Around India there are many caves with different history of their own, among all Elephanta cavesalso deserves a special mention. These caves are located on Elephanta Islandor Gharapuri"the city of caves" in Mumbai Harbour. Theyare one of the most well known caves which do not need an introduction. There are seven rock cut caves and these caves symbolize Hindu and Buddhist culture.
It is under the supervision of UNESCO World Heritage Site and is predominantly dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is a beautiful place which has a religious history. Big sum of people visit these caves and it has become one of the famous tourist spots. Everything about these caves are adventurous. Few mentionable things about the Elephanta caves are its varied geometry of styles, myths and legends.
The Elephanta caves have its own aura that is unmatched by any other place in Mumbai. These caves are in an isolated island. According to the investigation of few historians there is no prominent trace of exact date when the Elephanta caves were built but approximately is said to be built between 5th and 9th century. It was built by a Hindu king named Kalachuri king.
These caves are based on numismatic evidence, inscriptions. Its construction style is influenced by other Deccan cave temples including the Ajanta Caves.Majority of scholars ensures that the caves were completed by 550 CE. These caves were firstly named asElefante but later the name was modified to Elephantaby colonial Portuguese after they found elephant statues on it.
The main cave (Cave 1 or the Great Cave) was a Hindu place of worship until the Portuguese arrived. The damage of the caves was constant and the earliest attempt to prevent further damage of Elephanta caves was started by British India officials in 1909.It is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
What is inside the caves?
The Elephanta caves are built of rocks cut and stone sculptures that show syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography.The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. Many of the carvings and sculptures were destroyed but few of them wereleft and restored.The main temple's orientations as well as the relative location of other temples are placed in a mandala pattern and the main temple’s carvings narrate Hindu mythologies including the large monolithic 20 feet (6.1 m) TrimurtiSadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga).
Why should someone visit Elephanta caves?
1) The real Elephant statue of Elephanta caves wassuccefully restored and kept in the BhauDaji Lad museum in Mumbai.
2) The only way to reach to Elephanta caves is by water ways if you have never experienced ferry ride then this is the best way to experience this.
3) As you reach to the island you would have an amazing ride by The Quaint Toy Train. This toy train would take you on a merry ride to the foot of the hills of the caves.
4) Don’t forget to move on to the Gangadhara Shiva, (where the story of Ganga being brought down to earth by Bhageeratha and Shiva aiding her descent is beautifully portrayed).
5) Next you just need to keep walking towards the following panel which depicts the marriage of Shiva and Parvati and is accompanied by Shiva’s slaying of the demon, Andhakasura. The final panel is dedicated to Shiva as Nataraja.
6) In addition a huge temple is located near the center of the courtyard and is a spectacular sight for tourists and visitors.
7) And lastly you would get to explore the main caves and the mythological sculptures.
Best time to visit:-
The cold breeze during winter gives the best essence to visit Elephanta caves in the month of NovembertoFebruary. Itis the best time in the whole year to explore this place.
Avoid peak monsoon season (June to August) because during this time the sea becomes unpredictable and ferry schedules get disrupted. Morning hours are more convenient to visit Elephanta caves. And you can explore the thoughtful Hindu mythological sculptures and carvings without spending a penny for the entry in Elephanta caves. The caves remains closed on Monday and the timings to visit are 9am to 5pm.
Travel by road:-
Any bus, car or auto rikshwa could help you to reach to Gateway of India and then you can take a ferry ride from there.
Travel by air:-
Take up a flight to Mumbai and land down to Mumbai domestic airport at Vile Parle or ChatrapatiShivaji International Airport in Andheri. After your flight lands go out from the airport and book any cab or take up a bus straight to Gateway of India.
Travel by metro:-
Travelling by metro is also convenient the nearest station to Gateway are Ghatkopar, Jagrutinagar,Asalpha,Sakinaka, Marol Naka, Airport road, Chakala (JB nagar), Magicbricks western exp highway, Andheriand Azad nagarafter getting down to anyof these stations you can take a cab or auto rikshwa which would take you to your destination in no time.
Travel by Ferry:-
As you reach to Gateway of India you need to purchase tickets for the launch, boat or ferry from the Maharastra tourism development corporation (MTDC) at the entrance of Gateway. The journey by sea takes 1 hour to reach to the island.A ferry leaves in every half hour from the Gateway of India for Elephanta and the last ferry leaves at 02:00 pm. The first ferry which returns from Elephantais at 12 noon and the last one at 05:30 pm.
So come over and visit Elephanta caves without a fail and witness this amazing historic caves. You would definitely get to gather a lot about culture and religion from here.
By IsitaThapa, 7th January, 2019
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