When we decided to visit Mumbai over the weekend, there was just one place that we wanted to explore as a history lover – Ajanta Elora caves. For a weekend trip this place would have been a long cut, about 450-500 kms from the Mumbai city. The alternate option, was the miniature version – The Elephanta caves. Although the trip to the Elephanta caves from Mumbai gateway was about 45 minutes long by boat and about 15-20 minutes long climb up the hill, we were intrigued through the entire journey. We were curious on what remains of history waited for us.
The ride on an old wooden boat was itself an adventurous one to mention. Islands all around leaving behind the view of the Mumbai cityscapes, was truly an amusing one. Naval ships, coast guards, nuclear reactor on an island – these are not an everyday scenes of city life. When we were done with the boat ride through the dangerous waves of the sea, the next ride that waited for us was a toy train upto the entrance. Although the ride took us hardly 5 minutes, the monkeys playing around and having fun was something every child and the child within us enjoyed. Off the train on to the trails, we were all ready to get all the way up the mountain. The path leading towards the cave was a rocky and steep one, but the handicraft shops on the either side of the pathway made it more fun. Admiring the little statues where a display of hindu God’s were on sale, the walk up didn’t seem to be a tiring one at all.
Once we reached all the way up, the open courtyard led us up to the Shiva cave. From the network of caves, this is probably the major one. Fascinating sculptures, clearly masterpieces created by ancient India were destroyed by Portuguese. Though those broken statues will make you wonder, why would someone destroy vs admire?
The story I heard: All about Elephanta caves
The main cave, also called the Shiva cave, Cave 1, has six pillars in each row with smaller Shiva worship chambers sculpted. Every carving has a myth and a story behind it. Every carving relates the story back to Lord Shiva as well. The date of this architecture built is still unknown, but is estimated to be around 5th and 8th centuries. These caves were believed to be painted back in those times, only traces remain now. The myth behind these caves are that, Pandavas, the hero’s of Mahabharata, Bhansura a devotee of Lord Shiva built these temples and caves. The entire site carved out of rocks, is in itself an impressive vision. The other story by historians is that the warrior king Pulakesin II of the Chalukyas of Badami dynasty, is attributed with commissioning of a significant portion of the caves. Even before these caves were built or excavated, the island is believed to be a Buddhist religious center. The remains of the Buddhists Stupas in Elephanta probably belongs to the early phase of Buddhism.
Duration of the entire trip was about 4-5 hours. The journey itself consumed 2 hours by boat, but the Elephanta caves totally made up for it.
The site has been declared as a world Heritage site by UNESCO. If you are in Mumbai and have a day to spare, Elephanta caves are a must visit.