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World Heritage Site

    Ellora Cave Temples (Aurangabad) - A World Heritage Site

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Aurangabad was an important seat of the Mughal Empire during the Mughal rule in India. The town holds a good number of Mughal architectural marvels making it an important historical destination of Maharashtra. The town is situated on the banks of the Kham River. The medieval monuments and cultural heritage, the silk and cotton textiles and its proximity to the famous world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora attract a good number of tourists towards it every year. Though the city looks calm and quiet with not much hum drum on the streets, it is an industrialised, competitive city making its own mark on the tourist and industrial map of India. It is also interesting to note that Aurangabad was formerly known as Khirki (meaning window) because of its strategic position that provided a window view of the Deccan plateau.

The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves are located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The cave shrines were all cut out of rock, by hand, and rank amongst some of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian architectural heritage. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta, 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. The view point from where John Smith first glimpsed the caves, provides a magnificent sight of the U-Shaped gorge and its scenic surroundings.

Ellora Caves

Ellora, is about 30 km from Aurangabad. 12 out of 34 caves are Buddhist (created from circa 600 – 800 A.D). most of the caves have courtyard in front.

The sculpture in the Buddhist caves accurately convey the nobility, grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen. The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed in the stupa. Its two-storied structure sports a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.

The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 is an architectural wonder, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith, the process taking over a century to finish. This mountain-abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. 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. Gigantic, though it is, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art. The Dumar Lena cave resembles the famous cave-temple at Elephanta, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The Jain caves are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple, amongst which Cave 32, 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, while Caves 32 and 34 contain grand statues of Parasnath. The other Jain caves sport the images of Tirthankaras, and one of them, also, has a seated figure of Mahavira.

These cave shrines are memorable for their invaluable contribution to the enormous wealth of Indian heritage.

Follow the details:

Cave 1) A simple monastery.

Cave 2) Adjoining is reached by a flight of steps. At the door windows the interior comprises hall supported by 12 pillars, some decorated with the pot. And a foliage motif. In the center of the back wall is a 3m high seated Buddha are two standing Buddha while along each other of the side wall are five Buddha's accompanied by Bodh
isattavas and celestial nymps.

Cave 3) Similar to cave 2 having a square central chamber with the Buddha image, this time seated on a lotus. A lotus. Around the walls are 12 meditation cells.

Cave 4) two storeyed and contains a Buddha sitting under the Pippal tree.

Cave 5) The Mahawarda is the just largest of the single storeyed caves in the group (17.6m by 36mm). there are very attractive carving on the first pillars on the left. The Buddha at the back is guarded on the left by Padampani (lotus bearer), a symbol of purity. On the right is Vajrapani holding a thunderbolt, the symbol of esoteric knowledge and the popular diety of the sect responsible for creating the caves. The Buddha is seated not cross-legged on the floor as is usual, but on a chair or stool. He demonstrate some of the 32 distinctive marks: three folds in the neck, ong ear lobes and the third eye.

The next four caves can be bypassed as they contains nothing new.

Cave 10) or the carpenters cave is the only chaitya cave in the group. It was a monastery. This is on the ground floorand above are presumed to have been the living quarter of the monks. In the front is a large courtyard approached by a flight of steps. The galleries around it have a square based pillars at the foot of which was a loin facing outwards. At the back of these galleries are two elaborately carved chapels. The exterior decoration gives the impression that instead of stone, wood was the building material.

The main hall is large (26m by 13m, 10m high). The curved flutted beams suggest to some the upturned hull of a ship. The chamber has 28 coloum, each with a vase and foliage capital, dividing it up into a nave and aisles. The aisles runs round the decorated stupa with a colossal 4.5 m preaching Buddha carved in front of it. The upper gallery reached by a internal flight of steps, was supposed to have subsidiary shrines at either and but the left hand one was no finished. Decorating the walls are loving couples, indicating how much Budhism is changed from its early ascetic days.

Cave 11) this cave was found to have third storey in 1876 when the basement was discovered. The upper level has a porch opening into a long colonnaded hall with Buddha shrine at the rear.

Cave 12) ( Tin Thal-Three Stroyed) has cells for sleepingon the lower floor but in the figures Buddha which are particular interest. The rows of the seven Buddha are symbolic of the belief that he appears on earth every 5000 years and has already visited it seven time.

Cave 13) is plain room while cave 14 is single storeyed and the last of the collection from the early period. River Goddess and guardian stand at the doorway while inside is a broken image of Durga and figurative panels on the walls of the principle dietes, Vishnu Shiva and Parvati.

Cave 15) (Das avatars, mid-eighth century), reached by a flight of steps, has a large courtyard and is two-storeyed.

Kailasanatha Temple is mid-eighth century onwards. This the most magnificent of all the rock-cut structure at Ellora, and is completely open to the elements. It is the only building that has begun from the top. Carved out of 85,000 cubic meter of rock, the design and execution of the full temple plan is an extraordinary triumph of imagination and craftsmanship. Excavating three deep trenches into the rock, carving started from the top of the cliff and worked down to the base. The main Shrine was carved on what became the upper storeyas the lower floor was cut out below. It is attributed to the Rashtrakuta king Dandidurga (725-755 AD) and must have taken years to complete. Mount Kailash Himalaya. Its distinctive pyramidal shape, its isolation from other mountain, and the appearance to the discerening eye of a swastika etched by snow and ice on its rock face, imbued the the mountain with great religios significance to Hindu and Buddhist alike.

 

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