The Elephanta Caves are located on Elephanta Island. Island is in sea about 10 km from the harbour of Mumbai. Elephanta Island also known as The Island of Gharapuri, the ‘City of Caves’. Island 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 the 2nd century BC. Rock cut art represents the cult of Siva. Indian art and sculpture found in high reliefs in cave 1. The 22 feet high masterpiece ‘Sadasiva’ dominates in the main hall of Cave 1. There is big Siva Linga in a Temple inside cave. Stupa Hill is located in the eastern part of island. It contains two caves with Buddhist monuments and also cisterns.
The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were constructed between 5th and 6th centuries AD. The most important among caves is Cave 1, which measures 39 metres. 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 22 feet high masterpiece ‘Sadasiva’ dominates in the main hall of Cave 1. The sculpture represents three aspects of Siva: the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, identified, respectively, with Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half). Huge sculptures of Nataraja, Yogiswara, Andhakasura vadha, Ardhanarishwara, Kalyanasundara murti, Gangadhara murti and Ravanaanugraha murti are seen in main cave.
The construction of caves, including the pillar components, the placement and division of the caves into different parts and the provision of sanctum sanctorum, are important developments in rock-cut architecture.
The Island of Elephanta, the glorious abode of Lord Siva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves on an island in the Sea. Caves are decorated with unique sculptures from Siva mythology. Indian art found its most perfect expressions in huge reliefs in main cave.The date of the famous Elephanta Caves is still very much debated and varies from 6th century to 8th century . There are two groups of caves. In the east, Stupa Hill (named because of a small brick Buddhist monument at the top) contains two caves, one of which is incopleted, and several cisterns.In the west, the larger group consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave is famous for its carvings of Siva mythology.
The ferocious expression of Shiva in Andhakasura Vadha panel stands in stark contrast with the aspects depicted in other panels. Depicting Shiva slaying a demon called Andhaka. It is most animated panel in the main cave. Shiva is represented with eight arms in this panel. Apart from the cave architecture, mythical themes are very interesting and sculpture is note worthy.Two panels depicting, on the left, Siva as Yogiswara and, on the right, as Nataraja . Inside the mandapa, to the right from the entrance there is located the central Shiva shrine,free standing square cell with four entrances and linga in the centre. Each of the four entrances in Siva shrine is guarded by two dvarapalas.4.5 – 4.7 m high gate keepers. Figures of dwarapalas are most attractive.
Opposite to entrance, there is massive sculpture of three-headed bust size of Mahadeva. Three faces are incarnation of three essential functions; to the east, Bhairava, terrifying destroyer; to the west, Vamadeva, creator of joy and beauty, incarnated by a woman’s head; and in the centre, Tatpurusha, master of positive and negative principles of existence and preserver of their harmony. The three headed iconic image representing three aspects of Shiva. The masterpiece image of Elephanta caves.On either side of this central figure there are two other reliefs depicting, on the left, Ardhanarisvara and, on the right, Shiva receiving the water from Goddess Ganga (Gangadhara). The more humanly theme of marriage depicted in this panel. Arguably, Parvathi is portrayed superbly than Siva in Kalyana Sundara panel, with her head slightly tilted towards him with a hint of coyness. Stupa Hill is located in the eastern part of island. It contains two caves with Buddhist monuments and also cisterns from the 3rd century AD or earlier. One of two caves is not complete. In the other cave there is stupa made in bricks.
Prince Albert Edward (Bertie), Queen Victoria’s eldest son, set sail from London on 11th October 1875 on the royal ship HMSS Serapis, and arrived at Bombay on 8th November. There were altogether fifty men in the party, the next highest ranking to the Prince being the Duke of Sutherland, followed by Sir Bartle Frere. Chosen to record the visit were the Prince’s Private Secretary, William Howard Russell (1820-1907), who reported on it for the Times,News Paper. Edward stayed for two years and toured several places in the Country. The then British Rulers arranged grand lunch for Edward & his party in Elephanta Caves.