The image of Shiva at the Elephanta cave, also known as Trimurti Sadashiva and Maheshmurti it's one of the most profoundly moving images of Shiva ever created, and few visitors can fail to be moved by this powerful, compelling image hailed by art historian Percy Brown as "the creation of a genius".
The three faces represent Shiva in his different manifestations. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave.
The giant triple-headed Maheshmurti, is 18 foot high sculpture represents the supreme aspect of Shiva, which embodies not only the creator and destroyer but also the maintainer of the cosmos. The three massive heads have been conceived as a psychological and aesthetic whole, with the central serene face providing a focus for the formal design. The central image of the Great God (Shiva Mahadeva) presents a mood which is detached and other worldly, and represents Shiva in his Tatpurusha aspect, which is the supreme, serene, and beneficent one.
The most outstanding of early caves is located on the small island of Elephanta, outside Mumbai. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is the most elaborate and important large pillared excavation with more than 16,000 square feet of floor space, depicting various aspects of Shiva. He is represented in numerous manifestations, such as the Great Ascetic (Yogishvara), Lord of the Dancers (Nataraja), dual male and female aspect (Ardhanarishvara) and the Descent of the river Ganga (Gangahara). Also impressive among the works are the giant door-guardian figures who stand flanking the four portals to the temple. Unfortunately, these figures, and the majority of the relief panels, have suffered extensive damage, from an early Portuguese military garrison.
The scale and magnificence of the main cave suggests that it was a royal commission. The personal characteristics of the three gods are clearly marked on their faces: they have in common a brooding assurance of their supreme divinity. The sculptor was a master able to combine the three heads into a homogenous bust to create a unique effigy. While the broad shoulders seem to belong to the central face, they also meld convincingly with the other two heads in profile. The caves of Elephanta, with the powerful and subtle Trimurti, date to Gupta period, the Golden Age of India.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA