The choice of the themes in Elephanta's panels is an interesting mix... anything from love to contemplation to violence to performing arts to yoga. In Elephanta you'll see some of the highest watermarks of medieval India's sculptural art.

Apart from the cave architecture of medieval India, a major highlight of the Elephanta tour is the massive rock cut sculptures. Elephanta's sculptural art is executed on the walls of the caves as expansive panels, mostly associated with mythology associated with Lord Shiva.

The followings are from the Main Cave (Cave 1) of Elephanta.

Slaying of Andhakasura  : Depicting Shiva slaying a demon called Andhaka. One of the most animated panels in Elephanta. Shiva is represented with eight arms in this panel.

Kalyana Sundara : The more humanly theme of marriage depicted in this panel. Arguably, Parvathi is portrayed superbly than Shiva in this panel, with her her head slightly tilted towards him with a hint of coyness.

Shiva-Parvathi : One of the highly damaged panels in Elephanta. This depicts Shiva and Parvathi engaged in a game of dice. The divine couple tries to cheat each other in the game as much as possible, though Shiva loses in all the games. Shiva loses everything, the trident,moon, earrings, snake and even the loincloth.  The mythology is associated with a complex philosophy.

Nataraja  : Nataraja, literally translate as the king/lord of dance.

In mythology Shiva is considered as the cosmic dancer, who performs his divine dance to destroy the weary universe.

Ravana Shaking Kailasa  : Ravana, unsuccessfully tries to lift Kailash, the adobe of Shiva. There are popular mythical stories associated with the Demon king Ravana, the lord of Lanka and Lord Shiva.

Mahayogi Shiva  : A rare posture of Shiva meditating on a lotus. Considered as the aadiyogi ( or the first guru of Yoga) by the Yoga tradition,  Shiva is depicted as the original master of yoga.

Gangadhara: The story depicting Shiva bringing River Ganga to earth. The fall of the river is so powerful that Shiva has to make it fall on his matted hair first, before it further descends.

Mahesh Murthy : The three headed iconic image representing three aspects of Shiva. The masterpiece image of Elephanta. It's debatable to find a more spectacular sculptural expression created during or after the medieval period in India.

Ardhanarishvara : Probably the most mystical theme to narrate. Shiva and Parvathi as a single body, depicting the complex philosophical theme of male-female energy of the universe.

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Andhakasura Vadha Murthi

Andhakasura Vadha Murthi

The ferocious expression of Shiva in the Andhakasura Vadha panel stands in stark contrast with the aspects depicted in other panels.

Everything about Elephanta!

The choice of the themes in Elephanta's panels is an interesting mix... anything from love to contemplation to violence to performing arts to yoga. In Elephanta you'll see some of the highest watermarks of medieval India's sculptural art.

Museum in Elephanta

Elephanta Museum

Elephanta has a small site museum.The museum resembles more of an old house with terracotta roof.

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Facade of Elephanta Cave 2

Elephanta Cave 2

This is an unfinished cave, located near Cave 1, that is the main attraction in Elephanta.Follow the paved trail from the courtyard of the main cave (Cave 1), you can spot cave 2 on your right, slightly up on the hillside.

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elephanta-island-during-low-tide

Elephanta Island

Elephanta Island, locally called Gharapuri island is off the Mumbai coast.The cave temples of Elephanta is located on the hillocks of Elephanta Island.
 

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Entrance to the cave 3 in Elephanta

Elephanta Caves

The name, Elephanta was given by the Portuguese as there was a large elephant sculpture in the island, when it was held by them as a naval outpost.Otherwise this island was known as Gharapuri.

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The demon king Ravana lifts Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva

Ravana Shaking Kailasa at Elephanta

Ravana, the demon king of Lanka is a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva.Portrayed in this panel is a very popular episode of Ravana lifting the mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.

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The Thirumurthy image at Elephanta Caves

Mahesh Murthi at Elephanta

Despite the noisy crowd you may encounter inside main cave in Elephanta , this image of Lord Shiva with his closed eyelids and in a deep contemplating attitude would be the most satisfying piece of art you would ever see in India.Rather this is the highest watermark of medieval Indian art tradition.

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Mahayogi Shiva of Elephanta

Mahayogi Shiva at Elephanta

Mahayogi Shiva is located as you enter the main cave, opposite to the panel of Nataraja at Elephanta .This is an unusual posture of Shiva portrayed as sitting on a lotus flower in meditating attitude.

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