Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Ellora caves

State Party = IND
Type = Cultural
Criteria = (i)(iii)(vi)
ID = b 243
Region = South Asia
Year = 1983
Session =
Link = http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/243

Ellora (Marathi: Verul) is an archaeological site, 30 km (18.6 miles) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. Famous for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site.

Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture.The 34 "caves" – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – comprised of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1-12), 17 Hindu (caves 13-29) and 5 Jain caves (caves 30-34), built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history. [ Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Ancient India: Land Of Mystery (1994) ]

The Hindu caves

The Hindu caves were constructed in the 500 and 1000 A.D.and represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. Some were of such complexity that they required several generations of planning and coordination to complete. The early caves (caves 17-29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period, while the caves 15 and 16 were constructed during Rashtrakuta period.

The Kailasanatha

Cave 16, named The Kailasa or Kailasanatha Temple, is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. This gargantuan structure – designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva – looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock, and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.Fact|date=July 2007 [-- Adapted from the Lonely Planet, India, 1999]

All the carvings are done in more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by columned galleries three storeys high. The galleries are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.

Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandap and main Shiva temple are each about 7 meters high, and built on two stories. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandap are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.

A living rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandap to the porch of the temple. The temple itself is tall pyramidic structure reminiscent of a South Indian temple. The 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, "mithuna"s (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).There are two Dhvajastambhas (pillars with the flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.

The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took 100 years to complete.

"The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. This project was started by Krishna I (757- 773) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty that ruled from Manyakheta in present day Karnataka state. His rule had also spread to southern India, hence this temple was excavated in the prevailing style. Its builders modelled it on the lines of the Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal. Being a south Indian style temple, it does not have a shikhara common to north Indian temples". - "The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent", 1996, Takeo Kamiya, "Japan Architects Academy" and "Archaeological Survey of India"

Other Hindu caves

Other notable Hindu caves include the Dashavatara cave (cave 15), which depicts the ten avataras 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.

The Buddhist caves

The Buddhist caves were the earliest structures, created between the fifth and seventh centuries. These consist mostly of "viharas" or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms.

Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood.

Most 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-storeyed 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.

Amongst other Buddhist caves, all of the first nine (caves 1-9) are monasteries. The last two caves, Do Tal (cave 11) and Tin Tal (cave 12) have three stories.

The Jain caves

Jain caves reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They reflect a strict sense of asceticism – they are not relatively large as compared to others, but they present exceptionally detailed art works. The most remarkable Jain shrines are the "Chhota Kailash" (cave 30), the "Indra Sabha" (cave 32) and the "Jagannath Sabha" (cave 33). The "Indra Sabha" is a two storeyed shrine with a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. In another cave, an imposing image of Ambika, the Yakshi (dedicated attendant deity) of Neminatha is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits. All other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings - fragments of which are still visible.

ee also

*Kailash Temple
*Indian rock-cut architecture


About 3 km distance is the Ghrishneshwar Temple in Devasrovar, which is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas as mentioned in the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotra by Adi Shankaracharya

External links

* [http://vishwakala.org/uniportal/info/index.asp?mi=82&xp=557&xi=0&xl=3&o=0&t= Ellora Art Architecture Archcelogy History Culture Study]
* [http://www.maharashtratourism.gov.in/mtdc/HTML/MaharashtraTourism/Default.aspx?strpage=VituralTourvideo.html Video of the caves MTDC site]
* [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/243/ Ellora Caves in UNESCO List]
* [http://india.shilpasayura.org/ Ellora Art Architecture Heritage and Culture Exhibition]
* [http://www.india-picture.net/Elura Pictures of Ellora from india-picture.net]
* [http://www.indiamonuments.org Pictures of Ellora and other rock cut caves]
* [http://www.goagossipcafe.blogspot.com/ Pictures of Ellora]
* [http://picasaweb.google.com/nitesh.nema/ElloraCaves Photographs]
* [http://picasaweb.google.com/tmilind/ElloraCaves Photographs]

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