Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit the famous Elephanta Caves situated on an island 10 kilometers away from the city of Mumbai. The Elephanta Island (formerly known as Gharapuri – the city of caves) where this complex of caves is located is an hour-long ferry ride away from the main city.
Elephanta Caves are a set of multiple ancient grottos which are said to be carved in the seventh century. The exact time period of the birth of the caves is unknown and some experts believe that they have been around since 5th century. So, to be on a safer side, the time period of the existence of these caves has been between fifth and eighth century.
Hindus have believed in idol-worship since the beginning of time and these caves are dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva and at that time represented the Shaiva Hindu Sect. The main cave (also known as Cave 1) has a structure of the Shiva-ling which was the worship area of the temple. The island consists of two groups of caves—the first is a group of five Hindu caves and the second is a group of two Buddhist caves.
During the 1500s, when the Portuguese began their rule, they demolished the cave temple. Till the 1970s, the antique caves were in a state of ruins. In the year 1989, UNESCO declared the caves a World Heritage Site in order to preserve them and currently the site is being maintained by Archeological Survey of India (ASI)
One has to climb a lot of stairs in order to reach the caves. So, if you plan on visiting, do keep in mind to wear sports shoes otherwise you’ll end up suffering from cramps like I did (but thank God I work out, so it wasn’t all that bad).
DO NOT carry food with you when you reach the caves. Even if you do carry some, DO NOT take out the food. The reason behind this is – a large number of monkeys living on the island. I witnessed a monkey snatching a burger from a woman sitting near a tree (don’t worry she was all right, just a little shocked and might have screamed a little while her friends had a good laugh). Also, don’t be mean to the monkeys, they are intelligent little creatures.
One can buy ferry tickets from the counter behind the Gateway of India. The round trip costs about Rs 180 per person (excluding the ticket charges to enter the cave).
If you’re a history buff or a photographer, you’ll surely like the caves for its mysterious time duration and carvings. Also, it isn’t only about the island, but its picturesque journey too.
It was a tiring yet enjoyable trip, if for nothing else; do visit the island for its history and beautiful rock sculptures.