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
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 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
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.
Click here for Photo Features