You will find the Elephanta Caves on Elephanta (Gharapuri) Island, located about 10 kilometres from Mumbai on the east side of the harbour. The island takes its name from the colossal stone elephant found by Portuguese seafarers.
The island in the Sea of Oman contains a collection of rock art associated with the Shiva cult. The seven caves with their decorated temples and statues from Hindu mythology bear witness to a disappeared civilization. Here one finds one of the perfect expressions of Indian art, especially depicted by the enormously high reliefs in the main cave.
Some think that the Elephanta Caves date back to the Silhara kings belonging to the period between the 9th and 12th centuries.
Legends suggest that the great warrior prince Pulkesin of the Chalukya dynasty raised the shrine to celebrate his victory. Some historians suggest that the Kalchuri king Krishnaraja built these caves in the 6th century AD. The entire cave temple complex has an area of approximately 60,000 square feet.
The world of Lord Shiva, Elephanta is the place where the most critical events in the mythology of Lord Shiva are most potent, consistent and exclusive.
With Ellora, other Gods appear on the panel with Shiva, but with Elephanta, there is nothing but Shiva. According to Hindu mythology, three gods rule their world: Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the protector, and Maheshwara – the destroyer. There is a story that there was a pillar whose end could not be found. Even the gods could not determine the length of the pillar.
Panel 6 of the caves represent Shiva’s marriage to Parvati with the rites performed by Brahma and dozens of other gods who attended the wedding. Panel 5 of the cave describes the arrival of Ganga from heaven to earth.
Because the great force of Ganga has destroyed the earth, she lands in the hair strands of Shiva, who then gently releases her. The wise and righteous Lord for whom the forces of evil and ignorance flee, and are terrified to submit, is cut in the 7th panel. Likewise, other wall panels tell the story of Lord Shiva.
The sculptors, carved from solid basalt rock, show a representation of the heavenly mountain residence of Lord Shiva. The temple opens from three sides and lets in light from many angles, making the sculptures seem to move with the changing perspectives of light.