Ellora Caves - A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ellora Caves is a popular tourist location in India.The Ellora caves located about 30 kilometres from Aurangabad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its extraordinary architecture. These caves aren't natural caves but man made temples cut into a massive granite hillside built by generations of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks. Ellora Caves consists of 34 cave temples ( 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves dating back to 550-750 AD, 17 Hindu caves dating back to 600-875 AD and 5 caves of the Jain faith dating back to 800-1000 AD) dating from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD. The Kailasa Temple (cave16) is the most remarkable of all and the jewel in the crown.
The Caves of Ellora are a mixture of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu cultures. The most incredible thing about Ellora caves is the fantastic rock cut sculptures crafted by hand, with only a hammer and chisel. The caves at Ellora were remained shrouded in obscurity for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819.
How to reach Ellora Caves?
Ellora Caves is roughly 300 kilometres north east of Mumbai and about 30 kilometres from Aurangabad in Maharashra. Ellora Caves is a 45 minutes journey from Aurangabad railway station. One can also travel by air as there is an airport in Aurangabad. Ellora Caves is also well connected by road as well.
Visitor Timings & Entrance Fees for Ellora Caves
Timings Ellora caves are opened to tourists on all days (even national holidays) except Tuesdays. The timings for visitors are 9 AM to 5.30 PM.The best time to visit Ellora Caves is from November to March when it's cooler and dry. Entry to Ellora caves is free except for Kailasa temple which charges $US 5 for foreign tourists. However, entry is free for Children lesser than 15 years.
Artistic Excellence of Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves is reknowned for is excellent architecture. I am giving details of some caves no tourist should miss when visiting Ellora Caves. The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder which took over a century to finish. Carved to represent Mt. Kailasa, the home of the Lord Shiva in the Himalayas, it is the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved top-down from a single rock and contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world. What is amazing about it, is the fact that unlike other temple structures which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides.
Cave 2 houses images of Panchika, the god of wealth, and Hariti, the goddess of prosperity and figures of the Buddha and other divinities. Cave 5 has a central shrine is carved with Bodhisattvas bedecked with intricate headgear and jewellery.In the shrine is a figure of the seated Buddha. Cave 6 has a small shrine covered with figures of the Boddhisattva and the goddesses Tara and Mahamayuri, the buddist goddess of learning. Within the shrine is the figure of the seated Buddha, flanked by multiple smaller Buddhist figures, attendants and devotees on the side walls. Cave 8 is the only monastery at Ellora where the sanctum is isolated from the rear wall, with a circular passage around it. Sculptures of the Buddha adorn the hall. Cave 9 consists of an open terrace with a balcony and a shrine housing figures of Buddhist divinities.
Cave 10 or Vishvakarma Cave marks the culmination of Chaitya architecture in India. The hall has porticos on three sides, raised on a basement carved with animals.A flight of steps in the verandah leads to the upper gallery flanked by Chaitya window motifs, flying celestials, and Bodhisattvas with female attendants. A large figure of the Buddha , in the teaching position, is carved on to the front of the central Stupa accompanied by flying attendants and Bodhisattvas. Cave 11 or Do Tal (two storeys) is A three-storeyed excavation dating back to the 8th century. It so happened that the name mistakenly given to this cave when its ground floor was buried under debris. The lowest level has two cells and a central sanctuary with figures of the teaching Buddha.The intermediate level have images of the Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas. The uppermost level has a long columned hall with a shrine in the centre. On the rear wall are images of the goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha.
The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave - temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This cave is one of the earliest escavated in Ellora.Cave 32 is which is about a mile away from the Kailasa temple is Jain influenced and houses a beautiful shrine adorned with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof and a yakshi on a lion under a mango tree and has statue of Parasnath.
Places of interest near Ellora Caves
© 2008 Anamika S Jain