You are wondering where you can find the world’s most unique architecture? Then go to the Ellora caves, yes, the most beautiful and unique architectural caves you find there, which is the perfect example of ancient architecture. Ancient architecture is the most unique which we are still trying to understand. Ellora caves are the proves of ancient things, and Buddhism, it is a series of 34 magnificent rock-cut temples which spreads over an area of 2km. and now the Ellora caves is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1983.
In Ellora caves, 34 Buddhist caves are dating back to 200 BCE to 600 CE, 17 Hindu caves dating from about 500 to 900 CE, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain temples dated about 800 to 1000. The most stunning cave temple is the Kailasa, cave 16. It is named after the mountain in the Kailash range of the Himalayas where the Hindu God Shiva resides. Unlike other temples at the site, which were first explored horizontally into the rock face, the Kailasa complex was gouged downward from a basaltic slope and is largely exposed to sunlight.
The Construction of the temple in the 8th century, beginning in the reign of Krishna 756–773, involved the removal of 150,000 to 200,000 tons of solid rock. The complex measures 164 feet (50m) long, 108 feet (33m) wide, and 100 feet (30m) high and have four levels. It contains carved monoliths and halls with stairs, windows, doorways, and various fixed sculptures. One of its better-known things is a scene of Vishnu transformed into a man-lion and battling with a demon. Just beyond the entrance in the main courtyard, there is a monument of Shiva’s bull Nandi. Along the walls of the temple, at the second level, are life-size sculptures of elephants and other animals as well. Among the depictions within the halls is that of the 10-headed king Ravana shaking Kailasa mountain in a show of strength. Erotic and curvaceous representations of Hindu divinities and mythological figures also honor the temple. Some features have been damaged or destroyed over the centuries, including a rock-hewn footbridge that once joined two upper-story thresholds.
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A part of the Hindu and Buddhist Caves were built during the Rashtrakutas dynasty, and the Jain Caves were built by the Yadav dynasty. It is not known yet which caves were built first the Hindus or the Buddhists. Based on the archaeological evidence found at various sites it was said that there were three major construction periods for the Ellora caves: the early Hindu period from 550 to 600 CE, the Buddhist period from 600 to 730 CE, and the final phase, the Jain and Hindu period lasting from 730 to 950 CE.
Well, the Ellora Caves are devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Their presence in the same shrine shows the sense of tolerance that was generally a way of life in ancient India. The rock-cut cave temples at Ellora date back to the 5th and 12th centuries. The caves are all numbered, and Caves 1 & 12 are the oldest among all, dating back to the 5th century. These caves are Buddhist caves and show evidence of the Mahayana philosophy of Buddhism.
The most popular monument of all is the world-famous Kailasa Temple which is a part of the Brahmanical group of caves starting from caves 13 to 29. The Kailasa Temple is located in Cave 16 and is one of the most beautiful temples in the world. However, caves 30-34 are Jain cave temples, and they were scraped sometime between the 9th and the 12th century.
The Hindu monuments were Built during the 6th to 8th century during the Kalachuris period and the Hindu Caves were built in two phases. Caves 14, 15, and 16 were built in the Rashtrakuta period. The early Hindu caves were dedicated to Shiva with inscriptions representing the mythology related to other gods as well. A typical feature of these temples was the lingam-yoni placed in the center of the shrine.
Furthermore, the Kailasha Temple, Cave 16 Carved out of a single rock, this temple is one of its kind in the world and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is based on Shiva’s home – Mt Kailash. It comprises the typical features of a Hindu temple namely the sanctum which houses the lingam-yoni, a space for rambling, an assembly hall, a gateway, and shrines based on the square pattern. Other gods in the temple carved out of the same rock are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, Ganga, Lord Vishnu, Vedic, and non-Vedic gods. The mandapa is supported by a Dravidian shikhara and 16 pillars with a Nandi sitting in front of the temple. It is said that the artists had to move around 3 million cubic ft stone weighing 200,000 tonnes to gouge the temple. It was built by the Rashtrakutas king, Krishna I.
The Buddhist caves are situated in the south of the area, these caves are estimated to have been built between 600 to 730 CE. It was first believed that the Buddhist Caves were built before the Hindu Caves but this theory was rejected and with enough evidence, it was established that the Hindu caves were constructed before the Buddhist caves. The earliest first Buddhist cave to be built was Cave 6, with Caves 11 and 12 which is the last. These caves feature monasteries, temples that include bodhisattvas, and carvings of Buddha.
The Vishwakarma Cave, Cave 10 was Built around 650 CE the cave is also known as the Carpenter’s Cave because of the finishing of the rock which looks like a wooden beam. Inside the stupa hall, lies the 15 ft statue of Buddha resting in a sermonizing pose. The cave is the dedicated prayer house among all the caves here and has eight cells and also an arcade.
The five caves lying to the north of the Ellora Caves dedicated to the Digambara sect were shoveled in the 9th to 10th centuries. Smaller than the Hindu and Buddhist Caves, these have architectural attributes such as a mandapa and a pillared verandah. The Jain temples have carvings of the god and goddess, yaksa and yaksi, and devotees all depicting the Jain mythological delicacy of that time.
The opening timings are morning 8 am to 5.30 pm except for Tuesdays, as every Tuesday the caves are closed.