Elephanta Caves are situated at the Elephanta Island, which lies at a distance of approximately 10 km from the Gateway of India. One of the major tourist attractions located near the ‘Commercial Capital of India’, these caves basically comprise of rock cut temples. The name of the caves has been kept after the island’s name on which they are situated. The island in turn was named so by the Portuguese, after the massive elephant statue that stands majestically near its landing area of the island.
Elephanta Caves have been found to date back to as far back as the 5th century CE. These caves have been beautifully adorned with Lord Shiva sculptures, to whom they are dedicated. They were chiseled out of a rock, leading to the creation of the columns, the internal spaces and the images. The rock surfaces of the caves comprise of both highly polished ones as well as raw and bare rock ones. If you look carefully at the Elephant Caves, they come across as a huge sculpture, which has corridors and chambers for people to walk through.
Spread over an area of approximately 60,000 sq ft, the cave temples comprises of a huge, main chamber. Apart from that, there are two small chambers, few patios and a number of secondary shrines. Elephanta Caves of Maharashtra can be entered from three sides. Of these, the eastern and western entrances serve as the axis of the temple, lining which is a 20 pillared hall. Toward the western end of the caves, one can find the vault that in which the Shivalingam has been enshrined.
The pillars adorning the Elephanta Caves have fluted columns with square bases and stand adorned with fluted cushion capitals on the top. However, the major attraction of the caves comprises of the idol of Trimurthi Sadasiva, the Sadasiva manifestation of Lord Shiva. The main temple has a courtyard in the east, where one can find another small shrine, flanked by six pillars. The entrance of the Elephanta caves leads one to a huge hall, where the sculptured panels depict the legends from the Shiva Purana.
At the end of the north axis of the Elephanta Caves, one comes across the magnificent image of Trimurthi Sadasiva, the Sadasiva manifestation of Lord Shiva. The massive statue is 20 feet high and depicts the Lord in His three-headed form. The central face depicts the benign Lord Shiva, as the ‘Preserver of the Universe’ (Lord Vishnu). The right one depicts the feminine side of Lord Shiva, as the ‘Creator of the Universe’ (Lord Brahma). The left one depicts the angry side of Lord Shiva as the ‘Destroyer of the Universe’ (Aghora Bhairava).