Ellora Caves

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Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves - AurangabadEllora Caves – Aurangabad

  • Among the many wonders of the world is a phenomenon of cutting through fear of solid natural rock and creating remarkable artistic structures and sculptures. Ellora Caves
  • Among the most exciting examples of human craftsmanship, all-natural formations are the Ellora cave temples in Maharashtra.
  • There are the earliest cave temples along with other Buddhist cave shrines and monasteries that dot the western Deccan.
  • Well now known as Elora is located nearly 30 kilometers away from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
  • The caves were excavated and carved out of the vertical basalt phase of the Charanandri Hills.
  • Near the cave number 32, we can still see the channels through which the volcanic lava once flowed.
  • These basalt rocks are the ideal material for the kind of architecture and craftsmanship that the Ellora represents.
  • Enabling the craftsmen to express their vision and art on a rock as a permanent memorial this area is also noted for its antiquity and archaeologists have found evidence to show that it was inhabited 20,000 years ago.
  • In the early centuries of the Christian era, the south of our honey dynasty ruled the area during this time Ellora became an important center.
  • Besides support from traders and merchants religious centers like Ellora also received royal patronage.
  • Though most of the inscriptions commemorating are have faded with time an inscription on the back wall of the front Mandapa of cave number 15 remembers the patronage of Rashtrakuta dantidurga who ruled from 753 to 757 AD.
  • Again in cave number 16, there is an inscription that attributes the famous Kailash temple to Krishna the first who was dantidurga’s uncle and successor.  
  • Elora goes beyond achronological categorization it can also be classified in terms of religion unlike Ajanta-Ellora does not confine itself to Buddhist caves alone. It has Hindu and Jain temples as well.
  • The Buddhist caves and a majority of the Hindu caves are from the Rashtrakuta times the Jain caves came later during the period of the western Chalukyas and the Yadava’s of  Devgiri.  
  • Thus we find here the greatest single confluence of religions indicating religious tolerance and the solidarity of different faiths during these times.
  • Having remained open to the world throughout its existence the Ellora caves attracted a regular stream of pilgrims foreign visitors travelers and royal personages. There are innumerable recorded accounts that speak of these visits.
  • The Ellora caves were first excavated during the Kali chari era in the 6th century AD beginning with cave number 29 that do Merlin a cave.
  • This was followed by cave number 10 or the Vishwakarma cave and the Dothan and tintal caves which are numbers 11 and 12. These were created during the childhood cure period that lasted from the 7th century to the early 8th century and finally came cave number 15 or the inscription cave during the Rashtrakuta period that lasted through the 8th, 9th, and the 10th century.
  • The Hindu of Brahminical temples dominate Ellora they are 17 in number while there are 12 Buddhists and five Jain shrines each. Thus making up a total of 34 temples.
  • The Buddhist temples came first at the beginning of the fifth century AD followed by the Hindu temples located near the Girija river.
  • Ellora soon became a Hindu pilgrimage center after that came the for Jane shrines as in the earlier Buddhist temples the Ellora caves – were obviously worked upon by craftsmen who attempted to recreate the visual and textural effects of the woodwork.
  • Though the paintings at Ellora have faded away and our loss to posterity about five of its caves have nurtured its wall paintings. The relationship between art religion and commerce comes alive in the caves at Ellora.  as the maritime trade between Rome and Southeast Asia peaked it was reflected on a rock with magnificent arches and pillars and the detailed facades of temples.
  • The Buddhist monks often traveled along the trade routes in the company of traders who commissioned work on the temples.
  • As time passed the architecture of these caves grew progressively more sophisticated. The high point of the sophistication can be found in the monolithic Hindu temple of Kailash and Ellora.

Buddhist caves

buddhist caves in ellora - Ellora Caves - Aurangabadbuddhist caves in ellora - Ellora Caves - Aurangabad
  • Buddhist caves let’s begin with cave number 1 this is a Vihara or residential quarters with four cells cut into the sidewalls for monks to stay around the square Assembly Hall. This cave is devoid of any carvings pillars or sculptures.
  • Adjoining it as cave number 2 which is a worship hall and is accessed by a flight of stairs in a recess in its outer verandah we find images of Panchita the god of wealth and Hariti the goddess of prosperity. At the entrance stand, Dwarapalas or gods flanked by windows. The hall is supported by 12 pillars some of which are decorated with motives of pots and foliage. A gallery runs down each side in the center of the back wall is a seated Buddha three meters high and two standing Buddha’s. Along each of these sides, walls are five Buddha’s accompanied by Boddhisattva’s and Apsana are the celestial nymphs.
  • Cave 3 is similar to a square central chamber the Buddha sits on a lotus and the far end around the walls are twelve meditation cells.
  • The two-storied cave number four is now virtually in ruins. There is a Buddha sitting under the people tree and another in a shrine.  The second one is unfinished motives of pots and foliage adorned the columns of the whole.
  • Cave number 5 is different excavated at a higher level it is the largest of the single-storied caves and contains a spacious Hall divided into three aisles. Porches in the middle of the side walls hold small cells on either side. Intricately wrought foliage surround columns that are decorated with medallions and other motives benches have been carved out of the floor this probably means that the cave was used as a dining hall. The entrance to the central shrine is carved with Bodhisattvas in intricate headgear and jewelry. There is a seated Buddha but he sits on a chair or stool rather than cross-legged on the floor as usual.
  • Cave number 6 contains many elaborately done sculptures the façade contains an unusual scene of the goddess Dhara rescuing devotees from a snake a sword and elephant fire and a shipwreck.
  • Cave number 7 is a simple hall with four plain figures.
  • Cave number 8, however, stands out because it is the only shrine in Ellora where the sanctum is away from the rear wall with a circular passage running around it. This passage also contains cells.
  • Cave number 9 has an open terrace with a balcony and a shrine.
  • Cave 10 is a chaitya or prayer hall and is named after Vishwakarma the architect of the gods. This cave is set to mark the combination of Chaitya architecture in India. The prayer hall is situated below the monk’s residential quarters. The hall has porticoes on three sides raised on the basement carved with animals. A Stupa here has a large seated Buddha figure accompanied by flying attendants and Bodhisattvas. A flight of steps in the verandah leads to the upper gallery. here we find to check your window motives flying Celestials and Bodhisattvas with female attendants. the decorated façade of this cave is so finely finished that it gives the impression of the woodwork.

And then come to the eighth-century caves

  • Cave numbers 11 and 12, the former is three-storied and has abasement it contains lodgings for monks and hostels for travelers on the upper level and a shrine below. Images of Durga and Ganesha suggest that the cave was later used by Hindus.
  • Cave number 12 is the last of the Buddhist caves and contains cells for sleeping. however, the interesting feature here is the series of seven Buddha’s pointing to the belief that the Buddha reincarnates on earth once in 5,000 years and has already been born seven times.

Hindu caves

Hindu caves in elloraHindu caves in ellora
  • Caves 13 to29 are Hindu temples. Constructed between 600 and 875 AD. They are replete with images of gods and goddesses up Apshara’s and tree limbs’ motives of animals plants and trees. Their workmanship is so detailed and complex that it must have taken centuries for their planning and execution.
  • The high point of the Hindu temples, however, is undoubtedly cave number 16 the Kailash temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva but pays homage to other gods as well. It is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Carved out of a single rock it has double the size of the Greek Parthenon. There are columned galleries three stories high large sculpted panels and alcoves containing enormous sculptures. Within the courtyard, we find two large structures an image of Nandi the sacred bull of Shiva, and the main Shiva shrine which it faces are both about seven meters high and cover two stories. A rock bridge connects the Nandi platform with the porch of the temple. The shrine itself has pillars windows inner and outer rooms and congregation halls with an enormous Shiva Lingam as its core. Images include carved deities and erotica conjoined couples.
  • Though this is a Shiva temple it includes Vaishnavites deities as well. A remarkable feature of this temple is a magnificent sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva thus earning the temple its name. 200,000 tons of rock was sculpted out to create the Kailash temple, Which took a hundred years to complete.
  • Other notable Hindu caves include cave number 15 the Dasha  Avatara temple which depicts the ten incarnations of Vishnu.
  • Cave number 21 the Rameshwar temple which has figurines of river goddesses and the entrance.
  • Cave number 29 that does Merlin a cave whose design is similar to the elephant caves near Mumbai. 

Jain caves

Jain caves in elloraJain caves in ellora
  • The five Jain caves were built between 800 and 1000 AD. They are massive and well proportioned and they mark the final phase of activity in Ellora. The series of Jain caves at Ellora are amongst the best examples of Jain monuments in Maharashtra. These caves contain intricately carved decorative pillar motives that speak volumes of the richness and skill of the cave architects.
  • Cave number 30 dating back to the early part of the ninth century was referred to as a Chota Kailash. It was intended to be a small-scale replica of the Kailash temple but it was never completed. The column shrine has 22 Tirthankara with Mahaveer in the sanctum built around the same time.
  • Cave number 32 was known as Indra Sabha. It is considered the finest of the Jain temples here and is dedicated to Mahaveer. A simple gateway leads into an open courtyard in the middle of this stands the shrine. Carved elephant lions and Tirthankara fill the walls the lower wall is incomplete but the upper one contains carvings of Ambeeka and Mahaveer flanked by Tirthankara.
  • The ceiling is richly carved with a massive lotus at the center while painted figures pass among the clouds. On the hall, these temples depict facets of Jain philosophy and teachings and also reflect the severe asceticism of fate. Though not as large as the other caves the Jain caves our repositories of very detailed works of art and many of them had beautifully painted ceilings and intricately carved pillars some of which are still visible. Thus besides being a coming together of three great religions in a single landmark location.

Elora is also a memorial to the stunning creative beauty that was possible so many centuries ago.

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Ellora Caves – Indian Art & Culture

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