Elephanta, Or Garapori, a small island of British India, on the E. side of Bombay harbor, about 5 m. from the mainland; lat. 18° 57' N., Ion. 73° E.; circumference about 5 m. It consists of two hills with a valley between them. It is much overgrown with wood, but diversified with some rice fields and pastures. The inhabitants, about 100 in number, are engaged in rearing sheep and poultry for the Bombay market. The usual landing place is on the S. coast, about 250 yards from which, rudely cut from an isolated black rock, was the figure of an elephant 13 ft. long, now fallen to decay, from which the European name of the island is derived. Further inland, about half way up the N. side of a hill, is a remarkable cave temple of unknown antiquity, which has long been deserted by its priests, and is now frequented only by married women praying for fecundity. The spacious entrance, GO ft. wide and 18 ft. high, is supported by two massive pillars and two pilasters, being thus divided into three passageways. The interior breadth of the cavern is 123 ft., and its length, presenting a seemingly endless vista of huge columns cut from the living rock, some of them broken by the Portuguese, who formerly possessed the island, is about 130 ft. The roof is generally flat, though not a perfect plane.
The sides are excavated into compartments, all filled with mythological sculptures. Opposite to the main entrance there is a bust supposed to represent the Hindoo trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. The heads are 6 ft. long and well cut. The head dresses are curiously ornamented, and among other symbols a human skull and a young infant are represented on that of Siva, who also holds in his hand a cobra de capello. Several other figures of Siva, one of the four-faced Brahma, and one of the double deity, half male, half female, called Viraj, formed by the union of Siva with Parvati, are also to be seen. There are two smaller excavations on the E. and W. slopes of the hill, similar to the great temple, and filled with representations of Hindoo deities. But what is most remarkable is, that although most of the subjects of these sculptures are evidently Brahmanical, and the temples were probably dedicated to Siva, there is at least one figure which appears to be that of Buddha. No record of the origin of the shrines can be found.
Triad Figure, interior of Temple at Elephanta.