Geography: The World famous Elephanta caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island or Gharapuri in Mumbai harbor, 10 KM to the East of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state Maharastra.
Why named as Elephanta Cave?
This cave was created by Chalukhya king Pulakeshin II from Karnataka in the 7th century, and its name was “Dharmapuri” Ghara means priest and puri means “city” so complete meaning is “The city of priest”. In the 7th century, there were only priests in this Island. Pulakeshin II was a great devotee of lord Shiva. Later in the 16th century Portuguese came here and found a giant sculpture of elephant and they started soughing “Elephanta Elapanta ” after this incident this cave was being called as Elephanta caves.
How to reach?
The Elephanta cave is 10 KM away from Mumbai harbor, any one can take Ferry from “Gateway of India” and it ticket cost is around 180/person. It took almost an hour to reach to Elephanta caves from a ferry. After deboarding at Elephanta island, a toy train is available which drops at the start of stairs for elephant caves. There are around 120 stairs to reach the cave and around 2000 people live on this Island. There is no fresh/drinking water and electricity on this Island. This Island has “Grampanchayat” that maintains electricity between 7 PM- 10 PM by Generator, and there is a huge-huge ancient water tank which is still used to for water supply. People store rain water in this tank for their drinking purpose. To manage all these thing gram panchayat charges 5 Rupees as a maintenance tax from tourist.
History Behind this cave and Sculptures:
There is 8 Great sculpture here so let’s take a glimpse and history as well.
Shiva as Nataraja: As you will enter the main cave you will notice that there is a lord shiva in a dancing pose. This is the Nataraja pose of lord shiva. The word Nataraja is derived from “Natya” which means dance and “Raja” means king so Nataraja means king of dance. Shiva as Nataraja was first depicted in the Chola bronze statues. Shiva is shown as dancing on an aureole of flames, lifting his left leg and balancing himself of the demon Apasmara who is a symbol of ignorance. The upper right-hand holds a ‘dum roo’ that stands for the male-female vital principle, the lower shows the gesture of assertion to be without fear. This dance is known as “Tandav”. In this the below image you can see dancing Shiva and a boy is playing “DHOL” and the name of this boy is Tandu. Probably this dance is known as tandav. Nataraja Shiva is very famous in south India.
Yoga Shiva: In this sculpture, Lord Shiva is doing YOGA on the lotus temple and two “naagmata” is holding the lotus flower to prevent any disturbance in sitting position of lord shiva. There are mainly three types of yoga:- Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Gyan Yoga. Sunflower is engraved in this sculpture it is a symbol of Gyan yoga and banana leaves is a symbol of Bhakti yoga. Yoga Shiva is famous in north India.
Chaumukhi Shiva: It is a big shiva-ling surrounded by 4 open gates so you will see Shiva from every side that’s why it is called Chau-Mukhi shiva. People worship Shiva once in a year here on Shivaratri
Andhakasur Shiva: In this sculpture of Shiva killing Andhakasur. According to Indian mythology, Andhakasur is a demon blessed with a unique power i.e. if any single drop of his blood will drop on the land then a new Andhakasur demon will grow and no one can kill this demon in sun light. So shiva killed an elephant and took his skin to cover sun light, cut throat of demon Andhakasur and collected all blood drop in a bowl. There is a dog with Lord shiva to catch a single drop of blood in his mouth if it will come outside if bowl.
Kalyansundam shiva: This sculpture is showing the marriage of lord shiva and parvati although it is incomplete marriage according to Hindu marriage because parvati is in left of shiva. Lord Bramha as as pandit in this marriage.
Gangadhar Shiva: In this sculpture Shiva is holding “The Ganga” in his hairs and Suryavanshi Bhagirath is worshiping Ganaga. According to mythology it is said that there was a king Sager who ruled aayodhya. He has 60,000 sons. He was very brave and glorious king. He was doing ashwamedh yagya and leave a horse free. The Lord of god “Indra” was worried about it. Indra catch that horse and tied the horse with a rope in Kapil saint’s hermitage. King sager’s 60,000 sons saw that a saint is challenging king then his sons break his house and surrounding area. At this time Kapil saint went at river for bath, when he came back he saw his hermitage and became very angry. He cursed all 60,000 sons to burn alive immediately and king sager’s all 60,000 died. King heard this complete story he came to saint house and apology for the same. Saint kapil don’t know how to revoke the curse. Saint told to the king that worship Goddess ganga once she will happy and will come to earth her pure water can turn his sons alive and set free from curse. After that king sager worshiped his complete life to Ganga after his death his son King Dilip did the same this but can’t make it possible. After Dilip death his son Bhagirath (Grandson of king sager) was a great devotee of shiva, he worshiped Ganaga, Ganga came to earth and all 60,000 sons freed from saint curse.
In this image, you can see the Bhagirath is doing worship.
Mahesh Murti(sculpture): In this statue lord shiva has 3 head and saying I am Generator/createor, operator, and destroyer. This 3 headed sculpture is the symbol of Maharastra Tourism.
Ardhanarishwara shiva: In this sculpture half part is lord shiva and half is Parvati. It shows the complete life.
Ravan anugrah Shiva: In this sculpture, Ravana, who is a great devotee of Lord Shiva had lifted Kalish. When Ravan went to Kailash then Shiva was busy in “Dhyan”. So all the gatekeeper stopped him to get enter. He saw Shiva was doing “Dhyan” so he lifted Kailash on his hand. When Kailash moved Shiva saw that his devotee was trying to lift Kailash. Shiva took the weight of all planet on his left leg toe and push down and pushed down.
Ruins of Elephanta cave: All these caves is made from a single rock. The primary reason of the ruins of Elephanta cave was Portuguese. Portuguese broke maximum sculpture for their enjoyment. They use to aim at body parts of the sculpture.