As I write in the previous post, hubby and I visited Elephanta Caves on 31st December 2013. Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on the two hills of Elephanta Island or Gharapuri in Mumbai Harbor. I wrote about several monumental niche panels with carvings of Shiva, starting with the right side panel at the entrance of the main hall of the main cave or cave number 1, and going counterclockwise around the main hall. In this post, I will write about several more sculptures located in the main hall. I will also write about the eastern and the western subsidiary caves of the main cave, as well as about several other caves of the Elephanta Caves complex.
In the previous post, the last niche panel I wrote about is named Ardhanarishwara Shiva located in the main hall of the main cave. The next niche panel we saw depicts seated figures of Shiva and Parvati on their abode Mount Kailasha. This engraved panel is located on the southern wall towards the eastern end of the main hall of the main cave. The image of Shiva is seen with a crown and a disc behind it, which are all damaged now. He is seated cross-legged with his left leg resting horizontally on the floor, the right leg being slightly raised. He is shown with four arms, two of which are broken. The front left arm was probably placed on an armrest, and the front right arm seems to rest on his right thigh. He wears twisted open armlets on all the four arms, a sacred thread across his chest, and a dressing gown covering up to the knee. Parvati is seated on Shiva’s left side, her two arms are broken. She is dressed in finery and ornaments. She is shown wearing a pendant tassel, now almost gone hanging on her bosom from a thick twisted necklace. She also wears a beautiful headdress and her hair is shown falling to the front. She is looking away from Shiva. Behind her at the right is a woman attendant holding her son Kartikeya in her lap. Many male and female attendants are seen behind the main figures. At Shiva’s feet is shown his attendant Bhringi in his skeleton form. The scenic beauty of Mount Kailasha is sculpted with the sky background amidst heavenly beings showering flowers on Shiva and Parvati. This scene is interpreted as a gambling scene, where Parvati is in an affectionately angry mood as Shiva cheats in a game of dice. The attitude of Parvati is called Sanskutimana. We loved viewing this engraved panel.
I am standing in front of the niche panel depicting Shiva and Parvati seated on Mount Kailasha
Enlarged view of the panel
The next niche panel we saw depicts Ravana, the king of Lanka, lifting Mount Kailasha. This engraved panel is located on the northern wall towards the eastern end of the main hall. The theme of this panel is the humiliation of Ravana in the hands of Shiva, when the former tried to lift Mount Kailasha, the abode of Shiva. The mythological story of Ravana lifting Mount Kailasha can be found here. This gigantic image relief is actually a two level depiction of Ravana lifting the mountain. The upper level scene depicts Mount Kailasha where Shiva and Parvati are seated. Shiva wears a headgear with a crescent and disc behind it. He is depicted with eight arms but most of them are now broken. Two of his arms are seen resting on the heads of his attendants. One of his right arms holds the Trishula or trident which is still intact. Parvati is shown seated on Shiva’s right but her figure is badly destroyed and only her torso remains. The panel is flanked by two huge Dvarapala gatekeepers. Attendants of Shiva are also seen in the relief but mostly in a damaged state. Bhringi is seated near Shiva's feet and to his left is the image of Ganesha. In addition, numerous figures are seen above Shiva, and above his left shoulder is seen Vishnu riding his vehicle Garuda. The lower level scene depicts Ravana with ten heads and twenty arms, all of which are in very bad state of preservation at present. All his heads are obliterated except for the central one. And out of the twenty arms, only a few are discernable. He has a sword stuck in his waist-band. He is shown with his back to the visitors and all his arms are lifted up in his effort to lift up the mountain. Several demons are shown around Ravana. The entire panel is really interesting. The lower panel is so badly damaged that we did not realize the image of Ravana is also present, and hubby posed for a photo right in front of Ravana’s image.
Hubby standing in front of the two leveled niche panel depicting Ravana lifting Mount Kailasha
Upper level of the panel depicting Shiva and Parvati seated on Mount Kailasha
Hubby is standing in front of the lower level of the panel which depicts Ravana lifting the mountain. Only a portion of the image of Ravana can be seen here.
The last niche panel we saw in the main hall is named Yogishvara which depicts Shiva in a Yogic position. The sculpture is also known as Mahayogi or Lakulish. The panel is situated on the east side near the north-side main entrance of the main cave. In this panel, Shiva resembles a Buddha. He is seated in cross-legged Padmasana Yogic posture on a lotus carried by two Naga, and seems to be immersed in deep meditation. The sculpture is in a dilapidated condition. Shiva has an oval nimbus behind the head. His headdress is elaborately carved with details and adorned with a crescent. His hair curls are shown dropping on either side of the shoulders. His face is calm in meditation and bears a placid contemplative expression. His eyes are half-closed. He is shown with two hands, which are broken from shoulders down. His legs are also broken however from what is left it can be inferred that he is seated in Padmasana posture. He is surrounded by divinities in the sky and attendants below. To Shiva’s right side in the upper corner of the panel, we can clearly see the figure of Brahma seated on his vehicle of the swans. Other images seen in the panel are of Indra, Vishnu, Sun-god Surya, and a plantain tree along with several other broken images.
Panel depicting Yogishvara Shiva
Yogishvara in deep meditation
Many figures located on Shiva’s right side in the upper corner of the panel
Shiva along with many figures to his left side
Afterwards we left the main hall of the main cave from the east-side entrance of the hall, and reached an open courtyard that is 14.4 meters wide and 17.7 meters long. We saw a circular pedestal in this courtyard which is said to be the seat of Nandi bull, Shiva's mount.
East-side entrance of the main hall of the main cave
Open courtyard along with a circular pedestal (red arrow) as viewed from the east-side entrance of the main hall
Towards the southern side of the east courtyard, we saw a subsidiary cave of cave number 1. The front entrance of this subsidiary cave has four columns and two pilasters, and is 15.2 meters in length and 5.6 meters high. The original pillars were all broken long back and the present ones are the reconstructed ones. We climbed up nine steps and entered inside the subsidiary cave. The cave is actually a hall which measures 17.8 meters wide and 7.4 meters deep. The hall has shrines on its lateral sides and a main shrine Garbha-griha in middle with a circumambulatory path around the Garbha-griha. Five low steps and a threshold lead into the Garbha-griha that is 4.2 meters wide and 4.9 meters deep. A Shiva Linga is placed inside this Garbha-griha. The entrance to this main shrine is adorned with two statues of winged lion, each seated with a raised forepaw. We walked around the circumambulatory path. Two gigantic Dvarapala gatekeepers are provided on either side of the main shrine Garbha-griha. However these are detached from the Garbha-griha structure and located beyond the circumambulatory path. The Dvarapala located to the west side of the main shrine is shown with four hands, holding a snake in one of his hands, while the Dvarapala located to the east side is very much damaged but the two dwarf attendants can be clearly seen. At the east end of the cave is a shrine hall with a plain interior and sunken floor. There are no sculptures inside, and water drips in this hall. At the west end of the cave is another shrine hall which is 3.3 meters deep and 7.6 meters wide. Both its lateral sides as well as the back wall have sculptures. The back (west) wall depicts the eight mother goddesses Ashta-Matrika, and is flanked by Ganesha on the southern wall and Kartikeya on the northern wall. Some of the Matrika are depicted with children, but all of them are shown with their respective mounts.
The front entrance area of the eastern subsidiary cave
Hubby standing next to the statue of a winged lion located in front of the main shrine Garbha-griha
Shiva Linga inside the Garbha-griha
Circumambulatory path around the Garbha-griha
I am standing in front of the Dvarapala located to the west side of the main shrine
I am standing in front of the Dvarapala located to the east side of the main shrine
Hubby standing inside the shrine hall located at the east end of the cave
Sculptures of Ashta-Matrika depicted on the back (west) wall of the shrine hall located at the west end of the cave
I am standing next to the image of Ganesha depicted on the southern wall of the shrine hall located at the west end of the cave
Hubby standing in front of the image of Kartikeya located on the northern wall of the west-end shrine hall
We came out of the eastern subsidiary cave and again went inside the main hall of cave number 1. We entered the main hall from the east-side entrance and walked across the hall to reach the western side. We exited the main hall from the west-side (entrance) of the hall, and reached an open courtyard that is 9.2 meters wide and 14.7 meters long.
West-side entrance of the main hall of the main cave
Open courtyard as viewed from the west-side entrance of the main hall
On the west side of the open courtyard, we saw another subsidiary cave of cave number 1. The front entrance of this subsidiary cave faces east, and two columns and two pilasters support this entrance. On south side of this cave is a water cistern of considerable extent. We climbed a few steps and entered inside this subsidiary cave, which is in a semi-ruined state. The cave is actually a hall which measures 8.2 meters wide, 4.1 meters deep, and 2.7 meters high. On the northern wall of the cave hall, there is a sculpture of Yogishvara Shiva seated on a lotus. He is depicted as an ascetic seated in cross-legged Padmasana Yogic posture. He is shown in a very similar attitude of the main cave sculpture of Yogishvara Shiva. The west side of the cave hall has a shrine inside which a Shiva Linga is installed. The entrance door of this shrine is guarded by two gigantic Dvarapala gatekeepers on either side.
The front entrance area of the western subsidiary cave
Water cistern located on the south side of the cave
I am standing next to the sculpture of Yogishvara Shiva located on the northern wall of the cave hall
I am standing near the entrance area of the shrine located on the west side of the cave hall. We can see that the entrance is guarded by two Dvarapala located on either side of the door.
Shiva Linga located inside the west-side shrine of the cave hall
Afterwards we left the main cave and visited several other caves in the Elephanta Caves complex. We walked for about 5 minutes along a paved pathway and reached cave number 2. This cave is located to the southeast of the main cave, and its front entrance faces east-southeast. The front entrance is supported by four columns and two pilasters, some of which are extensively damaged. Inside the cave is also damaged due to accumulation of water during rainy season. There are hardly any sculptures remaining.
Cave number 2
We walked further along the paved pathway for about 50 meters or so, and reached cave number 3. This cave is located to the south of cave number 2, and faces east-southeast. The entrance is supported by six columns and two pilasters, all reconstructed. The verandah behind the columns is 26 meters wide and 11 meters deep. Inside the cave is damaged due to stagnant water. The sculptures of Dvarapala gatekeepers on the shrine doors are partly preserved.
Cave number 3
Just 40 meters south of cave number 3, we saw cave number 4. The entrance of this cave faces southeast. There are no columns supporting the front entrance area. Other than that, this cave is similar to cave number 3 in plan and execution. The verandah is 15.2 meters wide. The back wall has three cells and a shrine with Shiva Linga inside. The Dvarapala gatekeepers of the shrine are only partially preserved. On either side of the verandah is a chamber, each one supported on a column and a pilaster.
Cave number 4
Partly preserved Dvarapala gatekeepers on either side of the shrine door
Shiva Linga located inside the shrine of the cave
We continued walking along the paved pathway for another 100 meters or so, and reached cave number 5. This cave is located to the south of cave number 4 and faces southeast. This cave is one of the worst damaged caves in the Elephanta Caves complex. The damages could have been due to accumulating water or destroyed during the Portuguese rule. Some experts are of the opinion that its construction might have been abandoned in between. The cave has just rubbles all over and a Shiva Linga inside.
I am standing in front of the entrance of cave number 5
I am standing inside the cave
Shiva Linga inside the cave
At this point, we finished the tour of Elephanta Caves. It was very hot and sunny day and so we took rest for some time. We noted that there were monkeys, dogs, goats, and crows all around the complex. In fact, the monkeys were very aggressive and tried to snatch food from the visitors. We walked along the paved pathway for about 10 minutes and reached back to the entrance area of the Elephanta Caves complex. Before walking down all those steep steps, we had late lunch at a restaurant located along the steps.
Hubby taking rest after touring the entire cave complex
A few monkeys along the way
Dogs, monkeys, and crows
A few souvenir stalls and restaurants
Hubby having lunch
We really enjoyed visiting Elephanta Caves located on Elephanta Island. The caves and the sculptures are wonderful and have so much history to tell us.