Elephanta Island is in the Arabian Sea. It is 10km away from Gateway of India, Mumbai, Maharashtra. When and who built the caves are unknown. It is said that either the Pandavas from the Mahabharata or Banasura the devil devotee of Lord Shiva must have built these caves. On studying the rocks it has been estimated that it must have been from 5th to 8th century.
Best Time to visit:
The best time to visit the caves is from OCTOBER to MARCH. Summer is not a great time as the humidity and heat will exhaust one easily.
Bottles of water, sunscreen is a must. You can buy or get your own head caps and guidebook about the caves.
The Caves is a one-hour ferry ride away from Gateway Of India. The nearest stations to Gateway Of India is Churchgate and CST. The ferry rides start from 9 am in the morning and the last one leaving from Gateway is at 2:00 pm. While the return ferry rides start from 12:30 am and the last one at 5:00. It is best to catch the first ferry to avoid rush and heat. The tickets cost 180 rupees include both to and fro charge.The ferry is closed on Monday’s.
An extra 10 rupees is charged for riding the upper deck. The view is serene with Indian cargo ships, birds, sea as we watch the city left behind.
On reaching the island a small distance has to be covered from the ferry to the main gate. Entry fee is collected here. Further 120 stairs have to be climbed to reach the caves. On either side of stairs shops and stalls are present. You can eat, shop for souvenirs here.
From the stairs there 7 caves in total and a village below the caves. There are 5 caves for Lord Shiva while 2 caves are for Buddha. The main cave on reaching the island is of Lord Shiva where Mahashivratri has been celebrated every year since the beginning no matter the circumstances. On entering this cave the first carving is of Trimurti.
Trimurti is Lord Shiva having 3 faces. The first face is of Bramha the creator, Middle is of Shiva the Destroyer and the third face is of Vishnu the Savior. The cave also has carvings of Shiva, Parvati and their sons, Kartikeya and Ganesha, Wedding of Shiva, Ardhanarishvara, Ravana lifting Kailash, Nataraja among many and a Shiv Ling. The carvings are huge and beautiful.
The remaining small caves have Shiv lings and rooms. If interested you can roam around the village too.
From the stairs, you can see an arrow pointing an upward track towards Grand Canon. The treck is small and the panoramic view is amazing. Do go on and explore this bit.
There is one A/C restaurant owned by MCGM but there are restaurants which have seats placed to give you a sea view. The food is normal. The options of food are between north Indian and Indo-Chinese.
Old caves, sea view brunch and the calmness provided by the island all at a low price make this the best getaway.