Monday, December 10, 2018
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Ellora Caves

 

Place

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Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Significance

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Designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO

Best Season

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Although the best season is from October to March, the season extend throughout the year. 

Timings

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From 09 hours to 17:30 hrs or at sunset whichever is earlier (Closed on Mondays and National holidays.)

Entry Fee

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Entry to Ellora is free except for the Kailasa Temple. Foreigner US$ 10, Indian Rs 10. A light pass of Rs.5 is necessary if you want the guide to turn on the lights. Video Camera Rs 25. Flash photography is strictly forbidden in this caves.

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Among the most important historical monuments in India, Ellora caves, cut out of the vertical face of a high basalt hill, Charanadari running north to south in the Deccan, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. These caves are the culmination of Deccan rock-cut architecture. Located about 28 km north west of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Ellora earlier known as Verul a tiny mountain village, has 34 rock-cut temples and monasteries, spanning a period of almost 400 years from the sixth to the tenth centuries AD.

Caves at Ellora spread over 2km long, open to the left of the cliff and represent three faiths  -Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In all, there are 34 cave temples numbered from south to north - 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves (550-750 AD), 17 Hindu caves (600-875 AD) and 5 caves of the Jain faith (800-1000 AD). 20 or more caves, dedicated to Lord Shiva, were recently discovered. The magnificent Kailash Temple at Cave 16, known as the world's largest monolithic sculpture, was sculpted out of a single rock by 7000 labourers over a 150 year period. 

A summary of the caves representing the three different faiths in Ellora are given below.

Ellora Caves - Buddhist Caves

The Buddhists first came to Ellora in the early 7th century AD when the Chalukyas ruled the Deccan plateau, and occupied the southernmost part of Ellora. 1 to 12 such caves were excavated under the early Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties between the 6th and the 8th centuries AD. The caves include Buddhist monasteries (viharas) and chapels (chaitya) where the monks worshipped. Eleven of them are viharas, except cave 10 which is a chaitya. These belong to the Vajrayan sect of the Mahayana School and contains some of the most impressive images of Buddha, carvings of Bodhisatvas and saints. The ceilings of the caves are carved and often painted with geometric designs, while walls and pillars carry narrative sculpture and murals pertaining to the life of the Buddha. 

Cave 1
It is the simplest vihara with no pillars or carving but remarkable for its austerity. This is the first monastery at the southern end of Ellora. There are four cells in the South and East walls around a 13 m square assembly hall. The cave is devoid of any carvings or sculptures and is believed to have served as a granary or storehouse.

Cave 2
Cave 2 has a hall for worship and is reached by a flight of steps. Images of goddess Panchika and Hariti are located at the end, to the right of this steps. At the entrance of the cave are dwarapalas (Guardians) flanked by windows. Next to it there is a profusion of figures of Buddha and divinities. 

The interior comprises a square hall supported by 12 ornate pillars some decorated with pot and foliage motifs on their upper part. This square hall is defined by fluted columns with cushion-shaped capitals. A gallery runs down each side. In the center of the back wall is a 3 m high seated Buddha and two standing Buddhas. The side walls have sculptures of  five Buddhas flanked by Bodhisatvas and apsaras (celestials). A similar but larger Buddha occupies the end shrine. Porches lead from the sanctuary to small side cells. The right porch displays a relief of the miracle at Sravasti when the Buddha manifested himself in a thousand forms.

Ellora Festival

The Ellora Festival, held annually in March, draws top classical Indian dancers and musicians from around the country to perform outdoors against the magical backdrop of the Ellora Caves.  
Click here for more details...

Contact Details :
Ellora Festival
Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (M T D C) 
9th Floor, Express Towers 
Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400021

Cave 3
Dating to the seventh century, Cave 3 have lofty pillared halls and a square central chamber with a carved Buddha image, seated on a lotus. Pot and foliage motifs adorn the columns of the hall.

Cave 4
This is a two storied vihara, but now mostly ruined. The lofty pillared halls have pot and foliage motifs.  It contains a Buddha image sitting under the Pipal Bodhi tree

Cave 5
Cave 5 is the largest among the Buddhist vihara's (117 ft by 56 ft) in Ellora. Entered at a higher level, this large single storied cave consists of a long hall divided into three aisles. Its roof is supported by 24 pillars. The two long rows of raised benches are carved out of the floor and was probably used as a classroom for young monks or as a dining hall. The porches in the middle of the side walls are flanked by small cells. Two rows of 10 pillars are delicately carved with medallions surrounded by exuberant foliage. There are attractive carvings on the first pillar on the left. The Buddha at the back is guarded on the left by Padmapani (symbol of purity) and on the right by Vajrapani (symbol of esoteric knowledge). The Buddha is shown seated, not in padmasana as is usual, but on a chair or stool. He demonstrates some of the 32 distinctive marks: three folds in the neck, long ear lobes and the third eye. 

Caves 6
This is a vihara dating from the 7th century. It has a rectangular columned hall with low stone benches and two smaller subsidiary chambers. The columns here have large pot and foliage capitals. A columned antechamber leads to a small shrine. Its walls are covered with Bodhisattva figures, andgoddesses Tara and Mahamayuri. The doorway of the shrine is carved with elaborate sculptures on the other side. On the left is 'Analokiteshwara' holding a lotus and a rosary in his hands, with a deer-skin draped on his left shoulder and on the right is the sculpture of Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning. Within the shrine is the figure of the seated Buddha, flanked by multiple smaller Buddhas, attendants and devotees. 

Cave 7
This is a simple hall with four plain pillars, 12 unfinished cells and a seated Buddha. 

Cave 8
Cave 8 has a shrine which juts out into the hall surrounded by a processional circular passageway on three sides. The passageway has three cells on the left, an incomplete columned gallery at the rear and two columns in the front. Sculptures of the Buddha, panchika and Hariti adorn the hall.

Cave 9
Cave 9 approached through the hall of cave 6, consists of an open terrace with a balcony and a shrine. The facade is enlivened with Buddhist deities and an unusual scene of Tara rescuing devotees from the perils of snake, sword, elephant, fire and shipwreck.

Cave 10
The 8th century Chaitya hall or 'Visvakarma' cave at Ellora is the most remarkable among the Buddhist caves. It is the only 'chaitya' hall among the group and is named after Vishvakarma, the patron God of the architects. 

The monastery is on the ground floor. At the end of the hall there are two galleries with square based pillars with a lion facing outwards at the foot.

Two highly carved chapels are on the back of these galleries. The main hall is large. A long frieze depicting a hunting scene appears above the brackets in the hall. The chamber has 28 columns, dividing it up into a nave and aisles. A stupa in the middle of the rear wall has a large figure of the seated Buddha accompanied by flying attendants and Bodhisattvas standing on either side. Over these, in the roof of the cave are carved the imitation wooden beams from which this cave also gets it's name of "Carpenter's Cave".

A flight of steps on the left of the verandah leads to the upper gallery with a parapet wall embellished with amorous couples and scroll work. The highly ornamental facade behind this gallery consists of a doorway flanked by a  three quarters circular Chaitya window motifs, flying celestials, a Bodhisattva with standing female attendants within a carved space, naga deities with coiled bodies and scroll work. On either side of the doorway, to the inner gallery there is a railing adorned with loving couples and maidens. There are naga queens, symbolic precursors of the monsoon, dwarfs dancing and playing musical instruments in bands of frieze above the pillars in the balcony.

Cave 11
The 8th century Cave 11 known as 'Do Tal' (two storied) is actually a three storied cave. Its ground floor was buried under debris and was only discovered in 1876. The lowest level of the cave is a verandah with a central shrine and  two cells with figures of the Buddha in the teaching position. The middle level has eight front pillars and five rear cells of which only the central three are completed and decorated. The completed three cells have images of the Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas. The upper level has a porch leading to a long columned hall with a Buddha shrine at the rear and a second sanctuary to the left. On the rear wall are images of the goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha, which suggest that this cave may have been later converted for worship by Hindus. 

Cave 12
The last in the series of Buddhist caves, Cave 12 or Tin Tala Cave is a monumental vihara of three stories architecturally excellent, with smooth and levelled floors and ceilings. The facade is rather plain with bare pillars and a large open court. The lowest floor consists of a long hall with three rows of columns. Small sleeping chambers enough to accommodate around 40 people are carved on the side wall. A Buddha shrine in the centre of the floor.  Steps from the southwest corner of the hall ascent to the third and uppermost floor which consists of a verandah, a hall with four rows of columns, an antechamber and a shrine adorned with sculptured panels. Five large Bodhisattvas flanked by attendants are carved on each of the side walls and seven meditating Buddhas flanked by flying figures are seen on each side of the entrance to the inner shrine. Within the antechamber, leading into the shrine, there is a relief panel with twelve goddesses seated on lotuses held by nagas. There are painted ceiling panels using mostly black and red colours. This cave dates to the Rashtrakuta period in the middle of the 8th century.

The Hindu excavations (Caves 13 to 29) overlap in time with the latter part of the Buddhist phase, showing the climate of tolerance and mutual respect between the faiths of the time. Hindu excavations are mostly Shaivite and are located centrally between the Buddhist and Jain caves.

Ellora Caves - Hindu Caves

The Hindu excavations (Caves 13 to 29) overlap in time with the latter part of the Buddhist phase, showing the climate of tolerance and mutual respect between the faiths of the time. Hindu excavations are mostly Shaivite and are located centrally between the Buddhist and Jain caves.

Cave 13
Cave 13 is the first in the series of Hindu caves at Ellora which lies in the centre of the group. It is a small plain room.consort; Durga defeating the buffalo demon, Shiva and Parvati playing chess, Siva dancing the Tandava, Ravana attempting to shake Mount Kailasa and Shiva spearing Andhaka. 

Cave 15 (Dasavatara)
Cave 15 locally known as "Dasavatara" (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) is truly one of the finest caves at Ellora. Dated to the period of the Rashtrakuta king, Dantidurga, this cave mainly depicts Lord Shiva in various forms. Begun as a Buddhist monastery it was later converted to a Shiva temple in the 8th century. The temple with a large courtyard is reached by a flight of steps. River goddess flank the entrance. Buddha sculptures can be seen on the capitals of the first floor.

A richly carved mandapa stand in the open court and the figures on the friezes are those that are repeated throughout the temples of this group. Many familiar scenes involving Shiva are here, including a mesmerising Shiva Nataraja, and Shiva emerging from the Lingam to rescue Markandeya. Some of the sculptures worth mentioning are the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Shiva and Parvati playing dice, spearing of Andhaka, Shiva receiving the river Ganga in his hair, Shiva's son Ganesha, figures of Parvati and musicians, and Lakshmi, Lakshmi bathed by elephants, Krishna raising the mount Govardhana, Several panels depict Vishnu - Resting on a five headed serpent, Vishnu is shown as the lion man or Narasimha destroying the demon Hiranyakashyap, Flying on Garuda, rescuing an elephant from a crocodile etc. 

Cave 16
Cave 16 the most impressive of all the caves at Ellora, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is known as the Kailasnath Temple. Excavated in the eighth and ninth centuries AD, this temple is the supreme masterpiece, hewn out of a monolith in the Dravidian style. Over 200,000 tonnes of stone were removed to carve the colossal temple, which took over a century to complete.

It is some 50 metres in length, 33 metres wide and 30 metres high. The fantastic edifice has been chiselled out by hand from a single rock with gateway, pavilion, courtyard, assembly hall, vestibule, shrines, pillars, panels - all these out of the same enormous rock. The world's largest monolithic structure, it is a treasure house of Hindu mythology. It is approximately twice the area of the Parthenon in Greece and one and half times as much in height.The entrance has goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna form the door jambs. Just inside is seated Vyasa, the legendary author of Mahabharata and Valmiki, to whom the Ramayan was ascribed. On each side of the gate are images of Kubera the god of wealth.Ganesh the elephant god for good luck and Durga complete the welcoming party. In the opposite antechamber is Lakshmi the goddess of wealth. In the two courtyards are free standing elephants. On the left round the corner is Kam a the god of desire, carrying his bow and 5 arrows one for each of the senses. On the far wall to the left is the Three River Goddesses - Ganga (center) symbolic of purity, Yamuna (left) symbol of devotion, and Saraswati (right) symbol wisdom. The two large monolith pillars are probably flag poles.

The west facing temple is raised on a solid basement sculpted with frontal torsos of elephants gathering lotus flowers. It is connected to the outer enclosure by a bridge. Around the enclosure are galleries, while towards the front are two large stone elephants with two massive flagstaffs flanking the Nandi pavilion, which faces the main shrine.

The exterior wall has a gateway in the middle that leads into a large courtyard 81m long and 47m wide and 33 m high at the back surrounding the main temple. The two staircases leading to the Mandapa of the main temple are carved with narrative friezes depicting episodes from the Hindu epics, the 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharta' and Krishna's birth punctuated by figures of flying celestials. The panels which adorn the lower story depict Shiva having destroyed the demon elephant dancing in triumph with the skin of the creature, the same god as Dakshinamurthi, and Ravana disturbing Shiva and Paravati seated in the mountain home. The upper storey Mandapa walls show, the vulture, Jatayu attacking Ravana, Shiva spearing Andhaka, the same god appearing out of the linga are among others. The outer walls of the sanctuary have icons of Shiva framed by pairs of pilasters supporting foliated makaras or arched motifs containing miniature temple towers, attendant maidens and amorous couples. In the subsidiary shrines are images of the goddesses Lakshmi and Durga among other deities.

The hall of the temple is entered through a doorway flanked by pairs of guardians with attendants. Inside is the yoni lingam, symbol of Shiva's creative power, Shiva in the scene of the descent of Gaga. 16 decorated columns inside the hall support a ceiling with Natraja painting. The sanctuary doorway is highly ornamented, with river goddesses at either side, the linga within stands on a circular pedestal. Opposite this, across the courtyard, is the hall of sacrifice. To the right of the gateway, is the Lankeshvara Temple with an image of Lakshmi on the wall of the intermediate landing. The west facing temple has a columned hall with balcony seating on two sides and a sanctuary surrounded by wall. The wall sculpted with elephant gathering lotus flowers in their trunks.

A seated Nandi image is set into a recess in the west wall. The sculptural scheme at Kailasa is elaborate. Guardians and river goddesses appear at the gateway of complex, while Durga (right) and Ganesha (left) flank the interior passageway .

Cave 17
Dated to the late 6th century, Cave 17 is partly incomplete. The cave is noteworthy for its decorated doorway and pillars. It is entered through a projecting porch. This leads to columned hall and a linga sanctuary with a surrounding passageway. The panels carved on the side walls are Ganesha and Durga and Vishnu.  

Caves 18, 19 & 20
These caves adhere to the usual pattern of traditional Hindu architecture and nothing great. 

Cave 21
Known as Rameshvara, the cave has noteworthy features. It is approached through a court with a stone Nandi bull on a plinth in the middle and side shrines. This cave believed to be among the earliest caves at Ellora. Female figures adorn the brackets of the verandah columns, erotic loving couples animate the balcony wall. A linga sanctuary leads off the verandah.  The goddesses Ganga, Yamuna and Parvati, and the gods Siva and Kartikeya, the marriage of Shiva and Parvati disturbed by Ravana, Shiva and Parvati playing dice with Nandi, Shiva as Nataraja, an image of divine rhythmic grace in a classic dance posture,  the seven Matrikas with Ganesha and Vibrabhadra, and skeletal kala and kali figure on the friezes.

Cave 22
Cave 22 is known as Nilkantha. This is notable for the free standing damaged Nandi shrine, and separate shrines for the Matrikas. 

Cave 23, 24, 26, 27, 28
There is nothing particularly notable in these caves. 

Cave 25
This cave depicts Surya, the sun god, with his chariot drawn by seven magnificent horses.

Cave 29
The earliest and last Hindu excavations to be completed at Ellora, this cave depicts the theme of Lord Shiva. Dated to late 6th century, cave 29 is said to be influenced by the pattern of the Elephanta caves near Bombay. These caves are also called "Dhumar Lena". Beyond that is the last Hindu Temple dedicated to Ganesha also known as "Ganesha Lena". 

Access is from three sides, there is a spacious hall. The columns of the hall have fluted shafts and cushion-shaped capitals. The four entrances of the shrine are guarded by  pairs of tall guardian figures with female attendants. A square shrine with a Shiva linga at the rear of the hall is detached from the walls. Large scale wall panels depict Shiva impaling Andhaka and the divine couple disturbed by Ravana, Nataraja and Lakulisha and the marriage of Shiva and Parvati in the presence of the gods, and the couple playing dice. River goddesses are positioned outside the north and south entrance. The Ganesha lena and Jogeshwari groups are located about 90m above cave 28. The last caves in Ganesha lena has traces of paintings Shiva emerging from a lingam and the scene of the churning of the ocean.

Ellora Caves - Jain Caves

The Jain group of caves which mark the final phase at Ellora belong to the period between the 9th century to 11th century AD. Situated about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, these caves figure various saints of the religion. There are only four Jain caves and they were excavated under the patronage of the later Rashtrakuta rulers. Compared to the other caves at Ellora, the Jain caves are relatively small, but  present exceptionally detailed art work.

Cave 30
This is the first in the series of Jain caves known as Chota Kailasa as it is an unfinished version of the stupendous Hindu Kailasa Temple. Inside are images of Twenty-two seated Tirthankaras and Mahavira Jain on his Lion throne is enshrined in the sanctuary.

Cave 31
This is an extension of Cave 32.

Cave 32
Known as the Assembly Hall of Indra, it is the largest and finest of the Jain temples dedicated to Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara. The ground floor is plain, but the upstairs has intricate carvings. A simple gateway lead into an open court, with its sides adorned with lions, elephant friezes and there is a monolithic shrine of the Tirthankaras in the middle. The walls have carvings of elephants, lions and tirthankaras. A double-storeyed temple is excavated into the rear side of the court. On the lower level is an unfinished Mandapa comprising incomplete cells. The upper storey has a similar columned Mandapa which is more complete. With a sanctuary in the middle of its rear wall.

Among the sculptures deserving special attention are Ambika, the mother goddess, with a child seated on her lap, a lion beneath and a spreading tree above. Other panels within the hall show Indra seated on the elephant, Mahavir flanked by guardians of earlier tirthankaras. The ceiling is richly carved with a massive lotus at the centre is the finest examples of this craftsmanship in the Ellora caves. Paintings on the ceiling of the upper Mandapa show couples and maidens flying through the clouds.

Cave 33
Similar to the cave 32  also called Jagannatha Sabha. This cave has well preserved sculptures, five independent shrines, each with a columned Mandapa and a sanctuary built on two levels.

Cave 34
The last in the series of Jain caves. This cave has a small shrine-situated at the extreme northern end which depicts the image of the Tirthankaras. The shrine door is carved with figures of Matanga, the Jain God of properity and Sidhaika, the Jain Goddess of generosity on either side. A seated figure of Mahavira is housed in the centre of the shrine. These caves show the ingenuity and the astonishing perseverance of the artisans to carve out marvelous figures in the steep mountainsides.

   






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