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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Elephanta Caves

Designated as world heritage site in 1987, Elephanta Caves, near Mumbai in Maharashtra, is a beloved tourist island. It is barely 10 km away from the Gateway of India at Mumbai. Rock cut temples belonging to 5th century CE are the main attractions of these caves. Portuguese named the island as the Elephanta island after the masonry elephant that guards the landing area of the island. The rock cut temples here have rich sculpture and are dedicated to Lord Shiva. One can reach the Elephanta Caves by hiring a motorboat from Apollo Bunder near the Gateway of India. The temples, columns, idols and space were all constructed by carving out rocks like a huge sculpture, where unwanted pieces and chunks of rock were removed to reveal the temple. The rock surfaces range form highly finished ones to untreated and bare ones.The cave temple complex sprawls across about 60,000 square feet and consists of a main chamber flanked by two lateral chambers, courtyards and many shrines. One can enter it from thee sides - the entrance on the east and the west marks the axis of the temple. On the western end of the hall with twenty pillars with fluted columns, cushion capitals and square bases, is the shrine sporting a Shivalingam. The giant image of Trimurthi Sadasiva is 20-ft high and is quite magnificent. It is said to be of Panchamukha Shiva (Shiva with five faces) but only three faces are visible on the wall mural and attracts immediate attention when one enters from the North. The southern wall sports images of deities such as Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara, while other notable sculpture deities are Nataraja, Andhakaasuravadamoorthy, Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy.

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