Elephanta Caves

  • Location

Elephanta Island, 10 km from Mumbai

  • Attractions

'Shivalingam', Rock cut temples, the image of 'Trimurti Sadashiva', elephant statue.

  • Best Time to Visit

October to March


Gharapuri, the city of caves or Elephanta Island has a network of beautifully sculpted caves known as the Elephanta Caves. This island in Mumbai Harbour, is located 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) towards east of the city of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra in India. There are two groups of caves, Hindu caves and Buddhist caves, on this island in the Arabian Sea. The larger group of Hindu caves has five caves,and the smaller Buddhist caves group has two caves. The Hindu caves are dedicated to god Shiva and represent the Shaiva Hindu sect.

The architecture of these rock cut caves dates back to the 5th and 8th century. Who originally built the caves is still debatable.These caves, built from solid basalt rocks were originally painted but only traces of the paint remain.

The Portuguese rule in India began in 1534. Before this, the island was a Hindu place of worship and was called Gharapuri. The huge colossal elephant statue at the entrance inspired the Portugueseto call the island Elephanta. The Statue has now been shifted to the garden of Bhau Daji Lad Museum (earlier known as Victoria & Albert Museum) at the Jijamata Udyaan (or Victoria Gardens) at Byculla in Mumbai. Before the 1970s, this cave was neglected for years and was hence in bad shape. But, was then it was renovated in designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 with the aim of preserving the ancient work of art. At present, the cave is looked after by ASI, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Main Caves

The small island rises from amidst the pure and clear waters of the Arabian Sea like a giant round turtle. After disembarking, you need to take a narrow road to reach the site where the elevation begins. All along the way, the loud and cries of jamunwallahs can be heard, persuading you to buy the salted jamuns that they are selling. These plum colored fruits are sold in pouches cleverly designed to hold not more than 7 or 8 jamuns each. A steeply rising road will lead you to the caves located atop the island shaped like a hill. Then there is a flight of steps formed of sharp stones. Coolies carry the old and invalid up these steps in palanquins. Many aged visitors come here due to the religious aspect as some locals believe these caves to be dedicated to Lord Shiva. The tourist tax for adults is Rs. 10 and that for children is Rs. 5. Also, you are required to pay an entrance fee before entering the park. The fee is Rs. 10 for Indians and Rs. 250 for foreigners. There is a security check of your ticket at the entry to the site. You must insist on having your ticket back from the security guard who checks your ticket. The guard is only supposed to keep the detached control coupon. You must make sure you take your ticket backto prevent reselling of your ticket to another visitor as this way the entry fee which should go to the Archeological Survey of India would go into the guard’s pocket.

You can visit several caves on this island. The guard would tell you of only five caves here, but some maps would show you 7 islands. All other caves except for the first two at the entrance are undeveloped and small. The Cannon Hill is the top of the Elephanta Island and you can walk up to this hill. Apart from old cannon, there is nothing else worth seeing here.

Timing of Caves

Open from 9 AM in the morning to 5 PMin the evening.

Closed on every Monday

Entrance Fee: Indian citizens and visitors from SAARC countries namely Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand and Myanmar) - Rs. 10 per person.

Others: US $ 5 or INR Rs. 250/- per person.

(Entry for children under 15 years of age is free)

Shopping at Caves

This would come as a pleasant surprise to all travelers. It might be unexpected and a little unbelievable to find souvenirs at a tiny island off the Arabian sea coast, but on the contrary, there is a vast collection of Elephanta cave souvenirs that you can shop for and take back home with you. You can reach the local flea market by walking a short distance uphill. With marble sculptures, clothes, jewelry, Lord Shiva’s paintings and beautifully crafted wood work, this market is a shoppers’ paradise especially for women. This place is ideal for collectors of Indian artifacts. In fact, Elephanta caves are the best place to shop for souvenirs. You might find the prices to be a little exorbitant but bargaining helps a lot in this barter world at such a beautiful place like the Elephanta caves.

Accommodation

t is not permitted to stay overnight on the Elephanta caves, however you can rest or take a quick nap during day at the Maharashtra Tourism Department Hotel (MTDH).Food and drinks are also served here.You will need to check out by 5 PM.

How to Reach

A boat or ferry ride from the Gateway of India in Mumbai will get you to the Elephanta Caves. By sea, this ride will take you around an hour or so. The deluxe boat fare is Rs. 140 for adults and it is Rs. 90 for children. You can save Rs. 20 on both tickets if you travel by economy boats. The departure time for first boat is 9:00 AM and the last boat leaves at 5:00 PM from the island.

The Elephanta Caves provide a great escape from the busy and noisy life of Mumbai metropolis. This trip to the caves will make you travel back in time, when the basis of daily life was religion, faith, hard work, art and romanticism. The Elephanta Caves stand as a magnificent testimony to the aesthetic appeal of a world that has been forgotten. The island is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the most popular tourist destinations.

Photo Gallery

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