The Elephanta Caves ( known as Gharapurichi Leni, essentially Gharapuri) are a system of etched caves spotted on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (the city of caverns) in Mumbai, Maharashtra (Previously bombay). The island, situated in the lap of the Arabian Sea, comprises of two gatherings of caves—the first is an enormous gathering of five Hindu caves, the second, a littler gathering of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain shake cut stone figures, speaking to the Shiva Hindu order, devoted to the Lord Shiva.
The island on which Elephanta Caves are sited was originally called Gharapuri. It was the Portuguese who renamed it as Elephanta, after they got a large stone elephant near their landing place.
There are seven cave excavations, dating back to 6th-7th centuries A.D. that form a part of Elephanta Cave complex.
Elephanta Caves are assumed to date back to time of the Silhara Kings.
There are legends that suggest that the great warrior Prince of Chalukya Dynasty – Pulkesin ll built the Lord Shiva shrine, to celebrate his victory.
The rock-cut temple complex covers an area of 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2), comprising of a main chamber, 2 lateral chambers, courtyards and subsidiary shrines.
Elephanta Caves are made from solid rock.Trimurti Sadasiva, is the main sculpture inside the Elephanta Caves. The image, 20 ft in height, is that of the three headed-Lord, representing Panchamukha (five headed) Shiva. (see above pic).The central Shiva relief Trimurti is located on the south wall and is flanked by Ardhanarisvara (a half-man, half-woman representation of Shiva) on its left and Gangadhara to its right, which denotes the River Ganges’ descent from Shiva’s matted locks. (See pic above)
At Elephanta Caves, Lord Shiva is also depicted as Yogisvara – Lord of Yogis, seated on a lotus, and as Shiva Nataraja, the many-armed cosmic dancer. (See pic above)
Cave 1, representing the evolved Brahmanical rock-cut architecture, is the most impressive cave on Elephanta Island.
In 1987, Elephanta Caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Currently these caves are under the observation of Archaeological survey of India.Most of the sculptures inside the caves were defaced by the Portuguese, who used them for target practice, in the 17th century.
An amazing dance festival is held at Elephanta Island every February, hosted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).Elephanta Caves are open for public viewing from 9 am to 5 pm on all days of the week, except Monday.