Mumbai: It’s called the city of dreams, a city full of skyscrapers. An overcrowded place that is bursting at its seams. But what if someone told you, that just miles away from this city, lies an island that gives you a glimpse of India’s glorious past? Nature’s paradise nestled away from the hustle. A place so unique that is a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site List. Yes, this is Elephanta Island.
Brief: Elephanta Island, locally known as Gharapuri Island, is a group of seven temples sculpted out in caves. These temples have been built over a period of 200 years (roughly around 5th and 6th century AD).
This island got its name from an elephant sculpture that was earlier present in its premises. Five out of the seven are Hindu temple and the rest are Buddhist temples. How to get there: The only mode of transport to Elephanta Island is the ferry from Gateway of India.
The cost for Indian Nationals is Rs 150 and if someone wants to sit on the deck of the ferry, then get ready to shell out Rs 10 more. The journey time is approximately one and a half hour.
Must Note: Do carry an umbrella or a hat with you.
The Trek: Your adventure doesn’t end after the hour long journey on the ferry. There is a long climb to the cave. One can take the toy train that will leave you closer to the stairs..
Yes the never ending flight of stairs…
On either side of which lay hawkers selling an array of products like I love Mumbai to souvenirs from the Island.
The Cave: Well if you are exhausted by the trek, the bad news -you ain’t seen nothing yet..the reason wonder now lies ahead– The Cave Temples. Out of 7 cave temples, only temple number 1 happens to be in good condition/complete. Portuguese who ruled Bombay before the British caused significant damage to the caves.
Cave number 1 is well preserved and houses several beautiful sculptures.
The Trimuti: Lord Shiva depicted as the creator, nourisher and destroyer!
The Humiliation of Ravana: the famous scene from Ramayana where the King of Lanka Ravan is humbled by Lord Shiva.
Uma-Maheshwari: Lord Shiva as a man and a woman..a statue that id the best example of how ancient Hindu society worshipped hermaphrodites/eunuchs.
Andhakasuravadha Murthi: Asura named Andhak had a special power… Every blood that spilled gave rise to another Andhak.. hence the deities created Saptamatrika (seven mothers) who drank his blood to kill him.
Kalyanasundaram Murti: the sculpture depicting a scene from Lord Shiva’s wedding to Parvati.
Six column of pillars support this structure …each has a dwarpal/gatekeeper
The other caves have no significant sculpture but can never visit them to understand the magnitude of the project the makers of this temple had initiated.