In the vicinity of the large Mumbai meteropolis, the Elephanta Caves are a great tourist attraction. The Elephanta island is 10 km away from Mumbai’s Gateway of India. These caves house rock cut temples dating back to the 5th century CE.
Portuguese named the island as ‘Elephanta island’, after the statue of an elephant near the landing area of the island.
The rock cut temples here are dedicated to Shiva Mahadeva and are rich in sculptural content.
Construction of temples
These rock cut temples were constructed, carving out rock and creating the columns, internal spaces and the images. The entire temple is akin to a huge sculpture, through whose corridors and chambers one can walk.
Through the process of rock removal, the entire complex was created and few of the rock surfaces are highly finished, while some are untreated bare rock.
Coming to the cave temple complex, it covers an area of 60000 sq.ft and consists of a main chamber and two lateral ones, courtyards and several subsidiary shrines. There is a huge natural rock above the temple.
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The temple has three entrances. The ones on the east and the west marking the axis of the temple. The pillars consist of fluted columns standing on the square bases, and are crowned with fluted cushion capitals.
The enigmatic image of Trimurthi Sadasiva:
At the end of the north south axis, the Sadasiva manifestation of Shiva is carved in relief. This 20 feet high three headed Shiva, Trimurthy is a magnificent and is considered to be a masterpiece of Indian art.
This image also represents Panchamukha Shiva, only three faces of whom are carved into the wall. It gives a quick attention upon entering the temple, through the northern entrance.
Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara and Uma Maheswara are the other great sculptors on the southern wall. Coming to West of the northern entrance, sculptured images of Nataraja and Andhakaasuravada moorthy, and to its east, Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy images, has its significance.
Thus, Shiva in the Elephanta caves is portrayed in the non-anthropomorphic Shivalingam form, as well as in his quintessential being emanating from the Shivalingam in the colossal image, and in 8 manifest forms.
On the east of main temple, there is a courtyard flanked by the secondary shrine.
Out of the six temples at its entrance, four of which are free standing and two engaged. The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels, depicting legends from the Shiva Purana.
By Phani Ch