An interesting travel of about an hour by boat from the Gateway of India, passing the Mumbai harbour, and the Naval barges, takes you to Elephanta Caves where there are caves with carvings dedicated to Lord Siva. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The Elephanta Island is the site of the magnificent Elephanta caves, containing beautiful carvings, sculptures, and a temple to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva. The island of Elephanta, being a commercial, military and religions centre for centuries has traces of early Buddhist culture.
One of the major Tourist Attractions of Maharashtra, the Elephanta Caves are situated near the metropolitan city of Mumbai. The Elephanta island is located 10 Kms away from the Gateway of India. There are various rock cut temples present in these caves, which are as old as 5th century. The Elephanta Island was named by the Portuguese, after the statue of an elephant near the landing area of the island. Construction of The Caves : The rock cut temples in Elephanta Caves are carved out of rock. There are columns, internal spaces and images within these temples. The entire temple is related to a large sculpture. In fact one can walk through the corridors and chambers of this sculptured temple. Created through a process of rock removal, the entire complex is an interesting monument. Some of the rock surfaces here are finely finished whereas some are unfinished bare rock. The Elephanta rock caves are sprawled over a large area of about 60000 square feet. These temple caves consist of a main chamber, courtyards and several subsidiary shrines. There is also a mass of natural rock, above the temple. There are three entrances to the temple. The eastern and the western entrances mark the axis of the temple. There is a 20 pillared hall that lines the axis, and on its western end is a cell in which a Shivalingam enshrined. The Mystical Images : The magnificent image of Sadasiva, a manifestation of Shiva, is carved in relief at the end of the north south axis. The stupendous 20 feet high image of the three headed Shiva, known as Trimurthy is a magnificent one. It is regarded as a masterpiece of Indian art. This huge image represents Panchamukha Shiva, whose only three faces are carved into the wall. It attracts your attention just as you enter the temple through the northern entrance. Along with this image there are grand sculptured images of Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara on the southern wall. Other sculptured images of Nataraja and andhakaasuravadamoorthy are to the west of the northern entrance and the images of Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy are to its east.
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