- The famous SHIVA cave temple at Elephanta, a small island in the harbor of Bombay (Mumbai), is hollowed out from solid rock. It was created A Brahmin householder performing water ablutions at dawn on the banks of the Ganges River in Benares (Varanasi) (Constance A. Jones) around the sixth century C.E. It is not known which dynasty built the temple.The temple is famous for a colossal sculpture of Shiva with three heads, one each of Shiva, VISHNU, and BRAHMA. This sculpture thus presents Shiva as supreme among divinities and embodies the Hindu Trimurti, or trinity. It has been said that this sculp-ture with its serene aspect is the most beautiful piece of religious architecture in all of India. The statue is flanked by two other figures of Shiva as ARDHANAR-ISHVARA and Shiva as the “bearer of the GANGES.”The inner sanctum of the temple holds a typical LINGAM. Also depicted are Shiva as cosmic dancer and a depiction of the killing of the demon ANDHAKA.Further reading: Stella Kramrisch, “The Great Cave Temple of Siva in Elephanta: Levels of Meaning and Their Form,” in Discourses on Siva: Proceedings of a Symposium on the Nature of Religious Imagery (Phila-delphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1984), pp. 156–169. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, George Berkson, and Carmel Berkson, Elephanta, the Cave Temple of Shiva (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.