Elephanta Caves

Collection of cave temples in Maharashtra, India / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Elephanta Caves are a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[1][2][3] They are on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally meaning "the city of caves"),[4] in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) east of Mumbai in the Indian state of Mahārāshtra. The island, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) west of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, consists of five Hindu caves, a few Buddhist stupa mounds that date back to the 2nd century BCE,[5][6][7] and two Buddhist caves with water tanks.[8][9]

Quick facts: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Location, Criteri...
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The 5.45 metres (17.9 ft) high Trimurti sculpture
LocationElephanta Island, Maharashtra, India
CriteriaCultural: i, iii
Inscription1987 (11th Session)
Coordinates18°57′48″N 72°55′53″E
Elephanta Caves is located in Mumbai
Elephanta Caves
Location of Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves contain rock-cut stone sculptures, mostly in high relief, that show syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography.[7][10][11] The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. Except for a few exceptions, much of the artwork is defaced and damaged.[12] The main temple's orientation as well as the relative location of other temples are placed in a mandala pattern.[6] The carvings narrate Hindu mythologies, with the large monolithic 5.45 metres (17.9 ft) Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yogis) being the most celebrated.[6][13][14]

These date to between the 5th and 9th centuries, and scholars attribute them to various Hindu dynasties.[2][6] They are most commonly placed between the 5th and 7th centuries. Many scholars consider them to have been completed by about 550 CE.[3][15][16]

They were named Elefante – which morphed to Elephanta – by the colonial Portuguese who found elephant statues on the caves. They established a base on the island. The main cave (Cave 1, or the Great Cave) was a Hindu place of worship until the Portuguese arrived, whereupon the island ceased to be an active place of worship.[6] The earliest attempts to prevent further damage to the caves were started by British India officials in 1909.[17] The monuments were restored in the 1970s.[6] It is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).[10][11]