The majestic Elephanta caves on Elephanta Island, 10km from Mumbai, are reached by ferry from a jetty at the Gateway of India. A trip to the caves is a must-do for visitors to Mumbai.
In ancient times the island was called Gharapuri. The name of Elephanta was given by 17th-century Portuguese explorers who discovered a monolithic elephant sculpture by the entrance to the caves. This sculpture is now at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. The island was once the capital of a powerful local kingdom, and its numerous architectural remains from the 2nd century CE indicate the rich culture of those days.
The cave temples were created in the 5th and 6th centuries CE; most are dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Cave N° 1 is the most remarkable. It measures 39m long and its centrepiece, a statue of the three-headed Sadashiva, is 5m tall. This sculpture represents the Trimurti trinity of creator, preserver and destroyer, identified as Aghora or Bhairava (on the left), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (middle face), and Vamadeva or Uma (on the right).
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