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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Chamundi Hills, Mysore

Mysore city may owe its grandeur to the Wodeyars, but the town has a history that long precedes them. Legends tell us that this was where the goddess Chamundeshwari trounced the terrible demon, Mahishasura. The city itself takes its name from that of the demon, since it was he who ruled it first. And it is him we see first as we arrive at the top of Chamundi Hills, at the temple of the goddess.

This is also one among the 51 Shakti Peethas – sacred shrines dedicated to the goddess, believed to mark the 51 spots where body parts of Sati or Dakshayani fell, as Shiva danced the terrible Tandava, filled with grief and anger at her death.  It is believed that this is the spot where Sati’s hair fell.

Historically, the first temple here is said to have been built by the Hoysala rulers in the 12th century, and the tower or gopuram is said to have been added during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire in the 17th century. It must have been a difficult task to climb the hill in those days, and the 1000 steps which help us ascend the hillock were built in the same period, around 1659. The present temple owes itself to the Wodeyars, having been extensively renovated by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in 1827.

The main deity here is Chamundeshwari, seen seated in a yogic posture, serene and peaceful.

This is a temple much visited by locals and tourists alike, and it can get really crowded on weekends. People come from far and wide, not just for the blessings of the goddess, but also for the beautiful views of the city that the hill’s vantage position offers!

Besides, there is also the Nandi, which is a prime attraction here!

Nandi, or the Bull, is the vehicle of Lord Shiva, and he stands outside a small cave shrine of the lord.
Carved out of a single black stone, at a height of 15 ft and a length of 25 ft, he towers over everything else here.

It’s not just the size, but the detail, which captures our attention…

It is believed that the Nandi was installed around the same time as the steps were built, by the then ruler, Doddaraja Wodeyar.

These aren’t the only temples on this sacred hill. There is another, ancient temple to Lord Shiva, and also another temple to the goddess at the foothills, but since we weren’t aware of them earlier, I guess I will just have to make another trip to Mysore!


Chamundi Hills is located at a distance of 13 Km from Mysore city.

You can choose either to climb the hill using the 1000 steps built in the 17th century, or you can take the road, which leads you right to the temple. And yes, there are people who choose to walk on the road, rather than climb the steps! The area is quite peaceful and still quite green, which adds to the attraction of the walking / climbing path. For those who can’t or don’t want to, there are, of course, buses and other vehicles.

There are frequent buses from the city bus stand taking you to Chamundi Hills. They drop you at a short distance from the temple, but to visit the Nandi, you have to make a detour, climbing down the steps. The bus does not take you there.

Most people hire cars and combine the temple with a sightseeing tour of the city. Plenty of autos are also available for the journey.

Avoid Fridays and weekends to visit the temple, as it can get really crowded. If you have no choice, try to visit the temple as early as possible, before the crowds arrive. There are special entry tickets available which help you jump the queue, but even this can entail a long wait once the crowd turns up. 


  1. Nandi (the Basawa) is grand. I loved the photographs. During our visit we seem to have confined ourselves to Chamundeshwari temple. Nndi escaped our attention.

    1. I have heard of this Nandi since childhood. We were actually planning to take a bus, but took an auto instead, just because I wanted to go see the Nandi, and wasnt in the mood to walk :D its truly beautiful!


  3. I had been there when I was a kid, but don't remember anything other than that! These pictures are superb. The work on gopuram is so artistic. And that of Nandi too!

    1. Thank you, Anu! This was my first visit to Mysore, and I had been anticipating it for a long time... maybe you should go again, and see what you make of it now!

  4. Love the photos. Brings back great memories of my travels in India.

  5. I was just stunned by the finesse and the fine artistry in and around the hills. I missed the Nandi sadly :( . However, I do hope I get back to Mysore soon just to check it out. Meanwhile, the aerial view of Mysore from the hills is amazing. The photo of the palace made me just say, "Wow!" Incredible photography!

    1. Thank you, Akshay.The place is really beautiful, isnt it? I simply love Mysore. and there is always next time for the nandi!

  6. Can we climb the steps any time of d day.. Is it safe

    1. Yes, you can climb steps any time of the day, though it will be too hot in the afternoon. as for safety, it depends. weekends there might be many people, though most prefer to take vehicles to the top.


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