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Tourist Guide

Mumbai-Attractions-Elephanta Island

Elephanta Island

Hindu Temple in Mumbai

Northeast of the Gateway of India in Mumbai Harbour, the rock-cut temples on Gharapuri, better known as Elephanta Island, are a Unesco World Heritage Site. Created between AD 450 and 750, the labyrinth of cave temples represent some of India’s most impressive temple carving.

Image by Calle Montes Getty Images

PRICE

Indian/foreigner ₹30/500

HOURS

caves 9am-5pm Tue-Sun

Location

Mumbai, India

The main Shiva-dedicated temple is an intriguing latticework of courtyards, halls, pillars and shrines; its magnum opus is a 6m-tall statue of Sadhashiva, depicting a three-faced Shiva as the destroyer, creator and preserver of the universe, his eyes closed in eternal contemplation.

It was the Portuguese who dubbed the island Elephanta because of a large stone elephant near the shore (this collapsed in 1814 and was moved by the British to Mumbai’s Jijamata Udyan). There’s a small museum on-site, with informative pictorial panels on the origin of the caves.

Pushy, expensive guides are available – but you don’t really need one as Pramod Chandra’s A Guide to the Elephanta Caves, widely for sale, is more than sufficient.

Launches head to Gharapuri from the Gateway of India every half-hour from 9am to 3.30pm. Buy tickets at the booths lining Apollo Bunder. The voyage takes about an hour.

The ferries dock at the end of a concrete pier, from where you can walk or take the miniature train (₹10) to the stairway (admission ₹10) leading up to the caves. It’s lined with souvenir stalls and patrolled by pesky monkeys. Wear good shoes.

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