“Most tourist love Elephanta as they get to see the village life of the locals on the island as also the principles of Hinduism explained to them since the caves is based on the hindu god Shiva it tends to fascinate them” commented Neeta Sudhindran an official tourist guide working for the past twenty two years for the government of India. The origin of these caves is still very much debated and varies from the 6th century to 8 th century. The caves are basically located on the island which is about 10 kilometres to the east of Mumbai city. The island can be reach by ferry service provided from the Gateway of India.
The caves located on the island of Elephanta are divided into two groups. The first group of five caves are basically Hindu caves while the second group of two caves are Buddhist caves. The unique feature of these caves is that they are sculpted out of from solid basalt rock. The Hindu caves were dedicated to the hindu god Shiva. The island was initially known as Gharapuri and was place of Hindu’s worship before the Portuguese arrived in 1534. It was the Portuguese who named the island Elephanta on seeing a gigantic statue of an elephant at the entrance. Many historians have claimed that the constructions of these caves could possibly be credited to the Kalachuri empire who ruled during the 10th to 12th century. It was the Chalukyas who defeated the Kalachuri who were said to have been the main architect of the main cave in the mid 7th century.
The caves have been basically sculpted by using a rock cut architectural style. The caves painted in the past but as time as passed the paint has worn off resulting in only traces of the paint seen as today. The primary cave is numbered as Cave 1 and is located about 1 mile up the hillside facing the sea. Overall the island comprises of a rock cut temple complex covering an area of about 60,000 square feet and consist of a main chamber, two lateral chambers, courtyard and subsidiary shrine. It also 39 meters deep from the front entrance to the back. On the eastern parts of the island is the Stupa Hill which consist of small group of caves which houses Buddhist monuments
The main cave also known as Shiva cave, Cave 1 or Great Cave is 27 meters square in size consisting of a hall (Mandapa). The roof of the halls has concealed beams supported by stone columns joined together by capitals. The major feature of the main cave is the Trimurti which is located on the South wall. This is followed by another unique feature of the cave that Ardhanarisvara which is basically a half man half woman representation of Shiva. Overall the main cave is beautiful piece of art which blends with Chalukyan architectural features and, what is really amazing is that even today the caves have managed to retain its charm even after so many centuries.
Overall the island of Elephanta is definitely worth a visit with lots one can learn from especially about Hinduism. As Neeta Sudhindran quite rightly quoted when quizzed about uniqueness of Elephanta that “ Its uniqueness lies in that it is a 7th century caves surrounding by greenery with the original inhabitants of Mumbai living on the island in peace and harmony” which certainly makes it one of the destination in Mumbai worth visiting not only for tourist but also for a true hardcore Mumbaikar like me.http://newzfeaturez.com/472/http://newzfeaturez.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/e-3-elephanta-entrance1-1-1024x768.jpghttp://newzfeaturez.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/e-3-elephanta-entrance1-1-150x150.jpgLifestylePeople and PlacesLifestyle and Health