Elephanta Travel Guide


The Elephanta Caves - Caves of Gharapuri) are caves located on Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai, Maharashtra, India that contain Shaivistic high reliefs in stone of Hindu deities important to worshipers of Shiva. The sculptures were created beginning in the late Gupta Empire, or some time after, and at later dates. Elephanta Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork.

The original name of this epitome of temple art is Agraharpuri. Agrahar is the necklace or most important neck ornament. The Agraharpuri slowly became Gharapuri; still retaining the original meaning as the focal point of Gharapuri Island, which was renamed Elephanta Island by the Portuguese and is located in Mumbai harbour off the coast of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), India. In 1987, the caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is visited by many domestic and foreign tourists. In recent years, complaints have been made that visitors mistreat this important cultural and historic site. Most of the sculptures here were defaced by the Portuguese, who used the sculptures as target practice in the 17th century. The Portuguese also gave the island its modern name, Elephanta from Gharapuri.

The caves are thought to date back to the Silhara kings of the 9th through 13th centuries (810–1260).[5] Some of the sculptures of this site are also attributed to the imperial Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (in present day Karnataka), the Trimurti of Elephanta showing the three faces of Shiva almost akin to the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. This was also the royal insignia of the Rashtrakutas. Other Rashtrakuta sculptures here are the reliefs of Nataraja and Sadashiva and the splendid sculptures of Ardhanarishvara.

The rock-cut temple complex cover an area of 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) consisting of a main chamber, 2 lateral ones, courtyards and subsidiary shrines. The site of these magnificent caves contained beautiful reliefs, sculptures, and a temple to the Hindu god Śiva. The caves are hewn from solid rock. The temple complex is said to be the abode of Shiva.