Elephanta Caves Review: Facts, Tours and History

Elephanta CavesElephanta caves on Elephanta Island are a massive network in the harbor of Mumbai. There are two groups, Hindu and Buddhist and in these are subgroups, totaling 7. Each year, more than 25,000 tourists come to this island to spend hours exploring the pillars, structures and ancient artifacts included.

Since this is one of the top Mumbai tourist attractions, it is easy to understand how it can seem to be overrun at times. Luckily, the caves are so vast and spread out with intricate precision that you can literally be in there for hours without running into the same tour twice.

Elephanta caves facts

The main cave is approximately one mile, on a hill that faces the ocean. The temple is basalt rock and is solid. This served as a temple and has a square mile radius that measures 60,000 square feet. The main chamber has courtyards, lateral chambers and shrines. The depth is 128 feet measuring front to back. The temple was the home of Lord Shiva and is considered Shiva’s cave. There are carvings measuring 16 feet of Shiva on every wall of the temple. In total, there are 16 separate rooms.

The Buddhist caves are on a separate part of Elephanta Island along the east side, on a hill called Stupa. This is because of the monument that is displayed, it is called Stupa. Of the two caves, only one is complete with Stupa inside. The other is not complete still it remains one of the most popular places to visit in India because of the main cave.

Elephanta caves tours

There are several tours available, either as part of a package or separately. You can purchase day trips that last 4 to 6 hours or 3 to 4 days. The general rules of all tours include tips for personal items.

An Elephanta caves tour guide will not allow you to bring anything of value into the caves. You are responsible for your safety. The tour guide will not accept responsibility or liability for theft, damage or any other risk, including death. There are no assigned seats on the bus or coach.

Elephanta caves history

The architecture dates back to the 5th century, by art historians because of the age of the wearing paint. They were once painted with full bright colors, but over time, they have basically reduced them to mere traces. The caves are separated by larger ones, being the Hindu caves, of which there are five. There are two, smaller Buddhist caves.

One of the most intriguing facts about the Elephanta caves is the lack of inscriptions. This makes the history quite conjectural. However, there are two credits given, Pandava and Banasura. Both received credit for cutting livable caves, hence the sharing of two cultures, Hindi and Buddhist.

Other popular attractions include Ajanta Ellora Caves, which are more like monuments. They are Buddhist as well, but they date back much further, to 480 BC. Ironically, although these are much older, only about half of the number of tourists seeks out these caves, as opposed to Elephanta.