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The Great Cave at Elephanta is one of the great monuments near Bombay. It is one in a complex of Hindu caves on Gharapuri (Elephanta is the name given to the island by the Portuguese), dating to the sixth century AD.

The cave is designed to accommodate Hindu ritual of circumambulating the cave, and encountering a number of images related to Shiva, in a great mandala.

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.

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 are three entrances to the main temple in the complex- from the north, east and west. The main gallery is divided by columns into equal rows and aisles. To the west, and outside this area, is a square sanctuary containing a monolithic Linga.

The huge, high-relief works in the main cave, on both sides of the three entrances and on the south wall, are characteristic of the cult of Siva and considered to be among the most perfect expressions of Indian art of their time. The most well-known is the six metre high Trimurti, showing Siva in the three roles of creator, preserver and destroyer. This sculpture is supposed to be one of the centerpieces of the Indian sculptural tradition. Other panels include representations of Siva as Ardhanarisvara (part female), Kalyana-sundara and Nataraja.

Known as Gharapuri since the time of the Konkani Mauryas, the island's present name is due to a sculpture of an elephant found here. This piece was moved to the Bhau Daji Ladd museum near the Jijamata Udyan in Bycullah, where it can still be seen.


How to Reach
Mumbai is easily accessible from all parts of India by a good network of air, rail and roads. The Elephanta caves can also be reached by ferry from the gateway of India.
Air - The nearest airport is Mumbai International Airport
Rail - Nearest railheads are Church gate, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Road - One can reach Mumbai by road from the neighboring states as regular bus services are available. One has to take a ferry from Appollo Bunder near the Gateway of India to reach the cave temples.


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