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.

Ferry returning to Mumbai from Elephanta. The Elephanta Island in the backdrop.

How to reach Elephanta Caves

Elephanta is an island off the Mumbai (Bombay) coast.So the first point is to get to Mumbai.

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Shiva-Parvati of Elephanta

Shiva-Parvathi at Elephanta

In this panel Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva is portrayed in a affectionate but somewhat upset mood.Her head is turned away from Shiva.The theme revolves around a game of dice the couple played.

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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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Ferry point Elephanta

Ferry to Elephanta

Elephanta Ferry (launch) services operate from the Gateway of India ferry point also called the Apollo Bandar.

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Entrance to the cave 3 in Elephanta

Elephanta Cave 3

This a large cave complex, probably second only to the main Cave.The facade is impressive with a row of large cussion capital pillars.

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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View from Elephanta Island

History of Elephanta

The most convincing of the theories on its origin tell Elephanta caves were executed during the period 450 to 750 AD. Incidentally, this period also marks the decline of Buddhism in India and the revival of the Brahmanical traditions.

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