situated at a distance of approximately 30 kilometres from the city of Aurangabad, were founded
in the period between 5th and 10th century AD. Declared as one of the World
Heritage Sites by UNESCO, the caves are believed to have been built by the
rulers of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and served as the epitome of rock-cut
architecture in India.
The total number of caves at Ellora is 34 and they represent the three
different religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Carved out of the vertical face of the Charanandri Hills and comprising of
temples as well as monasteries, the Ellora
Caves have a total of twelve Buddhist Caves
(numbered 1 to 12), seventeen Hindu Caves (numbered 13 to 29) and five Jain Caves
(numbered 30 to 34).
The exquisite carvings and paintings found in Ellora are its major highlights.
These carvings have marks of Hindu, Jain and Buddhism expressions. The wooden beams,
graceful angles, steps and the mystical figures of gods and goddesses are
absolutely enthralling, showing off the creative excellence of the artists of
that time to the fullest.
Of the important caves at Ellora, one that stands out is the Kailasanatha Temple,
which is the unrivalled centrepiece of Ellora. This gigantic structure
designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva looks like a
freestanding, multi-storied temple complex, but was carved out of one single
rock and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.
shrine, complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls
and an enormous lingam at its heart, carved from living stone, is carved with
niches, pilasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male
and female figures) and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the
entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the
deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu).
notable Hindu caves include the Dashavatara cave (cave 15), which depicts the
ten avatars of Vishnu, the Ramesvara cave (cave 21) which has figurines of
river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena (cave 29),
whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. An inscription
of grant of Dantidurga is found on the back wall of the front mandapa of the
Dashavatara. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai (cave 14) and the Nilkantha
(cave 22) also have several sculptures.
for the Buddhist caves, they were the earliest structures, created between the 5th
and 7th centuries. These consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large,
multi-storied buildings carved into the mountain face. Some of these monastery
caves have shrines, which include carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints.
In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look
famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or
'Vishwakarma cave', popularly known as the "Carpenter's Cave". Beyond
its multi-storied entry is a cathedral-like stupa hall also known as chaitya,
whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the
heart of this cave is a 15 foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose.
Jain Caves at Ellora reveal specific
dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They echo a strict sense of asceticism,
in that, they are not as large as the others, but they present exceptionally
detailed art works. The most remarkable Jain shrines are the Chhota Kailash
(cave 30), the Indra Sabha (cave 32), which is two storied shrine with a very
fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling and the Jagannath Sabha (cave
33). In another cave, an imposing image of goddess Ambika is found seated on
her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits.
other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the
structures had rich paintings in the ceiling, portions of which are still
year the MTDC organizes the famous Ellora Festival of classical dance and music
at these caves in the third week of March. The Ellora Caves
have made a major dent in the world of architectural art and are held in high
esteem by all proud Indians. A sight to be seen, this one should be the centre
of your vacation plans, with everything being planned out around the Ellora Caves.
The best time to visit is from the month of October till about early March.