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Mandapeshwar Caves

The Mandapeshwar Caves (Marathi: मंडपेश्वर गुंफा) is an 8th Century rock-cut shrine dedicated to Shiva located near Mount Poinsur in Borivali, a suburb of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India.

Due to the lack of inscriptions, stylistic evidence for the dating of the caves in the late Gupta period (6th century) was crucial. The wall relief of the dancing god Shiva ( nataraja ) probably originated in the 7th or 8th century.

The name Mandapeshwar is derived from the Sanskrit words mandap pe Ishwar , which translates roughly as “Hall of Paintings of the God” – meaning Shiva -; but there is no trace of paintings (anymore).

The caves are situated in Mount Poinsur, Borivali, a suburb of Mumbai. Originally, the caves were on the banks of the Dahisar River but later the course of the river changed. The name of the neighbourhood was derived from this temple. It is believed that the name of Mount Poinsur, on which the Saint Francis D’Assisi High School is situated, is a corruption of the name “Mandapeshwar”. The Mandapeshwar caves are smaller and lesser known as compared to the Kanheri caves in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali East. The ruins of an old Portuguese-built church stand on top of the caves. The Immaculate Conception Church is located to its south end. There is an open ground in front of the caves which is used as a playground and parking area by slumdwellers from the slum in front of it. The Swami Vivekanand Road runs in front of this cave.

The caves are believed to have been built approximately 1500 to 1600 years ago, nearly around the same time as Jogeshwari caves (which were built between 520-550 CE).

Most of the early rock-cut temples and rock-art in India was created by Buddhist monks. The monks were the missionaries of the revolutionary message of the Buddha and the best places to spread the new message where the nodes of trade routes. Maharashtra and many of its hills in the Western Ghats fit their purpose. The monks would dig out prayer halls or chaitya-grihas in the caves, while building votive stupas and dwelling places for themselves. Here they would meditate and influence the passing traders and anyone else who happened by. The hills around Mumbai were at the juncture of the sea trade routes. During the occupation of the khaneri caves, the Buddhist monks found another location where they created a hall of paintings. The cave was created by the Buddhist monks and then they hired travelling Persians to paint. The Buddhist monks asked the Persians to paint the life of Lord Shiva.

The name of the cave Mandapeshwar means Hall of Lord.

The sculptures in these caves are estimated to have been carved out at the same period as of those seen in the more splendid Jogeshwari Caves. It contained the largest Mandapa and a prominent Garbagriha.

This cave has seen through time, World war (when the soldiers used it), General people used to stay, Initial Portuguese used it as a place of prayer. These caves were witness to a series of invasions in the surrounding areas by different rulers and each time the caves were used for a different reason, sometimes even for things like housing by the armies or sometimes by refugees. During this period the monolithic paintings were badly defaced. After the invasion of the marathas in this area in the year 1739, for years this area was deserted.

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Somewhere in time the caves were again discovered, it under the protection of Indian Archaeology Society.

Most of what can be seen on the walls now are just broken down remains which are sad reminders of its glorious past. The church (IC Church) and its graveyard are situated above the cave precincts. There are ruins of an old structure above the caves. These ruins belonged to a much older church built in 1544. This ruins is also under protection of Indian Archaeology Society.

There are four rock-cut shrines in Mumbai: Elephanta Caves, Jogeshwari Caves, Mahakali Caves, Mandapeshwar Caves. All four caves have the same sculptures. The sculptures at Mandapeshwar were created beginning in the late Gupta Empire, or some time after. Elephanta Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork.

Mandpeshwer caves have sculptures of Nataraja, Sadashiva and a splendid sculpture of Ardhanarishvara. It also has Ganesha, Brahma and Vishnu statuettes. These works depicted the mythical tales of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Even today an elaborate sculpture representing the marriage of Shiva with Parvati may be viewed from the large square window at the south end of these caves. The caves are declared as an archaeological heritage site and therefore are protected under law.

The larger of the two caves ( main shrine ) has a forecourt, from the left cliff wall, a small shrine is cut out. The porch ( mandapa ), which is about 10 m wide and separated by four columns and two half-columns, has two further chambers – slightly elevated – on the narrow sides; On the back wall of the left chamber are the remains of a large relief of the dancing god Shiva ( nataraja ), worked out in the 7th or 8th century, with several accompanying figures similar to that of Elephanta . In the back wall is the main chamber ( garbhagriha ), which is raised by steps; to the side of it there are two more shrines with nearly 4 × 4 m square antechambers. The other side chambers also have figure reliefs, but they are in a very bad state of preservation. While the four pillars on the courtyard side are almost washed out by the rainwater, the pillars, which are also damaged in the interior of the temple, still have their elaborate amalaka capitals .

Above the larger cave are the partly overgrown ruins of a church built by the Portuguese in 1544, which was made of quarry stone. From a side wall of the temple below is a Latin cross worked out, so it must be assumed that the Portuguese have used at times the vestibule of the temple for masses.

The smaller of the two caves has not been completed; a porch ( mandapa ) is present, but a ‘ Cella ‘ ( garbhagriha ) is missing. The walls inside the lobby and the pillars in the entrance area are completely unworked and unadorned.

Source From Wikipedia