A day well spent at Elephanta Caves


Saturday morning, cool breeze, stay in Mumbai and you are itching to make the day count, well, why not visit Elephanta Caves, also known as Gharapuri, the City of Caves rests on Elephanta Island in the Sea of Oman, situated 9 nautical miles from Gateway of India, Mumbai. A boat ride of around an hour one way, beautiful view around, sky scrapers of Mumbai, Taj and Gateway from some distance mingling with clouds and many boats & ferries of various designs dancing to the tunes of tides, sea gulls flying around and last but not the least many light houses makes the journey more than charming to this one of the very old islands.


This picturesque, green island derives its name from a massive stone image of Elephant which was present at the island and was discovered by the Portuguese. When British invaded Hindustan they tried to take it to their country but due to its weight left it there only. Although the sculpture collapsed in 1814 and later had been reassembled and installed at the Jijamata Udyaan, Mumbai.

The island which houses 7 caves which are rock (solid basalt rock) cut has 5 Hindu caves and 2 Buddhist, wherein the Hindu caves are dedicated to Lord Shiva; have seen a great time under late Guptas before invasion by Portuguese who caused much of the destruction to the caves and sculptures due to their target practice. Many pillars were broken and caves were damaged. Main cave was restored in 1970's. The site was declared as a monument of national importance by Archaeological Survey of India in 1909 and was later inscribed by the UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1987.

Elephanta caves is not only a creative masterpiece but also if taken a deep dive into its history, you'll find a civilization which might be living or have disappeared but was sure there, which symbolizes greatness of past.

The dating of caves and the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate. Art historians at one place date it back to late 5th to 8th century AD, while the archaeological excavations, a few unearthed Kshatrapa coins dated it to 4th century AD. There are many more speculations some say that Pandava had constructed it while as per local traditions the caves ain't considered man-made. 


Talking about the caves, the five Hindu caves are in the lower western side while the two Buddhist caves are at the eastern top of the hillock. The total area covered by the rock cut temple complex is 60,000 square feet.

Out of 5 Hindu caves, the first cave which is the main cave is also called as Shiva cave and is illuminated with many illustrations of Lord Shiva namely Natraja, Mahesamurti statue, Yogishwara, Ardhanarishwar, Gangadhara, Trimurti and many more. Each illustration has a interesting story behind it. The cave also houses Shivalinga. The sculpture, Trimurti which still remains intact unlike the other sculptures represents three very essential aspects of of Lord Shiva viz. Creation, Protection and Destruction.

Other caves are little small but again of great significance while some has shivalinga, the one cave houses a chapel. 



At Elephanta you will find a ticket counter in the right  for the toy train for covering first 600 m distance towards the caves, you may or may not take the train. It's just a ticket of Rs.5 per person. 

After reaching 600th metre you gotta walk a little more and yes there starts those little souvenir shops and hawkers selling some really interesting items, fresh fruits and snacks. After a few steps you have to pay the Gram Panchayat's tax which is again Rs.5 per person. As you start walking some more shops on both sides and later on steps too which have much more variety, lovely, colorful items, souvenirs, accessories showpieces etc. Prices a little on higher side but of course you've come to a UNESCO site and a travel site after all. But knowing to bargain will help for sure.

One more thing to remember, although there is lots to walk but for people with problem in legs or can't walk that much, provision of chair style doli is also there wherein 4 people will carry you, extra charges apply. 

Just before the gates to cave's complex on the right hand side there is a narrow way up towards canon hill. While right after entering the complex gates you'll find a ticket counter once again which is to pay for exploring caves at a nominal charge of Rs.10 per person while the same is Rs.250 per foreigner. For kids below 15, the entry is free.

Videography charges are extra i.e. Rs.25 while there is no charge for still photography, you can even take your DSLR inside. 

Just beware of monkeys, don't try and feed them and keep your belongings safe, specially small cameras, food etc. There are a 1-2 eat outs apart from hawkers but if you want, you can take food inside and do carry lot of water but don't litter the place.

Just keep these things in mind and you'll enjoy the place, 4-5 hours are enough to explore Elephanta caves.

View of Jetty



Avoid visiting during rains.


History lovers and photographers. Not only caves, you will get lot of opportunity to click to and fro Elephanta in the sea. 

As they say, "A Picture is worth a thousand words". So why not check here.


09:00 hrs to 17:00 hrs. All days except Monday.


Charges - Rs.160 (return) which says don't pay extra to go upper deck and try and avoid going up as it is risky.

For more info you can always contact me through the contact form on my Blog's LHS.



  1. Aaah..Elephanta..the one big thing which I couldn't tick off from my checklist in my 2 month long Mumbai visit. Three attempts, all failed- First, we reached Gateway too late (around 3 PM), so not much time to explore. Second, reached gateway and it rained. So ferries closed. Third, reached Gateway on high tide day. Phew! Hahaha...

    And now looking at your pictures and going through the post, I so much want to be back in Mumbai again! :D

    1. Thank you Antarik. Btw mumbai is only16hrs from Delhi :D


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