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Elephanta Caves

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According to the most credible theory on its origin, Elephanta caves were built between 450 and 750 AD. In India, this time coincides with the collapse of Buddhism and the restoration of Brahmanical traditions. The Chalukyas of the Badami dynasty’s warrior king Pulakeshin II are credited with commissioning a large chunk of the caves. From 400 BC to now, Elephanta Island was controlled by at least a half-dozen empires. In this article, we will discuss more on Elephanta caves’ history and see how many caves are in Elephanta Caves.

History of Elephanta Caves:

Elephanta Island was ruled by the Mauryas of Konkan, the Tripitakas, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Sahara, the Rashtrakutas, the Kalyani Chalukyas, the Yadavas of Devagiri, the Gujarati Shahi dynasty, the Portuguese, the Marathas, and the British. The Elephanta Caves are on Mumbai’s Elephanta Island, sometimes called Gharapuri Island.

Elephanta island, which has seven caves is the magnificent home of Lord Shiva and the pinnacle of Hindu cave culture. One of India’s most impressive groups of rock-cut architecture can be found in the seven caves. According to Elephanta Caves history, the Rashtrakuta emperors excavated the cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva somewhere in the 8th century.

The most crucial cave is Mahesa-murti. There are massive figures of doorkeepers, also called ‘dwarapalakas‘ which are rather stunning. The cave’s main body is 27 metres square, with six rows of columns supporting it (excluding the entrances on the three open sides and the back aisle). This cave includes sculpted compartments with unique depictions of Nataraja Shiva, Ardhanarishvara, Kalyana-Sundaram Shiva, Ravana lifting Kailasa, Andhakari-Murti, Andhaka demon slaying, and other gods and goddesses. Along with the caves, Elephanta Island is home to artifacts dating back to the 2nd century BC and the Portuguese occupation of India, as evidenced by stupas buried on the hillock’s eastern side.

The Architecture of Elephanta Caves:

The cave’s entrance is dominated by the 7-meter-high masterwork “Sadashiva.” With Vamadeva or Uma (right half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (full centre face), and Aghora or Bhairava (left half), it portrays Shiva’s three aspects: Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer (left half). The main cave is famous due to its carvings that have been made in honour of Shiva — in various shapes and acts. Solid basalt was used for carving out the caves.

A mandala design is used to lay out the direction of the central temple and the relative positions of subsidiary temples. The Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of Dance), and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga), which are 20 feet (6.1 m) tall, are the most famous of the carvings. The caves, which cover a total area of 5,600 m2, are all rock-cut temples (60,000 sq ft). At their most complex, they feature the main chamber, two lateral rooms, courtyards, and auxiliary shrines, but not all portions are well-developed.

How Many Caves are There in the Elephanta Caves?

Elephanta Island, Lord Shiva’s lovely abode comprises seven caves on an island in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai. The seven caverns are one of India’s most stunning collections of rock-cut architecture. Two cave groups can be found on Elephanta Island (two hillocks separated by a narrow valley). Stupa Hill (named after the ancient Buddhist stupa mounds at its summit) has two caverns, one still unfinished, and several cisterns to the east.

The larger complex to the west consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. Two lateral chambers, a rock-cut temple, a vast main room, courtyards, and lesser shrines have been carved out of each cave. The caverns are solid basalt rock and feature Hindu and Buddhist iconography and themes. Gharapuri or Elephanta Island, a little off the main road, is where the caverns are located. The 16-kilometer-long Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Sahar is the closest. 


Apart from the tunnels, Elephanta Island contains archaeological remnants from the 2nd century BC and the Portuguese period in India, as demonstrated by stupas buried on the hillock’s eastern side and a cannon on its summit, respectively. In 1909, British Indian officials sought to prevent further harm to the caverns. The site was later repaired and transformed into a heritage site and tourist destination by the Indian government in the 1970s. This article contains a wealth of information on the history of the Elephanta Caves.


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Last Updated : 10 Oct, 2022
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