Mumbai. This island is a popular tourist destination for a day trip because of the island's cave temples and the Elephanta Caves that have been carved out in the rock.
The island is easily accessible by ferry from Mumbai, being about 10 km from the south east coast of the island city. Boats leave daily from the Gateway of India, taking about an hour each way for the journey. From the boat landing stage on the island, a walkway leads to steps that go up to the famous caves. Along the path, hawkers sell souvenirs that may bought at a reasonable price. There are also stalls to buy food and drinks.
Known in ancient times as Gharapuri, the present name Elephanta, was given by 17th century Portuguese explorers, after seeing a monolithic basalt sculpture of an elephant found here near the entrance. They decided to take it home but ended up dropping it into the sea because their chains where not strong enough. Later, this sculpture was moved to the Victoria and Albert Museum (now Dr Bhau Daji lad Museum) in Mumbai by the British.
The island has an area of 16 km² (6 sq miles). It is located at approximately 18.95° N 72.93° E. The area comes under the jurisdiction of the Taluka:- Uran, District:- Raigad near Mumbai.
A narrow gauge train takes tourists along the 1 km pier to the base of the steps that lead to the caves.
The island is thickly wooded with palm, mango, and tamarind trees. The island has a population of about 1,200 involved in growing rice, fishing, and repairing boats. It was once the capital of a powerful local kingdom.
There are total three villages viz; Shentbandar, Morabandar, and Rajbandar, of which Rajbandar is known to be the capital. Caves and Stalls can be seen in Shentbandar. Morabandar has thick forest.
The most important sculpture is that of Trimurti Sadasiva, carved in relief at the end of the N-S axis. The image, 20 ft in height is of the three headed-Shiva, representing Panchamukha Shiva. The right half-face shows him as a young person with sensuous lips, embodying life and its vitality. In his hand he holds something that resembles a rose bud -- again with the promise of life and creativity. It is this face that is closest to that of Brahma, the creator of the universe according to the Hindu belief, Uma or Kamdev, the feminine side of Shiva. The left half-face face on the side is that of a young man. It is moustached, and displays anger. This is Shiva as Aghori Bhairava, the one whose anger can engulf the entire world in flames leaving only ashes behind. This is Shiva, the Destroyer. The central face, benign, meditative, as the preserver Vishnu. This is Shiva as the yogi -- Yogeshwar -- in deep meditation praying for the 'preservation' of humanity.
One of the most routine provision of electricity across the island. Electricity is supplied only between 7pm to 11pm