Ellora Caves: An Architectural Marvel and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Posted On : 28-7-2016
Ellora Caves Unesco World Heritage Site

The Rashirakuta's took control of the Deccan from early western Chalukya’s around 750 AD. The most important site with these rulers is Ellora, where several cave engravings were carried out under their aegis. At this site, Cave 16 the Kailashnatha Temple is unsurpassed and probably the last Hindu excavation. It is the most striking cave temple amongst the other 34 at the site. Craftsmen have pushed carving techniques to the limit. Though carved out of one single rock, it looks like a free standing structural southern type temple. One is not sure how long it took to create this main temple. But scholars feel that the major portion of the temple, that is the central part, the Nandi Shrine, and maybe even the gateway, belongs to the reign or Rashtrakula King. Krishna I, who ruled around 757 to 773 AD.

This temple seems to have a lot of similarities with the Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal also because they date from around the same time period. The Kailashnatha Temple complex is completely screened by a rock-cut wall with a gateway in the centre. Surface abrasions have damaged the gateway, but one can make out that it was an important part of the temple like latter-day southern Indian temples. It has pilastered niches with sculptured deities of slender build, heavy ornamentation, pointed crowns, all characteristics of the southern source. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance arc Shaivaite, while on the right-hand side. the deities are Vaishnavaite. Entering throughout the gateway, Kailashanatha now becomes free-standing temple within a pit, that was excavated to create a space around the central mass. It is carved both inside and outside and also has subsidiary shrines, chapels and galleries in the surrounding rock wall.

All the carving is in more than one level. The lower storey has several large shrines and a gallery along three sides at the rear containing huge sculpted panels. A two-storied gateway on the west side provides access to the main temple and the Nandi Mandapa, both on the same level, and approximately seven metres high. The lower stories of the main temple as well as the Nandi Shrine are solid and cannot be entered. Stone bridges carved from the living rock connect the Nandi pavilion and the entrance porch of the temple. The main temple has a southern style superstructure. The lower storey has almost life-size elephants carved as if they are holding up the temple. The exterior of the temple is richly carved with niches, pilasters. windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures.

Under the stone bridge, between the Nandi shrine and the main temple, is a beautiful panel showing Shiva in one of his angry aspects as Destroyer of Demon Andhakasura, surrounded by the Saptamatrika's, who are the chaktis who figure in this story or Andhakasura of the Purana's. At Ellora, there are 34 odd caves, some of which enjoyed Buddhist patronage, some Jain, each having their respective sculptures. Even the Rashtrakuta's had a few other caves. But Kailashanatha by far remained the most impressive.

It is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world. It features the artwork of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain monuments dated back from 600-100 CE.

How to Reach Ellora Caves?

How to Reach Ellora Caves by Road?

The nearest city to Ellora in Aurangabad, which is well connected with it by road. Options for a bus or taxi is easily available from Aurangabad to reach Ellora caves. All major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Ahmednagar, etc is well connected by road to Aurangabad.

How to reach Ellora by Train?

Ellora caves are located 30 kilometers from Aurangabad and Aurangabad is well connected from Bombay and Delhi. via Manmad by rail. Aurangabad can also be reached by road from Bombay, Pune, Nasik, and Shirdi.

How to Reach Ellora by Air?

Chikalthana Airport in Aurangabad is the nearest airport from Ellora. Regular flights are available from major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Jaipur, and Udaipur for Aurangabad.