(Last Updated on : 28/10/2010)
Elephanta Island, also called Gharapuri Island or place of caves is one of a number of islands in Mumbai Harbour, lying east of Mumbai in India. Elephanta Island is a popular tourist destination for a day trip because of the island`s caves temples, called the Elephanta Caves that have been carved out of rock. The Elephanta Island is easily accessible by ferry from Mumbai, being about 10 km from the south east coast of the island city. Boats leave daily from the Gateway of India and take about an hour each way for the journey. From the boat landing stage on the Elephanta Island, a walkway leads to steps that go up to the famous caves. Along the path, several hawkers sell souvenirs that can be possessed at a reasonable price. There are also stalls to buy food and drinks in the Elephanta Island.
Elephanta Island was known in ancient times as Gharapuri and presently as the Elephanta. 17th century Portuguese explorers gave the name, after seeing a monolithic basalt sculpture of an elephant found here near the entrance. They decided to take it home but ended up dropping it into the sea because their chains were not strong enough. Later, the British moved this sculpture to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Mumbai.
The Elephanta Island has an area of 16 km² (6 square miles) and approximately co ordinates 18°57?N 72°56?E and 18.95°N 72.93°E. The area comes under the jurisdiction of the Raigad district in Maharashtra State. A narrow gauge train takes tourists along the 1 km pier to the base of the steps that lead to the caves of Elephanta Island. The island is thickly wooded with palm, mango, and tamarind trees and has a population of about 1,200 involved in growing rice, fishing, and repairing boats. Elephanta Island was once the capital of a powerful local kingdom. Altogether, there are three villages, namely Shentbandar, Morabandar, and Rajbandar, of which Rajbandar is known to be the capital. Caves and Stalls of Elephanta Island can be seen in Shentbandar. Morabandar also has thick forest.