Mandapeshwar Caves are an 8th Century rock-cut shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva located near Mount Poinsur in Borivali. Originally built on the banks of the Dahisar River, they were also known as Dahisar caves but over the years, due to a change in the river’s course they are now popularly known as Mandapeshwar caves.
Every cave in India has a distinct form of architecture and art that also depicts the life that existed in that era. These caves depict the life of Lord Shiva. The name Mandapeshwar means “Hall of the Lord”. Mandapeshwar Caves are believed to have been built approximately 1500 to 1600 years ago, around the same time as Jogeshwari Caves, which were built between 520-550 AD.
Mandpeshwer caves have sculptures that depict the mythical tales of Hindu gods and goddesses. It also has statuettes of Ganesha, Brahma, and Vishnu. The elaborate sculpture representing the marriage of Shiva and Parvati can be viewed from the large square window at the south end of these caves.
It can be said that Mandapeshwar Caves have had the most turbulent history as compared to all the other caves in the city. When the Portuguese controlled the area, around 1544, they built a monastery and a church dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception over the existing structure. The Marathas took over the site after they defeatd the Portuguese in the Battle of Bassein in the 18th Century, who then worshipped the rock-cut structures of the original caves. Once the British arrived on the scene towards the end of the 18th Century and took over the caves from the Marathas, the site was used as a place of worship for Christians once again. At the end of the colonial rule, the church site was left in ruins due to lack of use and the caves were once again dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. You can see the disrepair of the chapel with just parts of the walls that stand over the original structure as proof of its eventful history.
The caves and the older church ruins have been declared as an archaeological heritage site and therefore are protected under law.
Hidden in the nooks of Mumbai’s concrete jungle, Mandapeshwar Caves still hold the essence of nearly every religion the city has known through its history.