Favorite thing: This panel is showing Shiva and Parvati playing Chausar which is a game of dice and it seems Shiva won and Parvati lost so she is angry with him and turned her face away from him but Shiva seems to be telling her that it is only a game and that she should not take it so seriously and maybe next time she would win!!!
Favorite thing: This panel depicts the shaking of Mount Kailasa by Ravana and Shiva crushing him with his foot to teach him a lesson. Legend has it that when the powerful demon Ravana, drunk with pride, tried to uproot Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. He managed to lift the mountain and terrified the inhabitants but Shiva just pressed the toe of his left foot and the mountain settled back to it's original position and imprisoned Ravana below. The mutilated figure of Ravana is shown below while above is the tall graceful figure of Shiva, the third eye is clearly visible on his forehead.
Favorite thing: This panel depicts Shiva as Ardhanarisvara the combination of the male and female form as the half man, half woman and it shows the two different forms on either side with the male on the left and the female on the right side. The fusion of the male and female symbolises the Divine Unity, in which all opposites are resolved. The swelling breast and the rounded curve of the hip of the feminine body on the right side and the masculine chest and straight slim hips are to the left. The face itself is androgynous in an enigmatic way, being both female and male. Brahma and Vishnu are at their usual places on the left and right. Brahma is accompanied by Indra on his elephant. Varuna (God of the waters) riding a makara (a crocodile like creature) is in front of Vishnu. Several other figures crowd the panel making it the most elaborate one in the cave.
Favorite thing: This panel depicts the Lord Shiva with the river Ganga in his hairlocks as she descended to Earth and he broke her fall from heaven. She comes down to earth to save King Bhagiratha's ancestors who were reduced to ashes and were saved only when she flowed on earth. She is shown as a three headed goddess at the time of the impact as she came down into his matted locks and was entrapped for almost a thousand years till she flowed out in a trickle. Shiva's body suggests in it's gentle swaying the flow of the river. Parvati is shown with her face turned slightly away and she smiles gently as if to say that she is jealous and angry at her Lord (husband) for sheltering another woman. The figure of Bhagiratha is shown kneeling on the left bottom. The images of Brahma and Vishnu are shown at their usual places to the left and right of Shiva. Next to Brahma is Indra.
Favorite thing: This is a panel on the right of the shrine depicting the marriage of Shiva to Parvati. In contrast to the Andhakasura Vadha panel it is full of lyrical charm and a gentle poetic quality. The handsome, benevolent face of the God is full of serenity. His one hand rests on a thick scarf that is tied across the hips and the other supports Parvati. She is to Shiva's right, showing that the marriage has not yet taken place as even today the bride stands to the right and after marriage stands to the left of the husband. Her eyes are downcast, a shy figure, being pushed towards her husband by her father who is giving her away in marriage. Brahma is sitting at the right bottom is officiating as the priest at the ceremony. Behind him is Vishnu wearing a tall cap. Flying angels hover in the sky on clouds to watch the ceremony.
Favorite thing: This is one of the eight dvarapalas or doorkeepers to the shrine of Lord Shiva where there is a lingam in the middle of the structure. The bodies of the doorkeepers are very fine works of sculoture and are particularly effective, their powerful bodies pulsating with life contrasting with the dead plain walls of the shrine. They wear ornaments marked by restraint and elegance.
Favorite thing: This panel is behind the shrine to the right and is a depiction of Lord Shiva destroying the demon Andhakasura who was almost invincible as even a single drop of his blood created another similar monster to fight the Gods. Here Shiva is shown holding a cup below the wound on his body to collect the blood as it spills from the demon and prevents it from falling to the ground to replicate himself. There is a fierce expression on Shiva's face as his body literally surges forth from the rock as he impales the monster. Shiva's teeth are bared and his hair is adorned with a skull and the bulging eyes are full of rage. Above are Gods and Goddesses flying through the air and seem to be paying homage to what seems to be a votive shrine. The lower part of this image is sadly damaged.
Favorite thing: This is a depiction of Shiva in the Nataraja pose doing the cosmic dance of creation. The panel has been badly damaged by the Portuguese soldiers who used it for target practice. This is the first panel visible on your right as you enter the main caves complex.
Favorite thing: When you visit the caves you can avail of the free government appointed guide to explain the details about the history of the caves as well as the cave panels depicting the Lord Shiva stories. Sometimes the guides are very helpful and will not even accept a token tip whereas sometimes you may be stuck with a less informative guide. Be there before 2 pm atleast to avail of this free offer. Not many people know about it so if you don't see the guide inside the caves, just ask the security personnel and they will ask the guide to come and show you around the caves. Make the most of this free service as you will not be able to comprehend what the panels depict unless you have a guide book and read it very carefully. HAHAHA!!!
Favorite thing: There is a small archeological museum that has a few stone artifacts and mostly pictures with detailed explanations about the whole Elephanta Caves complex in a very lucid way and with beautiful pictures too. Also in the museum are pictures of many of the other similar caves all over Maharashtra and some other places in India as well. Since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is worth seeing this museum also which is included in the price of the ticket.
Fondest memory: I like people pics if I didn't always fear to offend somebody pointing my camera and I end for being even ashamed of shooting.. but I owe to these three gals the first confidence I little by little started to gain in taking pics to people in India: I was wandering in front of the Elephanta cave when they approached to me asking, a little bit restrained, if they could have a pic with me and asked their friends to take it with their cameras..