A complex set of ancient cave temples on the Elephanta Island; near Mumbai; are the Elephanta caves. Elephanta Island is not only a worthy destination in itself but it also provides a great view of Mumbai's skyline and an escape from the chaos of the city. The best part about planning a trip to Elephanta is that you get a ferry ride exploring the blue of the waters of Mumbai. The hour-long ride is a good time to get a briefing about the place from the guides on board. One must try to plan the trip during the day so that one enjoys the sunset over Mumbai on the return journey.
The island of Elephanta-the glorious abode of Lord Shiva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves with decorated temples bear a distinctive testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. The main cave is said to be filled with Indian art in its most perfect expression. The island was originally called Gharapuri -the 'City of Caves’. However it was changed to 'Elephanta' named after the enormous stone elephant found there by Portuguese. This elephant was cut into pieces, re-moved to Mumbai's Victoria Gardens and reassembled.
The caves are a designated UNESCO world heritage site and date back to the 9th and 13th century and are famous for their wonderful sculptures and depictions of Hindu geometrical ‘Mandala’ and depictions of the three faces of Trinity, Vishnu and Maheshwara. Various other structures are also noteworthy for their forms, dimensions, themes, representations, and execution. The Elephanta Caves are result of a long artistic tradition, but are example of remarkable innovation at that. Apart from its history, the interest lies in the fact that all the archaeological components in the Elephanta Caves are preserved in their natural settings. Also, authenticity of the property has been well maintained since its inscription on the 'World Heritage List'.
Moreover, Elephanta Island is quiet and picturesque, with light-green foliage. If one is lucky (s) he can also catch a glimpse of the spectacular dance festival held at Elephanta Island every February. It is so beautiful till date that one can only imagine of its beauty back then. Though there is no night stay permitted on the island, it is a great place to get away from the rushing Mumbai life. This trip to the caves will take you back in time...when faith, religion, hard labour, art and romanticism served as a base for everyday living. The Elephanta Caves are a magnificent testament to the aesthetics of a forgotten world and stand as one of the most popular tourist destinations.