Elephanta Caves are situated at the Elephanta Island, which lies at a distance of approximately 10 km from the Gateway of India. One of the major tourist attractions located near the 'Commercial Capital of India', these caves basically comprise of rock cut temples. The name of the caves has been kept after the island's name on which they are situated. The island in turn was named so by the Portuguese, after the massive elephant statue that stands majestically near its landing area of the island.
Elephanta Caves have been found to date back to as far back as the 5th
century CE. These caves have been beautifully adorned with Lord Shiva
sculptures, to whom they are dedicated. They were chiseled out of a
rock, leading to the creation of the columns, the internal spaces and
the images. The rock surfaces of the caves comprise of both highly
polished ones as well as raw and bare rock ones. If you look carefully
at the Elephant Caves, they come across as a huge sculpture, which has
corridors and chambers for people to walk through.
Spread over an area of approximately 60,000 sq ft, the cave temples
comprises of a huge, main chamber. Apart from that, there are two small
chambers, few patios and a number of secondary shrines. Elephanta Caves
of Maharashtra can be entered from three sides. Of these, the eastern
and western entrances serve as the axis of the temple, lining which is a
20 pillared hall. Toward the western end of the caves, one can find the
vault that in which the Shivalingam has been enshrined.
The pillars adorning the Elephanta Caves have fluted columns with
square bases and stand adorned with fluted cushion capitals on the top.
However, the major attraction of the caves comprises of the idol of
Trimurthi Sadasiva, the Sadasiva manifestation of Lord Shiva. The main
temple has a courtyard in the east, where one can find another small
shrine, flanked by six pillars. The entrance of the Elephanta caves
leads one to a huge hall, where the sculptured panels depict the legends
from the Shiva Purana.
At the end of the north axis of the Elephanta Caves, one comes across
the magnificent image of Trimurthi Sadasiva, the Sadasiva manifestation
of Lord Shiva. The massive statue is 20 feet high and depicts the Lord
in His three-headed form. The central face depicts the benign Lord
Shiva, as the 'Preserver of the Universe' (Lord Vishnu). The right one
depicts the feminine side of Lord Shiva, as the 'Creator of the
Universe' (Lord Brahma). The left one depicts the angry side of Lord
Shiva as the 'Destroyer of the Universe' (Aghora Bhairava).