Elephanta brought out by Archaeological Survey of India introduces the visitors to one of the finest rock-cut temples of India, now declared a World Heritage monument.
The Elephanta caves are situated in a small island of great scenic beauty which was witness to history for over two thousand years. Buddhists have erected stupas her in the second century BC, and the caves were carved by Hindus in the sixth century AD. They are dedicated to God Siva, a most important divinity of the Hindu pantheon whose cult 'Saivism' was spread far and wide into the country and even beyond its frontiers.
The caves are embellished with elegant sculptures, gigantic in proportion, and narrating some of the Puranic stories associated with Siva. They are carved in deep recesses and are characterized by tremendous force and vitality. The central figures, a three headed bust of the God is amongst the finest creations of the Indian genius.
The caves are situated in close proximity to the metropolis of Mumbai. With a comfortable ferry constantly available, except during the monsoon from June to September, visit to the site makes a memorable trip.
Also included is information on ancient monuments in the city of Mumbai and its environs.
This short guide book has been profusely illustrated with colored photographs and gives all the essential information for the common tourist. For those who are interested in greater details, a bibliography has been appended.
Practical information on hotels, ferry service, and visas is also given.
Qutb Minar & adjoining monuments Humayun's Tomb & Adjacent monuments
B R Mani, Arundhati Banerji, Hoshiar Singh of ASI, New Delhi, and G S Narasimhan, ASI Mumbai circle.
The rock-cut caves on the Elephanta island, close to the metropolis of Mumbai, constitute a most priceless heritage of humanity. Of the seven excavations at the site, only one cave (No.1) is profusely adorned with exquisitely carved gigantic sculpture, dominated by the Trimurti colossus testifying to the superb skill of the ancient Indian artist. The caves, which were excavated in the mid-sixth century during the rule of the Konkan Mauryas, are dedicated to god Siva, an important member of he Hindu triad.
The island, locally known as Gharapuri was named Elephanta during the medieval times because of a huge stone statue of an elephant standing at the entry point of the island; it was later removed to the city of Mumbai. The Portuguese tried to destroy it but with little success; they, however, succeeded in mutilating the sculptured panels, more particularly their lower half. Still they do not fail to impress the visitor by their sheer monumentality and superior aesthetic quality.
I hope the visiting tourist will appreciate the beauty of the caves in the scenic surroundings.
The island of Elephanta (18' 58"N, 72' 58"E) is located about 11 km to the east of the Apollo Bunder and Gateway of India of Mumbai from where launches leave for the island which is quite small, measuring about 2 sq km. Locally known as Gharapuri, the island was named Elephanta because of a huge stone statue of an elephant which stood near Raj Bunder, one of the entry points to the island. Attempts were made by the Portuguese to destroy it, but they do not seem to have been successful, some fragments of it, however, were broken. They were shifted to Mumbai and joined together. Presently the statue stands in the precincts of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum at Byculla, a suburb of Mumbai, which is located in the Jijamata Udyan (formerly known as Queen Victoria garden). It is a huge statue, 4.5 m in length an 2.4 m in height.
There is still a small village known as Gharapuri on the island which is identified with ancient puri, the capital of the Mauryas of Konkan who ruled here in the sixth and seventh century AD.
Puri appears to be the same as Sripuri which is referred to in the Aihole inscription of the Chalukyan monarch Pulakesin II who ruled in the first half of the seventh century AD. It is interesting to note that the name Sripuri also occurs in an inscription engraved on a copper vessel which was recovered during the clearance of the cistern in the west wing of Main cave; it is dated AD 1068.
There are three entry points to the island viz. the Mora Bunder, probably named after the Mauryas, the Raj Bunder (also known as Rajpuri), the site of the stone statue of the elephant which gave the name to the island; and may have been the landing place for the rulers; and Sethai Bunder which may have been used by merchants and traders in the ancient past. Presently, however, the ferry takes the visitors to the New Jetty from where it is a short walk to the main cave.
The island is dominated by a low hill, or rather two hills with a ravine dividing them, and their height above the mean sea level is about 200 m. They are thickly wooded by palms, tamarind, mango and other trees, and the coast line, of about 7 km, is fringed by mangrove swamps. There are traces of ancient habitation on the island of a very early period as is evident from the remains of a Buddhist stupa which can be assigned to about second century BC; it is surrounded by smaller ones which may be votive stupas. Remains of fortification have also been noticed. The habitation seems to have continued even later in the tenth and eleventh century AD if the presence of Hero stones is any indication. It is reported that there was also a statue of horse on the island but its whereabouts are not known. An inscribed slab found here is said to have been taken to Portugal, which scholars in recent years have tried to find but it is untraceable. It would certainly have thrown a welcome light on the caves, more particularly their patronage and date. Some loose sculptures were picked up in the vicinity of the caves and were presented to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum in Mumbai. Besides, a carnelian seal was also reported but nothing is known about it.
There are seven rock-cut caves at the site of which the most important is the main cave (No. 1), the remaining do not contain anything of interest and some of them are unfinished. The main cave is one of the finest monuments of its kind and is full of exquisitely sculptured panels which, though damaged beyond repair, still do not fail to impress the visitor. They testify to the visitor. They testify to the superb skill of the ancient Indian artist.
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