The Elephant CavesThe Elephant Caves are located in the Mumbai harbour off the coasts of Mumbai, and are the rock cut temples dating back to the 5th century CE. The Elephanta Island is located 10 km away from the Gateway of India at Mumbai. The Caves were renamed as the Elephanta Island by the Portuguese, after the statue of an elephant near the landing area of the island. These rock cut temples have been dedicated to Shiva Mahadeva and are rich in sculptural content.
The rock cut temples were created by carving out rock, and creating columns, internal spaces and images. The entire temple is akin to a huge sculpture, through whose corridors and chambers one can walk. The entire complex was created through a process of rock removal. Some of the rock surfaces are highly finished while some are untreated bare rock.
The temple complex is said to be the adobe of Shiva and the entire temple complex covers an area of about 60000 square feet, consisting of a main chamber and two lateral ones, courtyards and several subsidiary shrines. Above the temple is the mass of natural rock. There are three ways to get inside to this temple.
At the end of the north south axis, the Sadasiva manifestation of Shiva is carved. The master piece of Indian art, the huge 20 feet high image of the three headed Shiva, Trimurthy is magnificent one. If entering the temple through the northern entrance, one can pay the attention to the colossal image that represents Panchamukha Shiva, only three faces of whom are carved into the wall.
On the southern wall, there are grand sculptured images of Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara. To the west of the northern entrance are sculptured images of Nataraja and Andhakaasuravadamoorthy, and to its east are images of Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy.
Thus in the Elephanta caves, Shiva is portrayed in the non anthropomorphic Shiva lingam form, as well as in his quintessential being emanating from the Shiva lingam in the colossal image, and in 8 manifest forms. To the east of the main temple is a courtyard, flanked by the secondary shrine. This temple contains six pillars at its entrance, four of which are free standing and two engaged. The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels depicting the legends from Shiva.