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Elephanta Caves

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That was one Sunday and I was in Mumbai for my official work. I was staying at Hotel Parle International. As Sunday was our official holiday we decided to spend the day roaming outside. We finished our breakfast and decided to visit ‘The Gateway of India’ and Elephanta Caves.

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How to reach Elephanta Caves

As we have started from Mumbai suburbs, we opted for a local train to reach Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station (or you could opt for Churchgate station) which are the closest rail station to the monument. You can then take a taxi from either Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station or the Churchgate station to reach ‘The Gateway of India’.

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From there you could purchase the tickets for the launch (boat or ferry) from the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corp (MTDC) at the entrance of Gateway. The journey by ferry takes 1 hour to reach the island.

Alternatively, you can depend on the city bus or taxi to the Gateway of India. Auto-rickshaws are not permitted to this side of the city.

After reaching the island you would get a small toy train from the jetty to the base of the hill (Rs 5 one way). You may choose to walk along the jetty. This path will take you to the entrance to the Gharapuri village. There are a security gate and a village entry.

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Further, you need to trek the 120 steps to the plateau where the caves are situated. This trekking trail goes through many curios, souvenir, guidebooks and T-shirt selling stalls. The ticket counter to enter the caves is located at the end of this path. There is also a palanquin service (doly) at the island for those who cannot scale the steps to the site of the caves.

A queue at the Archeological Survey of India Ticket counter is the last point to cross before you enter the courtyard of the main cave in Elephanta.

The Gateway of India

History

The Gateway of India is one of India’s most remarkable landmarks located in the city of Mumbai. The massive structure was constructed in 1924. The gateway oversees the Mumbai harbor, surrounded by the Arabian Sea in the Colaba district. The Gateway of India is a shrine that marks India’s chief ports and is a major tourist attraction for visitors who arrive in India for the first time. At one point of time, this memorial represented the splendor of the British Raj in India. A most dominant spot for tourists, nowadays, this monument attracts vendors, food stalls taxi/bus drivers and photographers.

The monument witnessed a terrorist attack on August 25, 2003, when a bomb blast left marks of blood in front of the Gateway. The taxi containing the bomb was parked outside the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the city’s oldest luxury hotels, where windows were crushed and cars damaged. The force of the blast is reported to have thrown several people into the sea. Following the 26/11 terror attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel, public access to the area around the Gateway was controlled.

Elephanta Caves

History

On a clear day, you can see the Elephanta Island in the skyline as a thin strip from Gateway of India; most likely the mist makes it impossible to see the island which is about 11 km from the shore. In any case, halfway down your trip, you can see a small island on your left known as Butcher’s Island. This is an anchorage jetty for the oil tankers. Straight ahead in the direction of the boat, Elephanta arises as a forest-covered island. In Elephanta, the ferry will leave you at the jetty that is at the north of the island. The cave temple is a kilometers’ walk from the dock.

Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a collection of cave temples mainly dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. They are situated on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometers to the east of the city of Mumbai. The island contains five Hindu caves and a few Buddhist stupas rises, as well as a small group of two Buddhist caves with water tanks.

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The Elephanta Caves contain rock cut stone sculptures that show a similarity of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography. The caves are cut from solid basalt rock. Except for a few exceptions, much of the artwork is ruined and damaged. The models of temple describe Hindu mythologies, with the massive monolithic Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga) being the foremost known.

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The origins and date once the caves were made have attracted significant speculations and scholarly attention since the nineteenth century. They were named Elefante – that morphed to Elephanta – by the colonial Portuguese once they found elephant statues thereon. They established a base on the island, and its soldiers have broken the sculpture and caves (Ref: Encyclopedia Britannica ). The main cave was a Hindu place of worship until the Portuguese arrived, whereupon the island finished being an active place of worship. The earliest tries to forestall more harm to the Caves were started by British India officials in 1909. The monuments were restored in the 1970s. In 1987, the renovated Elephanta Caves have selected a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is presently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The island is filled up with clusters of mango, tamarind, and palm trees.

According to Charles Collins, the importance of the Elephanta Caves is best understood by finding out them in context of ancient and early medieval Hindu literature, likewise as within the context of other Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples on the subcontinent. The historic Elephanta artwork was inspired by the mythology, concepts and spiritual ideas found in the Vedic texts on Rudra and later Shiva, the epics, the Puranas and the Pashupati Shaivism literature composed by the 5th-century.

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After the Caves completion in the 6th century, Elephanta became popular regionally as Gharapuri (village of caves). The name continues to be utilized in the native Marathi language. It became a part of the Gujarat Sultanate rulers, who ceded it to the Portuguese merchants in 1534. The elephant sculpture was broken in tries to relocate it to England, was moved to the Victoria Gardens in 1864, was reassembled in 1914 by Cadell and Hewett, and now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan in Mumbai.

The island has 2 groups of caves within the rock-cut of the wrong style. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. The larger group of caves, which consists of five caves on the western hill of the island, is well known for its Hindu statues. There were two hills are connected by a walkway. The eastern hill is additionally referred to as the Stupa hill, while the western hill is called the Canon hill, reflecting their historic colonial-era names, the ancient Stupa and the Portuguese era firing Canons they host respectively.

Elephanta Entrance Fee

Rs10 (Indian, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand citizens)

Rs250 (other foreign citizens).

Village entry fee for all (Rs10).

Photography: Free

Videography: Rs 25

Toy Train in the Elephanta pier (optional): Rs10(return)

Boat ticket : Rs 130 to Rs 150 up and  down, based on the type of boat. There is also a concessional child fare.

Elephanta is open throughout the year. Winter months (November to February) are pleasant. Avoid peak monsoon season (June to August) as boat schedules may get interrupted because of the rough seas and serious rain.

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The Elephanta Caves is connected by ferry services from the Gateway of India, Mumbai between 9 AM and 2 PM daily, except Monday when the Caves are closed.

Also read BIBI KA MAQBARA-THE UNTOLD STORY

QUTUB COMPLEX-UNTOLD STORIES

Last updated on 24.01.21

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