Explore a network of caves dedicated to India's many gods
The essence of the Elephanta Caves
Delve deep into the Elephanta Caves, a string of decorated grottos stretching for over 16 square kilometres (6 square miles) and situated just outside Mumbai. Mumbai Harbour is a natural deep-water port that feeds into the Arabian Sea and is dotted by six islands, including Elephanta Island, home to the network of caves. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, was created entirely through the practise of rock removal and boasts intricately carved caves that feature both Hindu and Buddhist effigies that date back to the 5th century. Divided into two clusters, the first and larger of the two depicts stone Hindu rock idols of the destroyer deity, Lord Shiva. The second and smaller group consists of Buddhist carvings.
The main cave within the Hindu complex covers over 5 500 square metres (59 2020 square feet) and features deep chambers, courtyards and supplementary shrines, with the main emphasis on Lord Shiva, represented in intricate statues that expose his various shapes. The first Buddhist monument contains a brick Stupa, a hemispherical structure used as a place of meditation, whilst the second is largely considered to be half-finished. Some Mumbai locals believe the caves were supernaturally created and are the tangible home of Shivae.