The Caves of Elephanta
The Caves of ElephantaTravel by motor coach to the Gateway of India, the city’s most famous landmark – an Indo-Saracenic archway built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. It was originally conceived as an entry point for passengers arriving on P&O steamers from England; today it is remembered more often as the place from which the British staged their final departure. Here you will board a motor launch for a relaxing 1 1/2 hour cruise to the serene and densely forested Elephanta Island.
Over 1,000 years ago Hindu craftsmen excavated caves in the volcanic rock high up on the slope, depicting their beliefs in massive carvings of exceptional elegance. The Elephanta Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was probably created during the 8th century AD, though the caves may have had earlier Buddhist origins. The island was called Gharapuri – city of forts – until the Portuguese renamed it “Elephanta” after a large carved elephant they found near the place where their ships docked.
From the landing stage there is a long stairway to the top of the hill. Sedan chairs / Palanquins will be available for guests not wishing to make the ascent on foot. The main cave is fronted by a veranda, at each end of which is a pillar carved in one of the various manifestations of Shiva. As you enter you will see a magnificent sculpture of Shiva as Nataraj, Lord of the Cosmic Dance, an enraptured expression on his face as with his left hand he removes the veil of ignorance.
The most outstanding sculpture is a powerful bust of Trimurti, the three-faced Shiva who represents the Hindu trinity: Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver) and Shiva (The Destroyer, or power through which the universe evolves). In other panels Shiva is depicted in service to humanity as he brings the River Ganges to earth, and at his most fearsome, as he crushes the power of the demon Andhaka.
A number of scenes portray Shiva with his consort Parvati. In one he stands with his prospective bride just before their wedding day. She looks down shyly, but her body is clearly drawn towards him. Behind Parvati is her father Himalaya, and to his left is the moon god, carrying a gift.
After visiting the temple you will walk back to the landing stage and board the launch for the trip back to the pier.

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