Elephanta anciently known as Gharapuri, the island capital of Konkan Mauryas is famous today for its beautiful caves. These caves are located at a distance of 11-km from the mainland of Mumbai, on a small island of Gharapuri, in the Arabian sea. Motor launches make numerous hour long trips to and fro the island from the Gateway of India. Far from the busy and bustling island of Mumbai, this tranquil, forested island of Elephanta is one of the most atmospheric places and is a must visit.
The caves on these islands date back to 6th century A.D. Legends and history suggest that the great warrior prince of Chalukya dynasty Pulkesin II raised the shrine to celebrate his victory. Some historians also suggest that these caves were built by the Kalchuri King Krishnaraja in 6th century AD. The cave complex is a collection of shrines, courtyards, inner cells, grand halls and porticos arranged in the splendid symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, especially devoted to Lord Shiva.
At the entrance of the cave is the famous Trimurti, the Creator: Brahma, the Protector: Vishnu and the Destroyer: Shiva all three in unison. Other than this most of the sculptures denote Shiva in his various moods and forms.
After capturing the island, the Portuguese found a big monolithic elephant at the gate of these caves and gave the name elephanta to the island. It is believed, that the caves were used as target practice by the Portuguese. Whatever the cause may be many of the sculptures have been desecrated.
The British, later tried to find out builders of these caves, but failed. They also planned to take the monolith elephant to England but could not lift it and now is in the Jijamata Udyan.