Ellora for the Madras Presidency, John Smith of the

Ellora is one of the largest rock cut monastery
temple caves complexes in the world. It is located nearly thirty kilometers
away from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Mainly Ellora is locally known
as Verul Leni. It is also known as Elura or Elapura. The name Ellora represents
one of the largest rock hewn monstic temple in the whole world. Besides, it is
also the world famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the
world. During the monsoon, the whole environment becomes lush green and the
local visitors are attracted to the areas to have a glimpse of the Mother
Nature in full bloom. It has become the UNESCO World Heritage Site. On 28 April
1819, a British office for the Madras Presidency, John Smith of the 28th
cavalry, while hunting tiger, accidentally discovered the entrance to cave no
10 deep within the tangled underground.

The site features over 100 caves, of which 34 caves
are open to public. These were excavated out of the vertical basalt cliff in
the Charanandri hills. These consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1-12), 17 Hindus
(caves 13-29) and 5 Jain (caves 30-34) caves. Cave 10 are Viharas (monasteries)
which were used for meditation, study, eating and sleeping. However, Cave 29
were built by the Shiva inspired Kalachuri dynasty, while Buddhist caves were
built by the Chalukiya dynasty. The later, Hindu caves and early Jain Caves
were built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty, while the last Jain Caves were built by
the Yadava dynasty, while had also sponsored other Jain Caves temple. The
Brahmanical movement was especially powerful under the dynasty of Chalukiya and
Rashtrakuta kings.

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Cave 1 is a plain Buddhist temple with eight small
monastic cells, served as a granary for the larger halls.

Cave 2 is much more attractive. There is a large
central chamber with 12 great square pillars and lined with sculptures of
seated Buddhas. In the inside the shrine is a stately seated Buddha on a lion

Cave 3 and Cave 4 are designed as Cave 2. They are
in poor condition now.

Cave 5 was used by the local Mahar tribes people as
a shelter during the monsoon period and that’s why it is called Maharwada Cave.
There is a shrine Buddha who is seated on a stool with his right hand,touching
the ground in the Earth Witness gesture.

Cave 6 was curved in the 600s. On the left side
there is a goddess named Tara, with an intense but kind expression. At the
opposite of her, on the right side there is Buddhist goddess named Mahamayuri,
the goddess of learning, shown with her attribute, the peacock.

Cave 10 is known as the Carpenter’s Cave because of
its imitation in stone of wooden beams on the ceiling. Buddha is also enthroned
in front of a large stone stupa.

Cave 11 is known as the Dho Tal or Two Floors cave.
The top floor is like long assembly hall. It has both- the Buddha shrine and
images of Durga and Ganesh.

Cave 12 is known as Tin Tal or Three floors cave. It
has also an impressive upper hall. The walls of the shrine room are lined with
five large bodhisttavas and is bounded by seven Buddhas.

Cave 14 found
the early 600s and was converted from a Buddhist temple. The long walls are
designed magnificently and the entrance is guarded by the river goddess Ganga
and Yamuna.

Cave 15 is
also a former Buddhist cave which is adopted by the Hindus. The ground floor looks
not perfect, but the top floor has some of the best sculpture at that showing
five of Vishnu’s ten incarnations or avatars. That’s why the cave is named asDas Avatara.

The most notable Hindu cave Cave 16which is a magnificent temple carved from the solid rock.
It represents Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, and is called the Kailashnath, Kailash, or Kailasa Temple.

Cave 21,
the Ramesvara, dates from
the late 500s and it is considered as the oldest Hindu cave at Ellora. It
houses some fine sculpture, including a pair of river goddesses.

Cave 25 features
a sculpture of the sun god Surya who driving his chariot towards the dawn.

Cave 29,
which is known as the Dhumar Lena.
In the left side, Shiva slays the Andhaka demon, then defeats many-armed
Ravana’swho attempted to shake him and Parvati off the top of Mount Kailash.

The most notable of the group is Cave 32, the Indra Sabha, a miniature of the
Kailash Temple. The bottom level is plain, with a lotus flower on the ceiling.


The construction at Ellora has been studied since
British colonial rule. Estimates say around 400,000 tons of rock was removed,
but what is more shocking is that it was completed in 18 years. That is
equivalent to 5 tons of rock removed per hour. The temple also has the largest
cantilevered rock ceiling in the world. Most famous the Buddhist caves is cave
10, a worship hall called Vishvakarma cave. Beyond its multi-storey entry is a sanctuary
like stupa hall which is known as prayer house. Near the cave 32, we can still
see the channels through which the volcanic lava once flowed. These basalt
rocks are ideal material for the kind of architecture and craftsmanship that
the Ellora represents.

It is said Aurangazeb one of the Mughal rulers tried
to completely destroy the Ellora caves and it went on for several years but
failed miserabely at it as the task was humongous. Ellora caves is an
engineering marvel which highlights the advancements of the Indian Civilization
back then. It is impossible to comprehend even the sheer scale of this project
even today. Irrespective of religion this is Indian’s history. We should
respect each other for our accomplishments.A brief account on the architectural
splendour and artistic expressions of various caves is given here for enabling
one to understand the real character and importance of this wonderful place.