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Elephanta Cave Temple

The main cave, also called the Shiva cave, Cave 1, or the Great Cave, is 27 metres (89 feet) in area with a hall (or mandapa). At the entrance are four doors, with three open porticos and an aisle at the back. Pillars, six in each row, divide the hall into a series of smaller chambers. The roof of the hall has concealed beams supported by stone columns joined together by capitals. The cave entrance is aligned with the north-south axis, unusual for a Shiva shrine (normally east-west). The northern entrance to the cave, which has 1, 000 steep steps, is flanked by two panels of Shiva dated to the Gupta period. The left panel depicts Yogishvara (The Lord of Yoga) and the right shows Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance). The central Shiva shrine is a free-standing square cell with four entrances, located in the right section of the main hall. Smaller shrines are located at the east and west ends of the caves. The eastern sanctuary serves as a ceremonial entrance. Each wall has large carvings of Shiva, each more than 5 metres (16 feet) in height. The central Shiva relief Trimurti is located on the south wall and is flanked by Ardhanarisvara (a half-man, half-woman representation of Shiva) on its left and Gangadhara to its right, which denotes river Ganges descent from Shiva's matted locks. Other carvings related to the legend of Shiva are also seen in the main hall at strategic locations in exclusive cubicles, these include Kalyanasundaramurti, depicting Shiva's marriage to the Goddess Parvati, Andhakasuravadamurti or Andhakasuramardana, the slaying of the demon Andhaka by Shiva, Shiva-Parvati on Mount Kailash (the abode of Shiva), and Ravananugraha, depicting the demon-king Ravana shaking Kailash. The main cave blends Chalukyan architectural features such as massive figures of the divinities, guardians, and square pillars with custom capitals with Gupta artistic characteristics, like the depiction of mountains and clouds and female hairstyles. Described as a "masterpiece of Gupta-Chalukyan art", the most important sculpture in the caves is the Trimurti, carved in relief at the back of the cave facing the entrance, on the north-south axis. It is also known as Trimurti Sadashiva and Maheshmurti. The image, 20 feet (6.1 m) in height, depicts a three-headed Shiva, representing Panchamukha Shiva. The three heads are said to represent three essential aspects of Shiva - creation, protection, and destruction. The right half-face (west face) shows him as a young person with sensuous lips, embodying life and its vitality. In his hand he holds something an object resembling a rosebud, depicting the promise of life and creativity. This face is closest to that of Brahma, the creator or Uma or Vamadeva, the feminine side of Shiva and creator of joy and beauty. The left half-face (east face) is that of a moustached young man, displaying anger. This is Shiva as the terrifying Aghora or Bhairava, the one whose anger can engulf the entire world in flames, leaving only ashes behind. This is also known as Rudra-Shiva, the Destroyer. The central face, benign and meditative, resembles the preserver Vishnu. This is Tatpurusha, "master of positive and negative principles of existence and preserver of their harmony" or Shiva as the yogi Yogeshwar in deep meditation praying for the preservation of humanity. The aspects Sadyojata and Ishana (not carved) faces are considered to be at the back and top of the sculpture. The Trimurti sculpture, with the Gateway of India in the background, has been adopted as the logo of the Maharashtra Tourism Department (MTDC). The Gangadhara image to the right of the Trimurti, is an ensemble of divinities assembled around the central figures of Shiva and Parvati, the former bearing river Ganges as she descends from the heaven. The carving is 13 feet (4.0 m) wide and 17.083 feet (5.207 m) high. The image is highly damaged, particularly the lower half of Shiva seen seated with Parvati, who is shown with four arms, two of which are broken. From the crown, a cup with a triple-headed female figure (with broken arms), representing the three sacred rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati, is depicted. Shiva is sculpted and bedecked with ornaments. The arms hold a coiling serpent whose hood is seen above his left shoulder. Another hand (partly broken) gives the semblance of Shiva hugging Parvati, with a head of matted hair. There is a small snake on the right hand, a tortoise close to the neck, with a bundle is tied to the back. An ornamented drapery covers his lower torso, below the waist. Parvati is carved to the left of Shiva with a coiffured hair dress, fully bedecked with ornaments and jewellery, also fully draped, with her right hand touching the head of a female attendant who carries Parvati's dress case. The Gods Brahma and Indra, with their mystic regalia and mounts, are shown to the right of Shiva, Vishnu riding his mount Garuda, is shown to the left of Parvati. Many other details are defaced but a kneeling figure in the front is inferred to be the king who ordered the image to be carved. There are many divinities and attendant females at the back. The whole setting is under the sky and cloud scenes, with men and women, all dressed, are shown showering flowers on the deities. In the chamber to the east of Trimurti, is the four-armed Ardhanarishvara carving. This image, which is 16.75 feet (5.11 m) in height, has a head dress (double-folded) with two pleats draped towards the female head (Parvati) and the right side (Shiva) depicting curled hair and a crescent. The female figure has all the ornamentation (broad armlets and long bracelets, a large ring in the ear, jeweled rings on the fingers) but the right male figure has drooping hair, armlets and wrist-lets. One of his hands rests on Nandi's left horn, Shiva's mount, which is fairly well preserved. The pair of hands at the back is also be jeweled, the right hand of the male holds a serpent, while the left hand of the female holds a mirror. The front left hand is broken but conjectured as holding the robe of the Goddess. The central figure is surrounded by divinities.

Significance

Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-

  • For success in all endeavors
Shlokas

Daivi Hyesa Gunamayi Mama Maya Duratyaya Mameva Ye Prapadyante Mayametam Taranti Te

Meaning -According to this sloka, the heavenly maya of God is very complicated, but those who worship God will be able to overcome it.

Balam Balavatam Caham Kamaragavivarjitam Dharmaviruddho Bhutesu Kamo'smi Bharatarsabha

Meaning -According to this sloka, God is the isolated and aloof strength of the controlling and virtuous craving in men.

Ye Caiva Sattvika Bhava Rajasastamasasca Ye Matta Everti Tanviddhi Na Tvaham Tesu Temayi

Meaning -According to this sloka, though the only source of satva, rajas and tamas (good, obsessive and dark) elements is God, they are not present within the God or the deity.

Tribhirgunamayairbhavairebhih Sarvamidam Jagat Mohitam Nabhijanati Mamebhyah Paramavyayam

Meaning -According to this sloka, the entire world doesn't recognize the eternal God beyond them, because they are consumed by the elements of satva, rajas and tamas (good, obssessive and dark).

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