[Facade of] Elephanta Caves, Bombay.
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph with a view of the steps and flanking guardian lions of one of the entrances to the cave temple on Elephanta island, a short distance from Bombay (Mumbai), Maharashtra, taken by an unknown photographer in the 1870s, part of the Bellew Collection of Architectural Views. The island in Bombay Harbour which houses this cave-temple was named Elephanta by 16th-century Portuguese travellers who discovered a stone elephant there. Locally known as Grahapuri, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The main shrine has large carvings on its walls taken from the mythology of Shiva. It has two main focuses of worship: the lingam, which is in a separate sanctuary flanked by door guardians; and the huge and much-celebrated bust of Shiva with three heads, representing the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. Since a large inscription has been lost, the date that these temples were established is difficult to ascertain, though they were most likely excavated in the sixth century. This image shows the entrance to the four-door sanctum within which the lingam is housed. On either side of the portico are reliefs of Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja) and the Supreme Teacher (Dakshinamurti).