If you are looking for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, a trip to Elephanta Island is exactly what you need. The place is worth a visit not just for its cultural and historical significance but also because of its close proximity to the island city.
A 50-minute ferry ride from the Gateway of India takes you from one world to another. Suddenly the air is fresher and the concrete jungle is very near yet far away.
Not much is known about the origin of the place that contains a collection of rock cut caves linked to the cult of Lord Shiva though it is believed that the Elephanta Caves were created between 450 and 750 AD when the island was known as Gharapuri (City of Caves).
The Portuguese renamed it Elephanta because of the presence of a large statue of an elephant near the shore. The statue collapsed in 1814 and the British then moved it to the mainland. The elephant statue now stands at the Jeejamata Udyan in Byculla.
The caves were given a UNESCO World Heritage Site status in in 1987 and are currently maintained by the Archaelogical Survey of India. Historians point out that Elephanta Caves are the epitome of Indian art and culture and bear a testimony to a lost civilisation.