Ajanta & Ellora Historical Places Travel

Ellora Caves

The Kailasa Temple, Ellora’s largest and most notable structure, is a monolithic rock-cut marvel dedicated to Lord Shiva, showcasing high levels of ancient artistry and craftsmanship, incomparable in construction technique and detail with modern capabilities.

What are the Ellora Caves?

The Ellora Caves are a group of 34 rock-cut temples located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, India. The caves were carved out of the volcanic basalt rock in the 6th to 10th centuries CE and represent one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world.

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The Ellora Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered to be one of the greatest examples of rock-cut architecture in India.

The caves are a testament to the religious harmony that existed in ancient India, as they include Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples, all located in close proximity to one another.

Note that the first 4 minutes are just the Kailasa temple complex built from ONE rock! One can get an idea of the size of the structures in the complex when the people walk by. Read more about the Kailasa temple
The rest of the video covers the other caves. Source

The Hindu caves at Ellora are dedicated to the god Shiva and feature elaborate carvings and sculptures depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The Buddhist caves are decorated with intricate paintings and carvings depicting the life and teachings of the Buddha, while the Jain caves feature detailed carvings of Jain tirthankaras (spiritual leaders).

The most famous cave at Ellora is the Kailasa Temple, which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. It was believed to have been built in the 8th century CE (but no hard evidences exist) and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is carved entirely out of a single rock, and it is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures that depict scenes from great Indian epics.

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Are Ajanta and Ellora the same?

No. They are very different and both are a must see for anyone to admire and appreciate the artwork which is perhaps the most unique in all of the known world.

Read more about the Ajanta Caves here.

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Where are the Ellora caves located?

Ellora Caves are located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, about 30 kilometers from the city of Aurangabad. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are renowned for their rock-cut architecture and intricate sculptures.

Details of carvings in one of the Ellora caves
Who built the Ellora caves? And when?

The Ellora Caves were built over a period of several centuries, from the 6th to the 10th centuries CE, under the patronage of various rulers and patrons of the time. The exact identities of these rulers and patrons are not known with certainty, as very little historical documentation exists from this period.

Ellora Caves

However, it is believed that the caves were built by a number of different dynasties and religious groups, including the Rashtrakutas, the Chalukyas, and the Yadavas, who were all powerful South Indian dynasties during this period. These rulers were patrons of the arts and provided financial support for the construction of religious monuments, including the Ellora Caves.

Ellora Caves

The Hindu caves at Ellora were likely built during the reign of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, who were great patrons of Hinduism and built several large temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Buddhist and Jain caves were likely built during the reign of the Chalukya dynasty, who were known for their support of Buddhism and Jainism.

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What is the Kailasa Temple?

The Kailasa temple, located in Cave 16, is considered one of the most remarkable structures in the Ellora Caves. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built in the 8th century AD by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. It is believed to be the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved out of a single piece of rock.

How long did it take to build this one temple?

The construction of the Kailasa temple is unique and remarkable, with its intricate carvings and sculptural details. It is not clear how long it took to build the temple, but it is believed to have taken several decades.

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Who built the Kailasa temple?

Although there is no concrete evidence to suggest who exactly built the Kailasa temple, historians and scholars attribute it to the Rashtrakuta dynasty, based on inscriptions found on the site.

For a good coverage of this temple see this video – the first and last part of this, show this temple.

Are all the caves at Ellora the same?

The rest of the Ellora Caves also feature impressive architecture and intricate sculptures. The Buddhist caves are known for their peaceful aura and contain large statues of the Buddha. The Jain caves are highly ornate, with elaborate carvings and friezes depicting scenes from Jain mythology.

Why is the Kailasa temple considered unique, perhaps in all of India, if not the entire world?

The Kailasa temple at Ellora (Cave 16) is a remarkable example of ancient Indian rock-cut architecture. The temple is carved out of a single massive rock, and its construction required an exceptional level of skill and technical expertise.

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This video includes a voice narration and has more details of the carvings in the temple. Source

To create the temple, the builders first removed the debris and soil surrounding the rock to expose the solid rock face.

Then they would have used hammers and chisels to create a rough outline of the temple’s floor plan, pillars, and sculptures.

The next step would have been to carve the temple’s intricate details, including the reliefs, sculptures, and ornamental motifs, using smaller chisels and polishing tools.

The construction of the Kailasa temple was a complex and time-consuming process, requiring the efforts of skilled artisans, architects, and laborers working over many years. The temple’s sheer scale and complexity, as well as the delicate details of the carvings, would have required an immense amount of effort and patience.

A single mistake would make the entire temple impossible to build. They would have to make sure the SINGLE rock they used does not have any cracks or blemishes INSIDE it. The temple is MULTIPLE stories and is not a tiny temple!

The skill level and design planning, had to be of an unimaginable level!

One glaring thing most visitors will notice is that several of the sculptures of the gods are broken or disfigured. This was the work has been attributed to Aurangazeb one of the mughal rulers. He was a very devout follower of his religion which forbade idolatry and he ordered the destruction of this temple which was too hard, and they eventually gave up after several years.

Why? The sculptures were too hard to break! (It’s a wonder that the original carvers and sculptors were able to carve intricate designs several centuries earlier!)

Is it even possible to build something like the Kailasa temple today?

It is unlikely that such a temple could be built today, at least not in the same way. Modern construction techniques and equipment may be able to achieve a similar outcome, but the level of detail and artistry achieved by the ancient builders is difficult to replicate with modern machinery.

Moreover, the Kailasa temple’s rock-cut architecture is unique to its time and place, and it represents a particular tradition of Indian architectural style that is not widely practiced today. The building of such an intricate structure would also pose significant logistical and financial challenges in today’s world.

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Are there any other structures made from a single rock (monolithic) anywhere?

While the Kailasa temple at Ellora is considered one of the most remarkable structures in the world, there are a few other examples of monolithic construction that are comparable in complexity and grandeur.

However, none of them are identical to the Kailasa temple in terms of design or artistic style.

One such example is the Abu Simbel temple complex in Egypt, which was built in the 13th century BC by Pharaoh Ramesses II.

The complex includes two temples, each of which is carved out of a single rock face. The temples are adorned with intricate reliefs and sculptures, and their construction required the efforts of thousands of workers.

Another example is the Lycian tombs in Turkey, which were carved out of solid rock in the 4th century BC. The tombs are ornately decorated with sculptural details, and some of them are several stories high.

However, it is worth noting that the Kailasa temple at Ellora is unique in terms of its size, complexity, and artistic style. The sheer scale and level of detail of the temple’s carvings make it a truly remarkable achievement in the history of world architecture.

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