Ellora Caves Near Aurangabad


The Ellora caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra are one of the World Heritage Sites in India. The Ellora caves are one of the wonders of the time and speak volumes about the excellent craftsmanship of the Ellora artists, sculptors and painters. The structures at Ellora caves are not creation of a particular period but were built over a long period of time from the 6th century AD to 10th century. The structures at Ellora comprise of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples and monasteries. There are 34 caves at Ellora (12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves) and they demonstrate the religious tolerance prevalent during this period of Indian history.

Aurangabad is the nearest place to Ajanta and Ellora caves and it is feasible for every one to approach the caves from this place. The nearest Airport is Chikalthana, from where the two caves are at a mere distance of 127 and 27 kilometers. The road transport is the most suitable for the visitors and Aurangabad has a special service of air conditioner buses to Ajanta and Ellora caves. If you want to have a complete hassle free journey, you can also hire a car. These caves are open from Tuesday to Sunday and the timing is from 9 AM to 5 PM and remains closed on all national holidays. 
All the caves at Ellora face west and can be seen best in the afternoon. Though the Ellora caves are not much different from the Ajanta in terms of space and time but the Chaityas and Viharas of Ellora are architecturally and sculpturally quite different. It is interesting to note that the Ellora representations are earthier, taking elements from the Vajrayana school of Buddhism. It is the main reason why the dwarapalas, the gigantic Boddhisattavas and their consorts have lot of earthiness about them. The Ellora Caves are known more for their architectural skills rather than the sculptural aesthetics that Ellora is noted for.


The Buddhist caves are the earliest structures of Ellora. The Buddhist Caves at Ellora were created between the fifth and seventh centuries. Most of the Buddhist caves at Ellora consist of Viharas or monasteries. The Viharas are multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, etc. The most famous Buddhist cave is cave number 10. It is known as the "Carpenter's Cave".
 


The Hindu caves of Ellora were constructed in the beginning of the 7th century and represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. The Hindu temples were carved from top to down. Some of these temples are of such intricacy that they must have required several generations of planning and coordination. The centerpiece of Ellora is the Kailasa or Kailashanatha Temple. The Kailashanatha temple is an excellent example of Dravidian art. This temple was started by Krishna I (757- 773) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. This gigantic structure looks like a freestanding and multi-storeyed temple complex. The most fascinating thing about the Kailasanatha temple is that it was carved out of one single rock.

Other notable Hindu caves at Ellora include the Dasha Avatara cave, which depicts the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, and the Rameshvara cave, which has figurines of river goddesses at the entrance.The Jain caves at Ellora speak about Jain philosophy and tradition. The Jain Caves reflect a strict sense of asceticism and are not as large as the Buddhist or Hindu caves. An interesting example of this is the 32nd cave, a shrine with a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. An important thing about the Jain caves is that almost all the Jain caves are characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings.

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