Elephanta’s History

After weeks of research I was finally able to see the Elephanta Caves with my own eyes. Since we were only ever able to view images of this cave on a screen, we were never able to truly grasp how large the sculptures and reliefs were. When I saw it for myself, I was in awe.  The focus of my research was on the possible candidates for patron of the caves. I also attempted to narrow the time range for when the caves were constructed. The majority of the scholars’ whose work studied, agreed that the most likely patron of the cave was King Krshnaraja I of the Kalachuri Dynasty. The time of construction was probably between 550 and 575. The second possible patron is his son, King Sankaragana, who ruled from 575 to 600. Unfortunately, it is difficult to confidently claim which ruler was the patron due to the lack of physical evidence. Something interesting that I discovered later on in this trip, was that there was a very similar cave at Ellora. At this site, the earliest constructed caves and monuments were the Hindu ones followed by the Buddhist and Jain ones. Cave 29, which was the second earliest constructed here, was a Hindu place of worship. It seemed to be a larger, more refined echo of the Elephanta Cave and displayed many similar stories and reliefs. It was constructed only a few decades after Elephanta and the most intriguing thing is that this cave, along with other early Hindu caves at Ellora, is thought to have been constructed under the patronage of the Kalachuri Dynasty as well.

Collins, Charles D. The Iconography & Ritual of Siva at Elephanta. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1988.

Michell, George. Elephanta. Mumbai, India: India Book House Pvt Ltd, 2002.

Ardhanarishvara at Elephanta
Ravana Shaking Mount Kailash at Ellora Cave 29

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