Elephanta Caves Mumbai, History of Elephanta Caves, Timings, Ticket or Entrance Fee, How to reach Elephanta Caves, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Boat Timing and Fee, Accommodations, Shopping at Elephanta Caves, Food at Elephanta Caves.
About Elephanta Caves
The Elephanta Caves are located in Western India on Elephanta Island (otherwise known as the Island of Gharapuri), which features two hillocks separated by a narrow valley. The small island is dotted with numerous ancient archaeological remains that are the sole testimonies to its rich cultural past. These archaeological remains reveal evidence of occupation from as early as the 2nd century BC. The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. The most important among the caves is the great Cave 1, which measures 39 metres from the front entrance to the back. In plan, this cave in the western hill closely resembles Dumar Lena cave at Ellora, in India. The main body of the cave, excluding the porticos on the three open sides and the back aisle, is 27 metres square and is supported by rows of six columns each.
The 7-metre-high masterpiece “Sadashiva” dominates the entrance to Cave 1. The sculpture represents three aspects of Shiva: the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, identified, respectively, with Aghora or Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half). Representations of Nataraja, Yogishvara, Andhakasuravadha, Ardhanarishwara, Kalyanasundaramurti, Gangadharamurti, and Ravanaanugrahamurti are also noteworthy for their forms, dimensions, themes, representations, content, alignment and execution.
The layout of the caves, including the pillar components, the placement and division of the caves into different parts, and the provision of a sanctum or Garbhagriha of sarvatobhadra plan, are important developments in rock-cut architecture. The Elephanta Caves emerged from a long artistic tradition, but demonstrate refreshing innovation. The combination of aesthetic beauty and sculptural art, replete with respondent Rasas, reached an apogee at the Elephanta Caves. Hindu spiritualistic beliefs and symbology are finely utilized in the overall planning of the caves.
Elephanta Caves – UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Elephanta Island is a quiet and picturesque island with green foliage and harmless primates scampering about. One of the main places to see on this island would be the Elephanta Caves. Upon entering the caves, a massive hall supported by large pillars and a large ‘Mahesamurti’ statue will greet you. This remarkable, three-headed Shiva sculpture is the main attraction of this island. Other sculptures of Shiva, in the ‘Shiva Nataraja’ and ‘Ardhanarishvara’ forms, can also be seen here. The entire cave complex is about 60,000 sq. feet and is made out of natural rock. If you are looking to capture beautiful pictures with the Arabian Sea in the background, head out of the caves and you will come upon the beautiful Elephant-shaped rock structure. Those wishing to laze around and soak in the nature can spend the evening exploring the island with a guide or walk up the Cannon Hill or just relax on the beach.
Architectonic features of Elephanta cave chambers and their details suggest that cave chambers were made in the time period between the 5th – 8th centuries AD. Earlier there existed an inscription in the caves or near them informing about the builder of caves – but it has been lost later, during the Portuguese times.
Popular legend states that caves were definitely not built by people but rather by mythical beings: either by Pandavas – legendary heroes of Mahabharata or by Banasura – very powerful demon.
Archaeological investigations have resulted in a find of few Kshatrapa coins from the 4th century AD – but this does not directly mean that caves have been made in this time.
One likely creator of caves is Konkan Mauryas – break-away group of Mauryan dynasty. Elephanta by that time was called Puri or Purika and was a capital city. Thus it is possible that caves were shaped in the middle of 6th century by Mauryas. This is put in doubt by some researchers – Mauryan state at this time seemed to be not that powerful and influential to create such an amazing monument. It is also possible that caves were built by early Kalachuri kings – they were feudals to Konkan Mauryas. Both Kalachuris and Konkan Mauryas were followers of a Pahsupata Shaivism sect – and also the main cave temple in Elephanta is dedicated to this sect.
In 635 AD Badami Chalukyas under the great emperor Pulakesi II defeated Konkan Mauryas in a naval battle. It is possible that Chalukyas took active part in the development of the main cave in the middle of the 7th century as well. Later throughout the centuries the island was owned by different rulers and most likely temple activities continued as well.
Open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Closed on Monday
Elephanta Entrance Fee: Rs 10 (Indian, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives,Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand citizens) ; Rs 250 (other foreign citizens ). Village entry fee for all (Rs10).
Other Charges for Elephanta visit: Photography : Free. Videography: Rs 25. Toy Train in the Elephanta pier (optional) : Rs10.
Season: Elephanta is open throughout the year. Winter months (November to February) are pleasant. Avoid peak monsoon season (June to August ) as boat schedules could get interrupted due to the rough seas and heavy rain.
Elephanta Festival : Two day dance and music festival in February every year
How to reach Elephanta Caves via Gateway
Reach the last two stations of South Mumbai either CST( Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal ) old name VT ( Victoria Terminus) or Churchgate station (only local train). Then take a taxi , local bus to reach Gateway. A full taxi will cost you nearly Rs 40/- ( Year 2014 ) or you can go by sharing a taxi with other passengers. This is south most point of Mumbai.
Or take a local cab to reach Gateway the most popular landmark of Mumbai. If you are here for first time then spend some time near Gateway watching Hotel Taj and the famous historical buildings around it.
Ticket counters for boat journey are near Gateway. Outside also there will be ticket selling boys. But better take the ticket from counter. There is no advance booking ( not required ) . After buying ticket move towards Jetty located back side of Gateway.
Price per ticket is Rs 180/- , Rs 125/ for child 2 years to 7 years .
(Ticket includes onward and return journey )
Boat timings to Elephant island from Gateway
From Gateway first boat is at 9.00 AM
From Gateway last boat is at 3.00 PM
From Elephant first return boat is at 12.00 Noon.
From Elephanta last return boat is at 5.30 PM.
Frequency of boat service is on every half an hour.
Duration of Journey ( one way ) is one hour.
There is a warning board saying ‘ Due to bad weather, Launch services will be closed without prior notice.
Type of Boat from Gateway to Elephanta
There will be several boats parked close to Gateway. These boats are have two floors. In big boats you will be asked to pay Rs 10/- in addition to your ticket if you prefer to take a seat in upper floor.
The boat will take one hour to reach Elephanta. On the way you will see several cargo ships and other type of small and big ships of different countries. From a distance you can see several institutions and marine equipments while travelling.
There is a new jetty at Elephanta, from here the foot hill is nearly 1 KM. You can walk or use the toy train run by Maharashtra Tourism. Both way train ticket cost is Rs 10/- . It is better to take train as you can conserve some energy required for climbing nearly 120 steps to reach the caves.
Need to pay here Rs 5/- ticket to enter into Elephanta hills complex.
From the foothill you need to climb up steps for 15 to 20 minutes ( 120 steps ) to reach the foothill. While climbing on both sides there will be shops selling , souvenir items, local products, books, bags , gift items. There are several small and big food stalls available selling all types of food items. Doli or Chair are available if you are not able to climb the steps. Each chair will be lifted by four men.
Cave Timings and Entry Ticket
After climbing up you can take rest or take to your left to reach the first cave. Before this there is a counter of Archaeological survey of India where you have to buy a ticket of Rs 10. Foreigners have to pay Rs 250/- . No charge for Camera but video camera charge is Rs 25/-. The ticket counter is open from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM.
( Monday closed )
Guides are available at the first cave to explain you about the caves. Charges varies from Rs 100 onwards based on your group size. You can bargain for the best price. The first cave is the most important cave with several status and Shiva Lingas. In addition to this cave there are another three caves in same side. You need to walk 500 meter to see these three caves. They are not as big as first caves.
Toilet facility is available near the last cave
From the main area at your right there is Canon hills . To reach the Cannon you will take 15 to 20 minutes. Little climb is involved at the beginning and then gentle climb is there for 500 meters. Food stalls are available on the way. On return it will take 10 minutes.
A small island just off the coast of the Arabian Sea may be the least expected place for shopping for souvenirs, but get ready to be pleasantly surprised with the collection of local Elephanta souvenirs that you can take back home. Once you are on the island, a short walk uphill will bring you to the local flea market. A paradise for women, this little market offers sculptures made of marble, jewelery, clothes, paintings of Lord Shiva and many amazing items of wood work. If you are collecting Indian artifacts, then there is no better place to shop for souvenirs than the Elephanta Caves. While the prices are a bit exorbitant, it always helps to know the basics of bargaining in the world of barter-especially at unique and beautiful places like the Elephanta Caves.
If you are interested in local Indian food, an MTDC run resort offers a fine local spread at a reasonable cost. There are other local food vendors at Cannon Hill and outside the caves selling wild berries, tea, coffee and other refreshments if you are just looking for quick snacks.
Overnight stays on Elephanta Island are not permitted. However, if you want to rest during the daytime, the MTDH (Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel) is a good place to take a quick siesta! This hotel also serves food and drinks. The check-out time at this hotel is at 5:00 PM.