Caves?

Usually, four to five hours are sufficient to explore the entire complex thoroughly. It is better you plan the trip to Elephanta Caves in the morning hours to have a clear glimpse of engravings.

Which day, Elephanta Caves closed?

Elephanta Caves is closed only on Monday.

How much time does it take to reach Elephanta caves?

Your ferry ride will take approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour to transfer you to the island. Then you have to take a short walk to reach the caves.

Are Elephanta caves open?

Yes, Elephanta Caves are open throughout the year. Thus, you can plan a visit to this site anytime you want, barring Monday.

Why is it called Elephanta Caves?

The Portuguese named the island Elephanta caves based on the statue of an elephant established near the landing area.

How many steps are there in Elephanta caves?

You will have to trace a total of 120 steep steps to reach the main location. On achieving these steps, you will finally land at the main entrance of Elephanta Caves.

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