Nothing beats the cultural journey to a historical place when it comes to choosing a destination for your next trip. With new memories created on every step, travelling is one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating experience that one can cherish forever. Here’s a complete guide on Elephanta Caves, one of the most popular tourist destination in Mumbai.
About Elephanta Caves
One of the most famous and UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India, the Elephanta Caves are located on Elephanta Islands, about 10 km east of Mumbai. Dating back to the 2nd century BCE, the Elephanta caves are a complex of caves that consists of few Hindu caves as well as some Buddhist caves.
Considered as one of the oldest sites, the caves are rich in their culture as they are carved from stones and depict different Hindu mythologies and scenes. They are dedicated to some of the Hindu deities like Nataraja, Yogishvara, Trimurti Sadasiva.
The island is mainly formed on two hills that contain the caves, carved out from dark basalt rock. On one hill the five Hindu caves are situated, and on the other, the “Stupa”, or the Buddhist caves are carved out. Both the hills are connected by a walkway, and the caves are cut out in the form of temples. The first cave, also known as the Great Cave, is one of the landmarks famous for its Shaivite descriptions.
Covering an area of about 5,600-meter square, the Elephanta Caves attract tourists from all over the world because of the rich historical importance it bears.
With most of the caves and carvings damaged by the Portuguese soldiers, there are very few sculptures that are well intact. The magnanimous caves are preserved and maintained by the Archaeological Society of India.
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Who Built Elephanta Caves
As there has been no clear depiction of the building of Elephanta Caves in any Buddhist or Hindu scripts, the ancient history of the caves has still remained uncovered. The first occupants of the caves are thought to be the Hinayana Buddhists who built the Buddhists Stupas or caves on the island.
Coins dating back to the 4th century were found on the island, and the first regional history was depicted in the Gupta Empire era, but there was no mention of the caves.
Though some of the colonial era historians suggested the caves were built in the 7th century by the Rashtrakutas, the UNESCO and The Archaeological Society of India strongly believes they were built between 5th and 6th century.
Importance and History of Elephanta Caves
Elephanta Caves are not only important because of the archaeological excellence it beholds, but also because of its history, which is a matter of great dispute among historians. With a negligible amount of data on the history of the place, it has become nearly impossible to find out the actual time when the caves were built.
However, the caves were part of the Gujarat Sultanate and later on used by the Portuguese merchants as their docking site. The Portuguese merchants tried to relocate the landmark of the island, a giant elephant statue, to England and in its attempts damaged it. Later on, it was restored, and now it is kept in Jijamata Udyan in Mumbai.
Historians are divided in the fact that who damaged the caves because most of the parts of the caves are destructed and only a few lies compact. While some scholars believe that the caves were destructed by the Portuguese soldiers who practised gunshots on the sculptures using them as their aim, some suggest that the monuments were already damaged during the Sultanate period. Some recent studies by few historians say that they believe the caves were destructed by the Marathas in order to discourage some religious views.
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The Architecture of Elephanta Caves
Carved out from basalt rocks, the Elephanta Caves are a group of caves constituting of sculptures dedicated to Hindu and Buddhist deities. The carvings demonstrate various scenes from Mythological stories. There are many gigantic statues that are archaeological marvels, like that of the Trimurti Sadashiva, a three-faced, 20 feet tall statue. There are few other statues of Nataraj, Yogishvara.
Build in a mandala pattern; the caves are formed on two hills. The first hill, known commonly as the western hill, has five rock-cut caves dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. On the eastern hill, there are 2 Buddhist shrines, known as Stupas.
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Elephanta Caves Entry Fee
The entry fee to the Elephanta Caves is a minimum of Rs 10 for travellers from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Pakistan. For tourists visiting Elephanta Caves from any other country, the entry fee is Rs 250 only.
Elephanta Caves Timings
The timings of Elephanta Caves are from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Visitors can trip to this place during this time and enjoy the pre-historic piece of architecture.
Best Time to Visit Elephanta Caves
The months of November to February are considered to be the best time to visit the caves as the weather remains comfortable and pleasant. It is recommended to avoid the monsoon season when the ferry gets disrupted, and caves become tough to explore.
How to Reach Elephanta Caves
As the Elephanta Caves is located on an island far away from the city of Mumbai, you need to get into a launch or ferry to reach the caves. There are multiple boats making their journeys to the Elephanta islands.
If you are travelling from outside of the city, you can reach Mumbai via flights as there are numerous flights flying between major cities and countries, to and from Mumbai. Mumbai railway station connects it with all the major cities of the country.
Nearest Airport to Elephanta Caves
The nearest airport to reach Elephanta Caves is the Mumbai airport. Mumbai is one of the most popular and large metropolitan cities and is well connected to various parts of the country as well as the world by frequent flights.
Nearest Railway Station to Elephanta Caves
The nearest railway station to Elephanta Caves is the Kharkopar station which is located at a distance of about 46 km from the caves. It takes a little more than an hour to reach the station if you are driving on the Mumbai-Pune Highway.
How Do I Get to Elephanta Caves on a Ferry
To reach the magnificent Elephanta Caves, you have to visit the Gateway of India. The tourism department of Maharashtra has set up numerous launches and ferries that make the journey from the city to the island. It takes about an hour to reach the island, and a boat leaves the dock every 10 minutes. There are two types of launches available, a Deluxe boat and a regular one also called the Economy boat.
A ticket for the deluxe boat is Rs 150 for adults and Rs 90 for kids, including a return journey. The ticket fare of the Economy boat is Rs 130 for adults. The first boat of the day starts at 9.00 am.
If you are travelling from Navi Mumbai, you can get a boat from Moda Bandar of Udan and reach the Elephanta Caves.
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Places to Visit Near Elephanta Caves
Marine Drive is a 3.9 km long stretch along the bay of Arabian Sea, South Mumbai and is also referred to as the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. The stretch is “C” shaped and combined with six concrete lanes.
The Marine Drive is one of the most popular and noteworthy sites of Mumbai. There is the famous Chowpatty or the local chat shops available at the northern end of the street.
With Palm trees dotting the beach, the Marine Drive is truly a paradise for the people seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Gateway of India
Built primarily to welcome the King-Emperor George V and the Queen-Empress Mary, the first British monarch to visit India in 1911, the Gateway of India has become one of the most significant sites to witness in the city as well as India.
Later on, the arch construction was symbolically used by the British to welcome important colonels to India, and during independence, the last of the British troops also left through this famous piece of architecture.
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Located at a distance of 11.6 km from the Gateway of India, the Siddhivinayak Temple is one of the prime tourist spots in Mumbai and is dedicated to the Hindu God, Ganesha. Built-in early 1801, it is one of the richest temples of India.
There are wooden doors with carvings of the Ashtavinayaka or the eight forms of Lord Ganesha that makes the entrance to the temple. The inner roof of the mandapa is made from gold, and the temple is very famous among the cities high-profile beings, like the stars from Bollywood or the ministers.
Bandra Worli Sea Link
Spanning across the coastline of Mumbai, the Bandra Worli Sea Link is also known as the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link. It is an eight-lane cable-stayed bridge with pre-stressed concrete-steel viaducts to give it flexibility.
The flyover is a work of wonder by the civil engineers and perfectly flaunts the city’s rich architecture. The wonderful view of the blue Mahim Bay from the Sea Link attracts numerous tourists to this place.
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