Elephanta caves is a network of caves with numerous sculptures and carvings. This set of caves is located in Elephanta Island. This spot is an important tourist attraction and religious spot for Hindus and Buddhists. The caves are as old as 5th century AD. It is a world heritage site. It used to be the spot for Elephanta festival of music and dance. Later, due to the popularity of the event, the event was shifted to Gateway of India.
The caves are located in an island, which is found in the Arabian Sea, close to Mumbai Harbor. You can find many jetty services near Gateway of India would take you to the island within an hour.
The cave is closed on Mondays. The caves are open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening. Although the caves are open throughout the year, people recommend choosing winter for the pleasing temperature.
The island has a deep ravine that cuts the land into two regions; west and east. The west region has slight slopes of hills. This is called the Stupa hill. You can find mango trees, tamarind trees and others scattered here. You can find rice valleys too. The caves are found in both the regions of the islands. The caves can be grouped into two types. The first set of caves are Hindu caves. There are five caves in this group and all the caves are dedicated to Lord Shiva of Hinduism. The first cave of this network was an important religious spot and worship area for Hindus during 16th century. The second group of caves are dedicated to Buddhism.
Top attractions in the caves are
There are no inscription on the walls of the caves to determine the age of the cave or its history. According to Mahabharata, Banasur built cave temples for Shiva. The art historians have approximated the age of the caves to be around late 5th century. There are many artifacts that were evacuated from the cave regions that date as old as 4th century AD. This island served as a capital for a small kingdom during 1st century AD. However, such small kingdoms could not have built such massive temples.
In 16th century, the island can under the control of Portuguese who destroyed major parts of the caves. The relief in the cave was used as a target for archer practice during the Portuguese rule. The caves were later restored during 1970s and it became a heritage site in 1987.
In the island, you can find a small flea market to buy sculpture, marble works, wood works and others. You can find small food vendors near Cannon hill and just outside the caves, selling local wild berries and other refreshments.