Elephanta Caves - Geography

Geography

Elephanta Elephanta (Mumbai)

Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, is about 7 miles (11 km) east of the Apollo Bunder (Bunder in Marathi means a "pier for embarkation and disembarkation of passengers and goods") on the Mumbai Harbor and 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Pir Pal in Trombay. The island covers about 4 square miles (10 km2) at high tide and about 6 square miles (16 km2) at low tide. Gharapuri is small village on the south side of the island. The Elephanta Caves can be reached by a ferry from the Gateway of India, Mumbai, which has the nearest airport and train station. The cave is closed on Monday.

The island is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in length with two hills that rise to a height of about 500 feet (150 m). A deep ravine cuts through the heart of the island from north to south. On the west, the hill rises gently from the sea and stretches east across the ravine and rises gradually to the extreme east to a height of 568 feet (173 m). This hill is known as the Stupa hill. Forest growth with clusters of mango, tamarind, and karanj trees cover the hills with scattered palm trees. Rice fields are seen in the valley. The fore shore is made up of sand and mud with mangrove bushes on the fringe. Landing quays sit near three small hamlets known as Set Bunder in the north-west, Mora Bunder in the northeast, and Gharapuri or Raj Bunder in the south.

The two hills of the island, the western and the eastern, have five rock-cut caves in the western part and a brick stupa on the eastern hill on its top composed of two caves with a few rock-cut cisterns. One of the caves on the eastern hill is unfinished. It is a protected island with a buffer zone according to a Notification issued in 1985, which also includes “a prohibited area” that stretches 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the shoreline.

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