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elephanta caves


The Elephanta Caves are two groups of caves that contain Hindu and Buddhist rock art architecture. The reliefs and sculptures in the caves has been dated to between the 5th or 6th and 8th centuries. The Hindu caves are dedicated to the god Shiva. These were regular Hindu places of worship, and during the festival of Shiva still continue to be so. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All caves were painted in the past, but only traces remain.

The caves are located on the Elephanta Island in the Mumbai harbour. The Portuguese named the island "Elephanta Island" in honour of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant that was then installed on a mound on the island. That elephant now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai.

The origins of the temple caves, thought to date from about the 7th century, are obscure. It is known, however, that the island was originally called Gharapuri - the Portuguese renamed it Elephanta after they found a large stone elephant near their landing place. The figure collapsed in 1814 and was subsequently moved to the far-off Victoria Gardens and reassembled.

Shortly before the Elephanta temples were created, Bombay had experienced the golden age of the late Guptas, under whom the arts flourished. Sanskrit had been finely polished, and Kalidasa and other writers had helped incite a Hindu religious revival under the court's liberal patronage. Shaivism, the worship of Shiva, inspired the building of these temples.