Ellora Caves are one of the most famous caves of India, located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. It is situated just 28 km away from its district headquarters. In 1983, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ellora Caves stretches over two kilometers and exhibits 34 monasteries and temples that were gouged out from a high basalt cliff.
Ellora is an eccentric historical site as it features a continuous chain of monuments right from 600 AD to 1000 AD. These caves gives you a visualization about the ancient civilization of India in a way that’s truly gripping and is the best depiction of the unique rock-cut architecture that Indians artisans excelled in, many centuries ago.
Ellora is one of the largest rock-cut temple complexes in the entire world. The Ellora, has the unique distinction of remaining a part of the culture and tradition right from the time it came into being. Unlike other similar complexes, Ellora was never rediscovered.
Records in historical archives point out that the famous rulers and prominent names in Indian history visited here from time to time, for experiencing the charm and beauty of this place. The earliest visit recorded is that of an Arab traveler named Al Masudi, a scholar from the 10th century A.D. The visit of Sultan Hasan Bah-Mani in 1352 A.D led to massive renovations to the caves. Then, the Holkars conquered the caves during the 19th century A.D. They later auctioned it for the right of worship and leased them for religious programs and collected entrance fees. Later, it came under the control of the Nizams of Hyderabad. They were the true visionaries who carried out extensive repairs, renovations and maintenance of the caves under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). After the end of Princely States system, the caves are now conserved by the ASI and are a protected monument.
Unlike the Ajanta caves, the Ellora Caves are home to various carvings and artifactsrelating to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. They consist of beautiful sculptures and monuments dedicated to Lord Buddha, Lord Vishwakarma, yakshas and musicians.
The Ellora Caves are the finest specimens of cave-temple architecture. The 17 caves (Cave 13-29) in the center are dedicated to Hinduism, the 12 caves (Cave 1-12) to the south are dedicated to Buddhists and 5 caves (Cave 30-34) to the north are dedicated to Jainism The sculptures accurately convey the warmth, nobility and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Although all the caves in Ellora are picturesque architectural wonders, but the Kailash Cave Temple is the most famous and popular temple which consists of awe-inspiring sculptures of Lord Shiva and can be rightly called as the “Jewel in the Crown”. It is believed to be the largest monolithic excavation in the world and has been carved out totally from a single rock. It represents Mount Kailasa, the home of the Lord Shiva in the Himalayas. It is said to have taken 7,000 laborers and as much as 150 years to complete this marvelous structure. It also shows a man’s determination when his mind, heart and hands work in unison towards the fulfillment of a holy task. The twelve caves of the Buddhist group are lined up from south to north and are believed to be the oldest of all and consist of several monasteries. The largest cave is numbered 10. The best cave inside the complex is said to be that of the Brahmin group followed by the Cave of the Ten Avatars and the Kailasa Temple which is a colossal complex, probably built during the reign of Krishna.
The monasteries of the Jainism created by the Digambhara sect during 800 AD to 1000 AD are also the major point of attraction. The Jain caves is said to be the last set to be extracted here. The sculptures here are clearly inspired by the art form, which already existed in the Ellora complex. Ellora Caves gives the testimony to the fact that the three religions namely Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhists lived in divine harmony for a very long period of time.
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