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Carved in the volcanic basaltic rock, the grand Ellora Caves are the true heritage of Indian art and culture. Spread over a range of 2 kilometers, the 34 caves represent three religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, a testimony to the religious harmony that existed in the ancient India. These excavations in the part of Sahyadri hill range formed nearly 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous period have some amazing structures, the prominent highlight being the Kailasa Temple, the world’s largest monolithic structure hewn downwards into the hill.

Though it is assumed that several royal dynasties may have beneficed the work that went on for over five hundred years, from 500A.D to 1000 A.D, the only certain evidence left in the form of inscriptions speaks of the Rashtrakuta Dantidurga, 753 to 757 A.D and of Krishna 1, 757 to 783 A.D. Another inscription praising the structure of Kailasa says it was built by Krishnaraja. It further says, the grandeur of the temple made the celestial bodies passing from the sky stop and look at it in wonder, pondering if it was really created by the mortals or it existed there since the dawn of time. It also says that the architect of this structure himself was awestruck that he could create something so magnificent.

The first 12 of these excavations are the Buddhist Caves, created between the fifth and the seventh century. The Buddhist caves mostly served as monasteries with multi-storied living quarters and prayer halls with statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. The most impressive of these is the 10th cave named Vishvakarma or the Carpenter’s Cave. The ceiling of this has a ribcage-like pattern depicting the wooden beams. The imposing structures of the caves Do-tal (two-storied) and Tin-tal (three storied) are also impressive.

The further seventeen are the Hindu Caves. These caves illustrate a different style of sculpting and artistry. The complexity of designs and themes in some of these caves demanded planning and contribution of several generations of the artists.

The most famous of the Hindu caves is the majestic Kailasa Cave, or Kailasanatha, the temple of god Shiva, a depiction of his abode at the Kailasa Mountain in the Himalayas. Several stories high, the whole structure has been hewn out of a single rock, with the imaginative theme of elephant sculptures at its base that appear to be bearing the structure on their back. There is a mandapa, an antechamber hosting the sculpture of Nandi, the sacred bull, in front of the central temple which is at the heart of the structure, connected by a rock bridge. One can see different motifs and sculptures from the epic Indian mythologies everywhere in this cave, with the striking sculpture of the demon lord Ravana trying to lift the Kailasa Mountain being a landmark in the Indian art. The construction of this great structure demanded a massive effort of removing 2,00,000 tones of rock and a period of over 100 years.

Amongst the other notable Hindu caves are Dashavatara, depicting ten re-incarnations of God Vishnu. The depiction of Vishnu’s re-incarnation as a neither-man-nor-lion, where he emerges from a pillar and slays Hiranyakashipu is particularly graceful. The other notable caves Rameshvara, Dhumar Lena, Ravana ki Khai and Nilkantha have several interesting sculptures.

The last in the row are the Jain caves, the ones assumed to have been built last. These caves present amazingly detailed artwork. Chota Kailasa, a miniature Kailasa Temple, Indrasabha and Jagannath Sabha are considered to be the best amongst the Jain caves. Unlike most of the others, the Jain caves had rich and vivid paintings at the ceilings which can still be seen in pieces and admired.

The best season to visit Ellora Caves is after the Monsoon has arrived, as the surroundings will be lush green and the couple of small waterfalls around will be at their best. However, the visit can be enjoyed right up to February from June.


Note: The caves are closed on Tuesdays.

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Ellora Made our Day! - by Harish Mehra  Dated : 2011-03-16
We had not planned to go to Ellora, but I and my group of friends were very bored. So, we got into the car and went to huge shopping mall nearby. But it did not change our mood. As we got back into the parking a friend of mine suggested that we go to Ellora. All of us gave in to his idea.

Ellora is very near to our hometown, Aurangabad. It takes hardly an hour or hour and a hal to reach Ellora. The place is a world famous tourist destination because of beautiful caves which are carved in the rocks. These caves are very old and have great traditional importance. In total there are 34 caves, they represent three religions: Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. They prove that there was co-existence of these three religions.

There are 17 Hindu caves at Ellora, out of these the most prominent is the Kailasa cave. The Kailasa temple is the largest monolithic structure in the world. The Jain caves are last in the row. There is exquisite artwork in these caves. The rich paintings on the walls of these Jain caves can still be seen and admired.

I and my friends went to Ellora just to have fun. We had been there many times but never had as much fun as we had that day. It was a great day; we explored all the caves, took funny pictures and had fun. If you need a quick week end get away you must surely go to Ellora, from Aurangabad it is very very near and a day is enough to explore all the caves. Please make sure not to go to these caves on Tuesdays as they are closed that day. Better go on week days when there is not much rush.
The Great Heritage of Ellora - by NIkhil Raut  Dated : 2011-03-08
Hardly 30 kilometers from Aurangabad is Ellora. It is a world famous tourist destination due to the famous caves and the Kailasa temple, world’s largest monolithic structure. I liked the cultural mix that you can see in the caves. There are some Jain caves, maximum Hindu caves and some Buddhist caves at Ellora. there are a total 34 caves at Ellora and they stretch over a range of 2 kilometers.

I went to Ellora by a Maharashtra state transport bus. It was crowded with enthusiastic tourists. As I reached Ellora and took my ticket to enter the caves, I saw two buses full of school students. They seemed to be on a school trip, meaning I was going to be caught in a lot of crowd. But I did not mind, I was far too excited to see the caves.

From a little reading on the internet about Ellora I came to know that there were 17 Hindu caves at Ellora, 13 Buddhist caves and the rest four were Jain caves. As I entered the caves, I could see a croud of foreign tourists posing in front of every sculpture and taking photographs. Right! How good to spot something as beautiful as those sculptures!

The most prominent of the Hindu caves is where the Dashavtaras or the ten incarnation of Lord Vishnu are sculpted finely. And the Kailasa temple is incomparable structure. I wish the government takes more efforts to keep the place clean as I saw many wrappers and plastic bags lying around the place.

There is also a waterfall near the caves. But it is good to see it during the rainy season. I was very happy to see the caves and in around 3 hours I was on my way back to Aurangabad from I was to go back to Pune, my hometown.
Me, My Friend and Ellora - by Nishikant Mathur  Dated : 2011-03-08
It was a sunny day when we went to Ellora. I had come to visit a friend in Aurangabad and he insisted that we go and see the Ellora caves. I was excited since I had heard a lot about the caves but never had got a chance to go and see them even after staying in Maharashtra. I grabbed the chance with both my hands.

Since my friend had a car, we did not need to worry about the conveyance. We left of Ellora at around 9.00 am (we were to leave at 8 but we got up late ). Ellora is almost 30 kilometers from Aurangabad, so it took us around an hour and a half to reach the caves.

The weather was quite hot, we put our caps on. Parking ticket and the visiting ticket need to be taken at the gate and in case you need a guide you can hire one right from the entrance. Since my friend knew everything about Ellora we did not hire a guide and went straight into the caves.

The caves were constructed inspired by three different faiths, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. As we entered the caves we felt good since it was not hot in there. There were many foreign tourists also, taking pictures now and then. At Ellora, you can the world’s largest monolithic structure- the Kailasa Temple. Huge carvings of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi can also be seen here.

We had lots of fun roaming around the caves, we took pictures with some foreign tourists and didn’t mind practicing our English with them. At lunchtime, we were at a nearby hotel, having all spicy lunch and talking about our trip.
Ellora Excursion - by Rishabh Dated : 2011-02-18
Me and my colleagues planned a short trip to Ellora. As we reside in Aurangabad, just an hour away from Ellora we just got into our cars and rushed. Having many people makes a trip really entertaining. We had already visited the place many times, but its beauty and the serene feeling made us want to go there again. In an hour we were at the mouth of the caves, laughing and talking, having fun. The caves of Ellora are very beautiful. There are 34 caves in all and they represent three religions- Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.
We clicked photos in front of the Kailasa Temple, I again wondered how hard it might have been for a man to carve this monolithic structure, how patient and creative of him!
We had our lunch at a nearby hotel and left for Aurangabad after spending quality time. Away from the office stress and tiring days, we had a blast at Ellora.
Ellora - by Pooja Khanna Dated : 2011-01-05
It was a pleasant monsoon day, when we visited Ellora caves. As it is a very dry place, we chose the monsoon season. It is a short drive up the ghat from Aurangabad. Ellora Caves are a carving made out of the Charanandri Hills. As we reached there, we were welcomed with the lush green garden at the entrance. The pleasant atmosphere, cool breeze and the aroma of Indian Art and Culture was quite enjoyable. As we entered, we could see the Kailash temple or the cave No. 16, which is carved out of a single rock from top to bottom and took about a century to complete decorative themes depicting incidents from Puranas.
As compared to Ajanta, Ellora took considerably less time to take a detailed look at. Designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the 34 caves of Ellora depict religious unity between Hindus, Buddhists and Jainis. Some of the caves were two storeyed and some were three storeyed. Carvings at Ellora began at the same time when Ajanta was abandoned. At the same time Buddhism was declining and Brahmanism was under powerful patronage of Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. Most of the basaltic rock carvings are destroyed due to human interruption and nature, but some of the waterfalls were quite amazing.
Many pillars were so marvelously carved, that many artists had come there for sketching. It was quite appreciable that the sculptors, without any facility, of that era spent their lifetime in creating such a wonderful place for us.
Cave No. 10, 16, 21, 32 and 34 are worth visiting.
Cave No. 10 is a Gavaksha, a horse shoe shaped arch that dates back to 8th century. Known as Chaitya Hall, flying celestials top the upper balcony doorway. In the interior of this hall is a huge shrine of seated Gautama Buddha. Along with this, you can also view frescoes of dwarf musicians, from the balcony of this cave.
Cave No. 21 depicts various sculptures such as Ravana destruction act of shaking the Kailas Mountain, Rameshwara Temple, Shiva and Parvati playing dice game, Durga slays buffalo, Dancing Shiva and River Ganga.
Cave No. 32 depicts Jain sculptures that dates back to 8th century, sculptures such as Mahavira, Matanga, Sidaika, Columns and Head of Divinity.
Unlike Ajanta, Ellora consists of monuments, carvings and sculptors.
It is a place of historical, arts and architectural importance. Ellora differs from Ajanta, by the fact that it did not lose its proximity with the trade route. Depending upon the availability of the time, visitor can plan the caves accordingly.
Hiring a guide is always a good choice. Monsoon season is the best time to visit dry place like Ellora as natural waterfalls cover all the caves.