Elephanta Caves is named by the Portuguese who came in the 18th Century A.D and found sculptures of elephants near Elephanta Island. Elephanta Caves are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that is a collection of caves cum temples that are inscribed with sculptures of Hindu God, Shiva. The site is located in Gharapuri, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
The Elephanta Caves contain rock cut stone sculptures that show syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. Except for a few exceptions, much of the artwork is defaced and damaged. The main temple's orientation, as well as the relative location of other temples, is placed in a mandala pattern. The carvings narrate Hindu mythologies, with the large monolithic 20 feet (6.1 m) Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga) being the most celebrated.
According to Archaeological Survey of India and UNESCO, the site was settled in ancient times and the cave temples were built between 5th and 6th century. Contemporary scholars generally place the completion of the temples to the second quarter of the 6th century and as a continuation of the period of artistic flowering in the Gupta Empire era. These scholars attribute these Cave temples to king Krishnaraja of the Kalachuri dynasty. The dating to a mid-6th century completion and it being a predominantly Shiva monument built by a Hindu Kalachuri king is based on numismatic evidence, inscriptions, construction style and better dating of other Deccan cave temples including the Ajanta Caves, and the more firm dating of Dandin's Dasakumaracarita.
East Wing. There are several courtyards and one of them is situated in the eastern part of the caves. The courtyard consists of a beautiful wall painting.
West Wing. The West Wing of the site consists of pillars that are carved with the pictures of Hindu gods. There is the sculpture of three-faced Brahma which is most significant of them all.
Main Cave Shrine. The Main Cave Shrine or Central Shrine is a square cell that consists of entrances on each side. Including the symbols of Lord Shiva, there are also symbols of other Hindu deities.
Trimurti. Being the most important sculptures of Elephanta Caves, Trimurti is also considered as one of the paragons of Gupta-Chalukya art.
Kulture Shop. The place is one of the popular places in Mumbai. Here, you can buy affordable art pieces and other lifestyle items.
Avante Cottage Crafts of India. Situated in Colaba, Mumbai, the place is mostly known for its wide collection of handicrafts.
It is recommended to visit Elephanta Caves in winter months from November to February. Also, if you visit in early February, you can get the chance to experience the magnificent Elephanta Festival.
First, you need to reach the Gateway of India, Mumbai. Then, you can buy the tickets for the boat from Maharashtra Tourism Development Corp. The sea journey will take almost 1 hour to reach the Elephanta Island.