Elephanta Caves

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Elephanta Caves


Elephanta Island is an hour away from Mumbai Harbour. Motorboats ferry tourists across to the island from the jetty at the Gateway of India. The boat ride, itself, is interesting as you go past fishing boats, anchored ships, yachts and little islands.

What is known about the island is that it once was the capital of powerful coastal kingdom. The Portuguese established fortifications and used the island for military exercises; as a consequence many sculptures were destroyed.

The island resembles twin hillocks rising from the sea and the caves are located halfway up the higher of the two. Carved out the solid basalt rock, the caves represent Mount Kailash, the heavenly mountain residence of Lord Shiva and date back to the 3rd or 5th centuries.

The entire cave complex area is constructed on 60000 square feet and consists of a main chamber, courtyards and several additional shrines. There is a mass of natural rock above the temple. The temple plan is designed in symmetry with the focal points worked out in a geometric Mandala, representing the cosmic field of energy. Inside the cave temple is a large hall, with nine sculptured panels depicting Lord Shiva in different moods as well as scenes from the life of Shiva. Little is known of the artists and architects who created these magnificent temples and sculptures out of sheer rock with the most primitive of tools.

The rock cut temples were created by carving out rock and through the process of rock removal. One can easily walk through the corridors and chambers of the temple. Some of the rock surfaces are highly finished while some are untreated bare rock.

The Elephanta Caves are a major tourist attraction in Mumbai and all the rock cut cave temples date back to the 5th century BC. A visit to the temple complex is a must in any tourist’s itinerary.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Elephanta is between November and March. Summer months are very hot and humid and the monsoon season makes the hour long ride extremely turbulent.


When the island passed to the Portuguese, they called it Elephanta after the first artifact they stumbled upon –a monolith elephant. The monolith can now be seen at the Bombay Museum.

Cave 1 is a must see as it is the most impressive of all the caves at Elephanta.


Elephanta Caves remain open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Monday closed.

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