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Elephanta Cave, Mumbai

The Great Cave at Elephanta is one of the great monuments near Bombay. It is one in a complex of Hindu caves on Gharapuri (Elephanta is the name given to the island by the Portuguese), dating to the sixth century AD.


View from the entrance of the Great Cave toward the Mahadeva image. 

The cave is designed to accommodate Hindu ritual of circumambulating the cave, and encountering a number of images related to Shiva, in a great mandala. (Only a few of the scenes from the cave are shown here).


Nataraja, at the cave entrance (verandah), Elephanta.
Bhairava spears Andaka, Elephanta.

The marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Elephanta.


The mandala has two axes, one from the main entrance to the Mahadeva image; the second from a side entrance to the Lingam shrine.

Mahadeva image at Elephanta, three of the faces of Sadashiva.

The Mahadeva image is the focus of the north-south axis of the cave, marked by a widening of the pillars along the axis, and the uninterrupted view from the entrance.


Vamadeva (?), the right-hand face of Sadashiva. 

The cave is flanked by two other caves, with their own entrances into the Great Cave along the east-west axis. This axis is further marked by the ceiling of the cave (the capitals are engaged with the ceiling in a relief along the east-west axis). The axis cuts through the lingam shrine of the cave.



The left side cave includes a shrine to the Saptamatrikas, or Seven Mothers. This group of esoteric deities, associated with sakti cults, was a common fixture. Their main identifying features are their vehicles.

The Saptamatr shrine at Elephanta.

The ends of the shrine also have images to the south is a dancing figure, probably Skanda; to the north is the gruesome Kala and his consort, Kali.

These are figures commonly associated with the Saptamatr cults.

Dancing Skanda, Saptamatr shrine, Elephanta.

The emaciated Kala, Saptamatr shrine, Elephanta.

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