The 34 Ellora Caves Monasteries and Temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
The Ellora CavesThe Ellora Caves not only bear witness to three great religions (Buddhism, Brahminism and Jainism) but they also illustrate the spirit of tolerance, characteristic of ancient India, which permitted these three religions to establish their sanctuaries and their communities in a single place, which thus served to reinforce its universal value. The caves, with their uninterrupted sequence of from 600 to 1,000 monuments, bring to life again the civilization of ancient India.
These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from AD 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
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This rupestral ensemble constitute one of the most beautiful expressions of the art of the Indian Middle Ages; they are noteworthy as three major Indian religions have laid joint claim to the caves peacefully since they were created. These breathtaking caves are definitely worth visiting for their remarkable reliefs, sculptures and architecture. It is not, like that of Ajanta, the expression of a single belief; rather it is the product of the three principal religions of ancient India.
Progressing from south to north along the cliff, one discovers successively the twelve caves of the Buddhist group, which appear to be the oldest (between c. 600 and 800) and comprise monasteries and a single large temple (cave 10); then the caves of the Brahmin group (c. 600 to 900) which are no doubt the best known of Ellora with the 'Cavern of the Ten Avatars' (cave 15) and especially the Kailasha Temple (cave 16), an enormous complex, most likely undertaken during the reign of Krishna I (757-83); and, finally, the Jain group (caves 30-34) whose sanctuaries were created by the sect of the Digambara towards AD 800-1000, The Jain caves, the last to be excavated, drew their inspiration from the art already existing at Ellora: cave 32 recalls by certain of its dispositions the Kailasha Temple.
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The Buddhist Caves were excavated between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD, when the Mahayana sects were flourishing in the region; among these cave 5 is the largest. Cave 10 is a chaitya hall and is popularly known as 'Visvakarma'. It has a highly ornamental facade provided with a gallery and in the chaitya hall there is a beautiful image of Buddha set on a stupa.
The historical value of cave 12 or Tin Tala lies in the fact that human hands built a three-storeyed building from rock with such painstaking skill that even the floors and the ceiling are smooth and levelled. Tin Tala cave is a monastery-cum-chapel, with cells. It dates to the Rashtrakuta period in the mid-8th century.
The Brahmin caves are mostly Saivite. Kailasa (cave 16) is a remarkable example of rock-cut temples in India on account of its striking proportion; elaborate workmanship architectural content and sculptural ornamentation. It is said that cave 16 have been started by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, and it is dedicated to Shiva and named after his mountain home in the Himalaya, the snow-peak Kailasa.
The whole temple consists of a shrine with lingam at the rear of the hall with Dravidian sikhara, a flat-roofed mandapa supported by sixteen pillars, a separate porch for Nandi surrounded by an open court entered through a low gopura. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.
The Jain Caves are massive, well-proportioned, decorated and mark the last phase of the activity at Ellora.