Elephanta Caves

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Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. They are located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Mahārāshtra. The island, located offshore about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) west of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, consists of five Shaivite caves and a few Buddhist stupa mounds that date back to the 2nd century BCE, as well as a small group of two Buddhist caves with water tanks.


  • Another pagoda, the best of all, is on an island called Pori, which we call the Isle of the Elephant. On it there is a hill and in the upper part of it is a subterranean house worked out of the living rock, and the house is as large as a monastery. Within there are courts and cisterns of good water. On the walls, all round, there are sculptured images of elephants, lions, tigers, and many human images, some like Amazons, and in many other shapes well sculptured. Certainly it is a sight well worth seeing, and it would appear that the devil had used all his powers and knowledge to deceive the gentiles into his worship. Some say that it is the work of the Chinese when they navigated to this land. It might well be true seeing that it is so well worked and that the Chinese are sutis. It is true that, at the present day, this pagoda is much defiled by cattle getting inside but in the year 1534, when I came from Portugal, it was a very fine sight. I saw it at the time when Bataim was at war with us. Soon afterwards the King of Cambaya ceded it to [Governor] Nuño da Cunha.
    • Garcia da Orta in 1534. Quoted from The Iconography and Ritual of Siva At Elephanta by Charles Collins.
  • We shall never be able to do justice to Indian art, for ignorance and fanaticism have destroyed its greatest achievements, and have half ruined the rest. At Elephanta the Portuguese certified their piety by smashing statuary and bas-reliefs in unrestrained barbarity; and almost everywhere in the north the Moslems brought to the ground those triumphs of Indian architecture, of the fifth and sixth centuries, which tradition ranks as far superior to the later works that arouse our wonder and admiration today.... Time and fanaticism joined in the destruction, for the orthodox Hindus abandoned and neglected temples that had been profaned by the touch of alien hands.
  • Now, by all odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to the whale's is to be found in the famous cavern pagoda of Elephanta, in India .... The Hindoo whale referred to, occurs in a separate department of the wall, depicting the incarnation of Vishnu in the form ofleviathan, learnedly known as the Matse-Avatar....
  • How do you ignore history? But the nationalist movement, independence movement ignored it. You read the Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru, it talks about the mythical past and then it jumps the difficult period of the invasions and conquests. So you have Chinese pilgrims coming to Bihar, Nalanda and places like that. Then somehow they don't tell you what happens, why these places are in ruin. They never tell you why Elephanta island is in ruins or why Bhubaneswar was desecrated.

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