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Elephanta Caves

Elephanta Caves
One of the major attractions of Maharashtra, the Elephanta Caves are situated near the metropolitan city of Mumbai. The Elephanta island is located 10 km 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
Elephanta Caves
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.

There is a window on the top of the dome under which the Imam (head priest) prays. The relics of Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Abdul Qadar Jeelani are kept there.

"The relics are hairs from the beard of the Prophet and Hazrat Jeelani. On the first day of Rabi-ul-Awwal (the third month of the Islamic calendar), the relic of the Prophet is displayed and on the first Friday of Rabi-ul-Akhir (the fourth month of the Islamic calendar), Hazrat's relic is shown to the faithful," says Anwar Shareef, chairman of the Jamia Masjid Trust and the custodian of the relics.

The arch above the pulpit has impressive carvings with Persian inscriptions in gold on either side, with an old clock that has not stopped ticking for the past 106 years in between. The inscriptions that thank the Almighty are by poets of that time such as Muhammad Jalal Sahib Qadri (Wafa) and Ali Sahab (Qasam). The Masjid also has a unique record - Imam Abdul Hafiz Junaid is the only Imam in India who has conducted prayers in a mosque for 54 years, from 1948 to 2002.

The legacy of communal harmony is, meanwhile, something that the Masjid is proud of. "Isn't it wonderful that it's situated between two temples? And till date, neither the Masjid nor the temples have had any issues. In the history of Jamia Masjid there has not been a single religious clash on this street," says Sayed Abdul Ali.
Elephanta Caves
And the minarets continue to give hope. Sayed Muzammil Shah says, "I am free from pain when I enter the Masjid. Here I get a sense of comfort and peace. I feel cleansed."

Reach Elephanta Caves
The Elephanta Island can be reached only by boat. Ferry rides are available from the Gateway of India and it takes just 15 minutes to reach the Elephanta Island. It is one of the most adventurous ride as the boat cruise up and down the wavy sea making it a life time experience.

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