|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
Kailasanatha Temple, (Cave 16) view from the top of the rock
|Criteria||(i) (iii) (vi)|
|Inscription||1983 (7th Session)|
|* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.|
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Ellora (Template:Lang-mr) is an archaeological site, 30 km (19 mi) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta rulers. Well known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves" – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.
The Buddhist caves
It was initially thought that the Buddhist caves were one of the earliest structures, created between the fifth and eighth centuries, with caves 1-5 in the first phase (400-600) and 6-12 in the later phase (mid 7th-mid 8th), but now it is clear to the modern scholars that some of the Hindu caves (27,29,21,28,19,26,20,17 and 14) precede these caves. The earliest Buddhist cave is Cave 6, followed by 5,2,3,5 (right wing), 4,7,8,10 and 9. Caves 11 and 12 were the last. All the Buddhist caves were constructed between 630-700.
These structures consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood.
Most famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or 'Vishvakarma cave', popularly known as the "Carpenter's Cave". Beyond its multi-storeyed entry is a cathedral-like stupa hall also known as chaitya, whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the heart of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. Amongst other Buddhist caves, all of the first nine (caves 1–9) are monasteries. The last two caves, Do Tal (cave 11) and Tin Tal (cave 12) have three stories.
Cave 1 is a vihara with eight cells, four in the back wall and four in the right wall. It had a portico in the front with a cell.
The Vishvakarma (Cave 10) is the only chaitya griha amongst the Buddhist group of caves. It is locally known as Vishvakarma or Sutar ka jhopda (carpenter's hut). It follows the pattern of construction of Caves 19 and 26 of Ajanta. On stylistic grounds, the date of construction of this cave is assigned to c.700. The chaitya once had a high screen wall, which is ruined at present. At the front is a rock-cut court, which is entered through a flight of steps. On either side are pillared proticos with chambers in their back walls. These were probably intended to have subsidiary shrines but not completed. The pillared verandah of the chaitya has a small shrine at either end and a single cell in the far end of the back wall. The corridor columns have massive squarish shafts and ghata-pallava (vase and foliage) capitals. The main hall is apsidal on plan and is divided in to a central nave and side aisles by 28 octagonal columns with plain bracket capitals. In the apsidal end of the chaitya hall is a stupa on the face of which a colossal 3.30 m high seated Buddha in vyakhyana mudra (teaching posture) is carved. A large Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) is carved at the back. The hall has a vaulted roof in which ribs have been carved in the rock imitating the wooden ones.
The Hindu caves
The Hindu caves were constructed between the middle of sixth century to the end of the eighth century. The early caves (caves 17–29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period. The work first commenced in Caves 28, 27 and 19. These were followed by two most impressive caves constructed in the early phase - Caves 29 and 21. Along with these two, work was underway at Caves 20 and 26, and slightly later at Caves 17, 19 and 28. The caves 14, 15 and 16 were constructed during the Rashtrakuta period. The work began in Caves 14 and 15 and culminated in Cave 16. All these structures represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. Some were of such complexity that they required several generations of planning and co-ordination to complete.
Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa or the Kailasanatha, is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. This is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva – looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock, and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.
All the carvings are done in more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by columned galleries three storeys high. The galleries are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.
Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandap and main Shiva temple are each about 7 meters high, and built on two stories. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandap are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.
A living rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandap to the porch of the temple. The temple itself is tall pyramidal structure reminiscent of a South Indian temple. The shrine – complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous lingam at its heart – carved from living stone, is carved with niches, pilasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu). There are two Dhvajastambhas (pillars with the flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art. The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took 100 years to complete.
The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. This project was started by Krishna I (757–773) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty that ruled from Manyakheta in present day Karnataka state. His rule had also spread to southern India, hence this temple was excavated in the prevailing style. Its builders modelled it on the lines of the Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal. Being a south Indian style temple, it does not have a shikhara common to north Indian temples. – The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, 1996, Takeo Kamiya, Japan Architects Academy and archaeological Survey of India
The Dashavatara (Cave 15) was begun as a Buddhist monastery. It has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa at the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear. The layout of the temple is closely related to caves 11 and 12. Large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes, which include the ten avataras of Vishnu. An inscription of grant of Dantidurga is found on the back wall of the front mandapa. According to Coomaraswamy, the finest relief of this cave is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon the shoulder of Hiranyakashipu.
Other Hindu caves
Other notable Hindu caves are the Rameshvara (Cave 21), which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29) whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai (Cave 14) and the Nilkantha (Cave 22) also have several sculptures. The rest of the Hindu caves, which include the Kumbharvada (Cave 25) and the Gopilena (Cave 27) have no significant sculptures.
The Jain caves
The five Jain caves at Ellora belong to the ninth and tenth centuries. They all belong to the Digambara sect. Jain caves reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They reflect a strict sense of asceticism – they are not relatively large as compared to others, but they present exceptionally detailed art works. The most remarkable Jain shrines are the Chhota Kailash (cave 30), the Indra Sabha (cave 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (cave 33). Cave 31 is an unfinished four-pillared hall and a shrine. Cave 34 is a small cave, which can be approached through an opening on the left side of Cave 33.
The Indra Sabha
The Indra Sabha (Cave 32) is a two storeyed cave with one more monolithic shrine in its court. It has a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. It got the appellation, Indra Sabha probably it is significantly ornate and also because of the sculpture of Yaksha Matanga on an elephant, which was wrongly identified as that of Indra. On the upper level of the double-storied shrine excavated at the rear of the court, an imposing image of Ambika, the Yakshi (dedicated attendant deity) of Neminatha is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits.
Other Jain caves
All other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings – fragments of which are still visible.
- List of rock cut temples in India
- Ajanta Caves
- Barabar Caves
- Elephanta Caves
- Indian rock-cut architecture
- List Of Colossal Sculpture In Situ
- Tourism in India
- Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Ancient India: Land Of Mystery (1994)
- Dhavalikar 2003, p. 12
- Dhavalikar 2003, pp. 20-3
- Dhavalikar 2003, p. 33
- Sarina Singh ... (2007). India. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet. ISBN 9781741043082. http://books.google.com/books?id=T7ZHUhSEleYC.
- Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. (1999). Introduction to Indian Art, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, ISBN 81-215-0389-2, p.52
- Dhavalikar 2003, p. 87
- Dhavalikar 2003, p. 88
- Dhavalikar 2003, p. 96
- Dhavalikar, M.K. (2003), Ellora, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, ISBN 0 19 565458 7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ellora Caves|
- Ellora Art Architecture Archcelogy History Culture Study
- Video of the caves MTDC site
- Ellora Caves in UNESCO List
- Ellora Art Architecture Heritage and Culture Exhibition
Template:World Heritage Sites in India
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