Indra Sabha Cave Temple, Ellora

Indra Sabha Cave Temple, Ellora


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Ellora &ndash Cave 6

Proceeding from Cave 5, we enter a hall with a stair landing in it from the cave below. This hall, of which the left side is entirely gone, is 25 feet deep and 28 feet wide. On the right side, there are three cells, and on the back, has been separated from a still larger and a very lofty hall by two pillars and their corresponding pilasters, of which only one pillar and pilaster remain. The central hall was 25 feet wide and around 45 feet deep, exclusive of the ante-chamber at its right end, cut off by two pillars and their pilasters, as was another hall at the back 27 feet by 29, similar to that in front, with three cells and as many as in the right all with very high steps.

The ante-chamber in front of the shrine is filled with sculpture. On on the back is a female dressed exactly in the garb of Padmapani, who is the gigantic dwarapala on the north side of the shrine door. On the left end is a similar female figure with a peacock at her left hand. below is a pundit reading. This is supposed to represent Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Some representations attribute this figure to Pandara or Padmani, the sakti of Amitabha and the mother of Padmapani. Over the panel is a makara torana, which is very unique for a Buddhist cave. The dwarapalas are tall and carefully cut, with foilate over their heads and attendants beside them. A female stands between each and the door. The door is lofty and boldly cut.

In the shrine, is a large image of Buddha seated, with the usual attendants. On the side walls are three rows, containing each three Buddhas with their feet turned up while below them on each side are worshippers and others.  On the right side of the shrine is a panel containing three figures on lotus seats. The left one may easily be identified as Avalokiteswara with the lotus and rosary and the deerskin over his shoulder also a figure of Amitabha Buddha on the front of his head-dress. Whom the other two figures represent is not clear. he central one is very fat and holds what resembles a small book in his left hand, and some round object in his right, while his head-dress is unlike any other. He has rich armlets, heavy earrings, a necklace and janvi. The third figure holds a small flower in his right hand, wears a high head-dress, a necklace, long ear pendants, armlets, bracelet, and a thick cord worn as a janvi. Probably this is Manjushri. All three have aureoles behind their heads.

On the left side wall of the same room is a similar compartment, which contains first, to the right, a male figure with headdress, earrings, necklace, and janvi on bended knees, and attended by a female presenting an offering. Behind him is a female figure, probably his wife, also with rich turban and enormous earrings, on her knees and with her hands in the attitude of adoration. She is attended by a female dwarf, who bears a box or tray with presents, and over her head is a bird apparently placed as a sort of cognizance. Behind the female again, bends on one knee is a male figure with necklace and janvi, holding something like a large bag or purse. Close to him is an elephant’s head and fore-foot, with a small figure representing the driver leaning over his brow. This must be intended to represent some wealthy family making an offering to the cave or its priest it may be a price with is wife and manager.

On the north side of the front hall a passage divided from a balcony or small cave by two pillars is the only way of access to a shrine which I would be disposed to call it the Cave 9.


Indra Sabha Cave

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Ellora &ndash Cave 4

The next four or five caves are somewhat difficult to arrange satisfactorily. It is not easy to say how many of the apartments were separate caves, how many belonged to one. We shall, however, take first the lower floor of the next group as Cave 4.

This cave is much ruined, the whole of the outer half of it having disappeared. It measures around 35 feet wide and 40 feet deep up to two pillars with pilasters with capitals having drooping florid ears, the shafts being square below and the necks having 32 flat flutes, behind which is a cross aisle. The entrance is by means of a side door facing the south.

At the left end, is a prominent figure of Padmapani seated like a Buddha, with a high head-dress, a small image of Buddha as a crest on the front of it, and his locks hanging down upon his shoulders, a deer skin upon his left shoulder, a mala or rosary in his right hand, and clasping a lotus to his left thigh. He is attended by two females, one on his right hand with a rosary, and the other holding a flower bud. Above the first is a standing Buddha or Bodhisattva and over the latter Buddha, seated cross legged on a lotus (abhaya mudra) with his right hand raised and the left down in the attitude of blessing. This scene is extremely rare where Padmapani is larger than Buddha.

The back wall is pierced with doors to two cells and the shrine. The dwarapalas are carved with elaborate head-dresses, and a dwarf stands between each and the door. In the shrine Buddha is seated in the usual teaching attitude with a nimbus behind his head and the sacred Bodhi tree rising from behind it. The attendants in this case stand behind the throne, and are carved in bas-relief. The tall attendant on his left is richly dressed, and with a janvi across his breast. The other is destroyed.

In a cell on the south side of this cave is some sculpture. The left side of it is broken away, and is now blocked by a mass of rock that has slipped down from above. The figures are principally Buddha with attendants, and a female with rosary etc. but to the west of the door is a Padmapani, and half of what is already described in the last cave as a sort of litany, only that there are two supplicants in each case, and that a smaller flying figure of Padmapani is represented before each group.

We shall now visit the next cave, the biggest vihara in all the Buddhist Caves in Maharashtra.


Cave 33 & Cave 34

At a distance of 1.4 km from Kailasanath Temple and 1.5 km from Ellora Caves Bus Stop, Cave 33 is also a Jain cave situated just beside the Indra Sabha (Cave 32) in Ellora. Cave 33 is one of the popular Jain Caves in Ellora.

There are five Jain Caves at Ellora belong to the 9th and 10th centuries AD. They all belong to the Digambara sect. Jain Caves reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. These caves reflect a strict sense of asceticism - they are not relatively large as compared to others, but they present exceptionally detailed art works. The most remarkable Jain shrines are the Chhota Kailash (Cave 30), the Indra Sabha (Cave 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (Cave 33). Cave 31 is an unfinished four-pillared hall and a shrine. Cave 34 is a small cave, which can be approached through an opening on the left side of Cave 33.

Cave 33, also known as Jagannatha Sabha, is the second largest in the Jain group of caves at Ellora. The court of the cave is much smaller than the Indra Sabha which contained some well-preserved sculptures. Cave 33 has five independent shrines, each with a columned mandapa and a sanctuary built on two levels. The hall has two heavy square pillars in front and four in the middle area. The shrine has carvings of Mahavira with Parsvanatha on the left and Gomata on the right. Indra occupies the left end of the verandah and Indrani on the right.

Cave 34 is the last in the series of Jain Caves. This cave has a small shrine situated at the extreme northern end which depicts the image of the Tirthankaras. The shrine door is carved with figures of Matanga, the Jain God of prosperity and Sidhaika, the Jain Goddess of generosity on either side. A seated figure of Mahavira is housed in the center of the shrine.


Indra Sabha Cave Temple, Ellora - History

The Kailash Temple (Cave 16) is arguably the most famous one of all 34 caves at Ellora. My previous post was about the marvelous Buddhist ones, but wow, this Hindu site is remarkable!

Base of the main temple, Ellora Cave 16

Built in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I , 756-783 C.E., i t is the most advanced excavation . An enormous Brahmanical complex, its most unrivaled feature is the free standing main temple in the center.

Did you read that right? Yes, you did! This “cave” has an open courtyard with a free-standing centerpiece, which entailed an ambitious, massive vertical excavation of incalculable tons of rock by approximately, I read, 17,000 laborers over the course of about 100 years. Vertical means that the structure was created by carving from top to bottom to realize this multi-level Dravidian-styled temple. What a feat! This magnificent cave is probably the largest excavation in the world measuring 276 feet long x 154 feet wide x 107 feet high.

What’s more, the complex is surrounded on three sides by colonnaded walkways three stories high with extensive overhang. There are huge carved panels there and alcoves with enormous sculptures of Brahman deities.

Panoramic view of Kailash Temple from the colonnaded walkway, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

View of colonnade walkway near back of Kailash Temple. Visible at right is the extended overhang.

View down the length of colonnaded walkway, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Kailash Temple, as its name suggests, is intended to recall the sacred Mount Kailash. This Himalayan mountain is an abode of Lord Shiva , and Ellora Cave 16 is dedicated to him.

Kailash is incidentally located in Tibet, and is one of holiest of the holy mountains for both Hindus and Buddhists alike. A pilgrimage there and circumambulating its base earns one great spiritual merit.

Left: Mount Kailash north face. Right: Mount Kailash south face, Tibet. Kailash Temple, as its name suggests, is intended to recall the sacred Mount Kailash. This Himalayan mountain is an abode of Lord Shiva, and Ellora Cave 16 is dedicated to him.

In my earlier Fulbright travels, I went to three other places in the Lahaul region of the Indian Himalayas that were also revered by both Hindus and Buddhists–Drilbu Ri Mountain, which I climbed to reach its 15,000 foot summit, Phakba, and Markul Devi Temple. I really admire that there has been a long history of mutual respect and shared reverence between these two indigenous major religions in India.

In addition to the expansive colonnaded walkways, within the courtyard of Ellora Cave 16 there are two other main structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, the first is the Nandi Temple at the entrance. I actually missed seeing the sacred bull within in because I was mesmerized by the rest of the “cave” and just kept walking on!

The entrance and two-storied Nandi Mantapa or pavilion, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Side santuary within the courtyard near entrance of Ellora Cave 16. To its right is the beginning of the arcade that surrounds three sides of the complex

Upon entering through the Nandi paviion, you are greeted by Gajalakshmi, the goddess Lakshmi surrounded by elephants on a lotus pond, Ellora Cave 16

The second structure is the main Kailash temple. Its base is carved with graceful life-sized elephants, lions, and mythological figures.

Graceful elephants standing at attention appear to uphold the base of Kailash Temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Visitors circumambulate the main temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Walking up to main temple, Ellora Cave 16. Traces of a formerly painted ceiling are visible.

Entrance to main temple, Ellora Cave 16. Traces of painted facade can be seen on pilaster and elsewhere.

Upon entering, I feasted my eyes on the impressive intricacy of its interior. The central hall was richly carved. Everything, from its niches, pilasters, deities, figures, columns, etc., are ornamented. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu).

Interior of main temple looking towards the inner sanctum, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Detail of carved column, main temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

The inner sanctum contains a large lingam, representative of Lord Shiva. Devotees leave offerings of flowers, money, candles and other objects.

Lastly, there is a significant sculpture at Ellora Cave 16 of Ravana, principle antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana, attempting to lift the abode of Lord Shiva, Mount Kailash, with all his might. It’s an unusual and expressive composition.

The Jain group of caves number 30-34, and they were the last to be excavated, circa 800-100 C.E. I was struck by Cave 32, also known as Indra Sabha, because it’s similar to Cave 16. It also features a central free-standing temple inside a courtyard, as well as Dravidian gate, and monolithic elephant sculpture by the entrance . Though smaller in scale, there are details of this cave that surpass its predecessor.

Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

For example, the carved details and the unique designs of the columns on the second floor of the main temple truly outdo even the ornately decorated columns of Kailash Temple. They are massive in size and are carved in high relief. Some look like urns with draped garlands.

Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor, looking towards inner sanctum

Detail of column, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor

Detail of column, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor, India

Indra Sabha is actually a collection of shrines dedicated to the revered Mahavira, the 23rd tirthankara .

Inner sanctum with Mahavira statue, Ellora Cave 32, second floor, India

Mahavira (ca. 540-468 B.C.E.) was a contemporary of Buddha. The two had remarkably similar experiences and teachings. Like Buddha, Mahavira was born into a royal family. At the age of 30, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening. Through ascetic practices for over twelve years, he achieved enlightenment. He traveled all over India for another 30 years to teach his philosophy, based on ahimsa (causing no injury through one’s deeds, words, or thoughts–which corresponds to Buddhist notions of body, speech, and mind) satya (absolute truth, like Buddhist right view) asteya (not stealing, or as Buddhists phrase it, not taking what is not freely given) brahmacharya (spiritual study, practice, and abstinence, similar to Buddhist monastic vows) and aparigraha (non-grasping or non-possessiveness, which forms part of the Buddhist idea of non-attachment and egolessness.) Mahavira attained nirvana after his physical death at the age of 72.

Jain depictions of Mahavira are also remarkably similar in appearance to Buddhist images of Buddha. With one key difference: Jain deities of the Digambara sect are nude .

When I saw Mahavira in an inner sanctum, I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the anatomical accuracy of his nudity. (The sacred art tells it like it is!)

But it’s not only Jain deities. The yogis, too. It reminded me of an anecdote the Dalai Lama told, and it goes something like this:

Once, at a ceremony in India, he found himself seated next to a Jain yogi who was stark naked. The Dalai Lama, shocked, had looked him up and down. “He just showed—everything! All of his things were right there!” He couldn’t help but keep looking at the yogi, but not because of his “thing.” Because he was so impressed with the intensity and forthrightness of this man’s practice! And so, the Dalai Lama got down on his knees and touched his forehead to the yogi’s knee as a sign of respect for him and his dedication to contemplative practice.

Gomateshwara, Ellora Cave 32

Pictured above is the revered Gomateshwara, also known as Bahubali.

Detail of Gomateshwara, Ellora Cave 32

Below is the 23rd tirthankara, Parsvanatha, with his characteristic snake hood.

Parsvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara of Jainism, side wall, Ellora Cave 32

Parsvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara of Jainism, with his characteristic snake hood, side wall, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple

Mahavira is usually flanked by his attendant deities, Indra on an elephant and Ambika on a lion. I found these two carvings especially well done.

Indra riding on an elephant, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

Ambika riding on a lion, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

So there you have it…Ellora Caves–what a revelation in artistic and architectural excavation!


Located in the Sahyadri hills near Aurangabad, Ellora is the most important second-wave site of ancient rock-cut architecture in India. In the western face of one hill, composed of volcanic Basalt rock, there are 35 caves and rock-cut temples, largely produced during the reign of the Kalachuri dynasty in the 6th and 7th centuries CE.

The earliest cave, the Hindu Ramesvara (no. 21), dates to the 6th century CE. Typical of early Hindu temples there is an inner sanctum (garbhagriha), a circumambulatory corridor for worshippers to walk around, vestibules with double porticoes, and extensive decoration via high-relief friezes and carvings depicting scenes from the Puranas sacred texts. Cave 21 has carved river goddesses on the exterior, a Nandi sculpture at the entrance and inside are both a large dancing Shiva surrounded by musicians and Durga slaying the buffalo demon king. Other points of interest are the use of couple figures for brackets (salabhanjikas) as well as reliefs of elephants and mithuna (lover) figures.

A map of the caves and temples at Ellora, in Maharastra, central India. The structures are Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain. 6th-8th century CE / Wikimedia Commons

The Dhumar Lena cave (no. 29) seems to replicate the famous cave at Elephanta suggesting a connection between Ellora and the Kalachuris. The figure brackets of cave 21 are additional evidence of a cultural link between the two sites.

The Ravana-ka-Khai cave (no. 14) was probably dedicated to a Hindu goddess. It has a wide walk-around passage and colonnaded hall leading to the inner sanctum. The interior walls are decorated with five relief panels, separated by ornate pilasters, and showing show figures of Shiva and Vishnu.


Wow! The Kailash Temple of Ellora Caves, Plus Indra Sabha, Nudity, and the Dalai Lama

The Kailash Temple (Cave 16) is arguably the most famous one of all 34 caves at Ellora. My previous post was about the marvelous Buddhist ones, but wow, this Hindu site is remarkable!

Base of the main temple, Ellora Cave 16

Built in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I , 756-783 C.E., i t is the most advanced excavation . An enormous Brahmanical complex, its most unrivaled feature is the free standing main temple in the center.

Did you read that right? Yes, you did! This “cave” has an open courtyard with a free-standing centerpiece, which entailed an ambitious, massive vertical excavation of incalculable tons of rock by approximately, I read, 17,000 laborers over the course of about 100 years. Vertical means that the structure was created by carving from top to bottom to realize this multi-level Dravidian-styled temple. What a feat! This magnificent cave is probably the largest excavation in the world measuring 276 feet long x 154 feet wide x 107 feet high.

What’s more, the complex is surrounded on three sides by colonnaded walkways three stories high with extensive overhang. There are huge carved panels there and alcoves with enormous sculptures of Brahman deities.

Panoramic view of Kailash Temple from the colonnaded walkway, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu View of colonnade walkway near back of Kailash Temple. Visible at right is the extended overhang. View down the length of colonnaded walkway, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

Kailash Temple, as its name suggests, is intended to recall the sacred Mount Kailash. This Himalayan mountain is an abode of Lord Shiva , and Ellora Cave 16 is dedicated to him.

Kailash is incidentally located in Tibet, and is one of holiest of the holy mountains for both Hindus and Buddhists alike. A pilgrimage there and circumambulating its base earns one great spiritual merit.

Left: Mount Kailash north face. Right: Mount Kailash south face, Tibet. Kailash Temple, as its name suggests, is intended to recall the sacred Mount Kailash. This Himalayan mountain is an abode of Lord Shiva, and Ellora Cave 16 is dedicated to him.

In my earlier Fulbright travels, I went to three other places in the Lahaul region of the Indian Himalayas that were also revered by both Hindus and Buddhists–Drilbu Ri Mountain, which I climbed to reach its 15,000 foot summit, Phakba, and Markul Devi Temple. I really admire that there has been a long history of mutual respect and shared reverence between these two indigenous major religions in India.

In addition to the expansive colonnaded walkways, within the courtyard of Ellora Cave 16 there are two other main structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, the first is the Nandi Temple at the entrance. I actually missed seeing the sacred bull within in because I was mesmerized by the rest of the “cave” and just kept walking on!

The entrance and two-storied Nandi Mantapa or pavilion, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu Side santuary within the courtyard near entrance of Ellora Cave 16. To its right is the beginning of the arcade that surrounds three sides of the complex Upon entering through the Nandi paviion, you are greeted by Gajalakshmi, the goddess Lakshmi surrounded by elephants on a lotus pond, Ellora Cave 16

The second structure is the main Kailash temple. Its base is carved with graceful life-sized elephants, lions, and mythological figures.

Graceful elephants standing at attention appear to uphold the base of Kailash Temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu Visitors circumambulate the main temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu Walking up to main temple, Ellora Cave 16. Traces of a formerly painted ceiling are visible. Entrance to main temple, Ellora Cave 16. Traces of painted facade can be seen on pilaster and elsewhere.

Upon entering, I feasted my eyes on the impressive intricacy of its interior. The central hall was richly carved. Everything, from its niches, pilasters, deities, figures, columns, etc., are ornamented. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu).

Interior of main temple looking towards the inner sanctum, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu Detail of carved column, main temple, Ellora Cave 16, Hindu

The inner sanctum contains a large lingam, representative of Lord Shiva. Devotees leave offerings of flowers, money, candles and other objects.

Lastly, there is a significant sculpture at Ellora Cave 16 of Ravana, principle antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana, attempting to lift the abode of Lord Shiva, Mount Kailash, with all his might. It’s an unusual and expressive composition.

The Jain group of caves number 30-34, and they were the last to be excavated, circa 800-100 C.E. I was struck by Cave 32, also known as Indra Sabha, because it’s similar to Cave 16. It also features a central free-standing temple inside a courtyard, as well as Dravidian gate, and monolithic elephant sculpture by the entrance . Though smaller in scale, there are details of this cave that surpass its predecessor.

Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

For example, the carved details and the unique designs of the columns on the second floor of the main temple truly outdo even the ornately decorated columns of Kailash Temple. They are massive in size and are carved in high relief. Some look like urns with draped garlands.

Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor, looking towards inner sanctum Detail of column, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor Detail of column, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, second floor, India

Indra Sabha is actually a collection of shrines dedicated to the revered Mahavira, the 23rd tirthankara .

Inner sanctum with Mahavira statue, Ellora Cave 32, second floor, India

Mahavira (ca. 540-468 B.C.E.) was a contemporary of Buddha. The two had remarkably similar experiences and teachings. Like Buddha, Mahavira was born into a royal family. At the age of 30, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening. Through ascetic practices for over twelve years, he achieved enlightenment. He traveled all over India for another 30 years to teach his philosophy, based on ahimsa (causing no injury through one’s deeds, words, or thoughts–which corresponds to Buddhist notions of body, speech, and mind) satya (absolute truth, like Buddhist right view) asteya (not stealing, or as Buddhists phrase it, not taking what is not freely given) brahmacharya (spiritual study, practice, and abstinence, similar to Buddhist monastic vows) and aparigraha (non-grasping or non-possessiveness, which forms part of the Buddhist idea of non-attachment and egolessness.) Mahavira attained nirvana after his physical death at the age of 72.

Mahavira, Ellora Cave 32

Jain depictions of Mahavira are also remarkably similar in appearance to Buddhist images of Buddha. With one key difference: Jain deities of the Digambara sect are nude .

When I saw Mahavira in an inner sanctum, I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the anatomical accuracy of his nudity. (The sacred art tells it like it is!)

But it’s not only Jain deities. The yogis, too. It reminded me of an anecdote the Dalai Lama told, and it goes something like this:

Once, at a ceremony in India, he found himself seated next to a Jain yogi who was stark naked. The Dalai Lama, shocked, had looked him up and down. “He just showed—everything! All of his things were right there!” He couldn’t help but keep looking at the yogi, but not because of his “thing.” Because he was so impressed with the intensity and forthrightness of this man’s practice! And so, the Dalai Lama got down on his knees and touched his forehead to the yogi’s knee as a sign of respect for him and his dedication to contemplative practice.

Gomateshwara, Ellora Cave 32

Pictured above is the revered Gomateshwara, also known as Bahubali.

Detail of Gomateshwara, Ellora Cave 32

Below is the 23rd tirthankara, Parsvanatha, with his characteristic snake hood.

Parsvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara of Jainism, side wall, Ellora Cave 32 Parsvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara of Jainism, with his characteristic snake hood, side wall, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple

Mahavira is usually flanked by his attendant deities, Indra on an elephant and Ambika on a lion. I found these two carvings especially well done.

Indra riding on an elephant, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

Ambika riding on a lion, Ellora Cave 32, Jain temple, India

So there you have it…Ellora Caves–what a revelation in artistic and architectural excavation!

Panorama of Ellora Caves, near Aurangabad, India.

2 Responses

Strange though it may seem, the head of the All India Hindu Mahasabha insists that showing in public is against culture. Has he been to the various caves and temples across the length and breadth of India that show nudity and sex engraved in the very walls and pillars of the structures? Or is he pretending that all that is in Western lands?

Dear Friend,
The Hindu culture shown on these reliefs are quite different from contemporary Hindu culture, I can sense a clear difference in worship patterns and deities worshipped today. You don’t see Hanuman or Rama who are venerated today. This quite different, but one can say that Hindu culture in its ancient times was more open than today.

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Ellora Cave 32 -Indra Sabha

Ellora Cave 32 is the largest and finest of the Jain caves in Ellora. There are five Jain caves which lie to the north of the famous Kailasa Temple. The Jain temples date back to 10th and 11th centuries.

History

Construction of the Ellora caves thrived under the Yadava kings. Their capital, Deogiri, was 10 km from Ellora. They built Ellora Cave 32 in 10th and 11th centuries. Jaina worshipers and visitors used the caves late into 13th century. But Jain religious activity came to an end after the region encountered Islamic rule.

The idols in Ellora Cave 32 show significant damages. However the intricate carvings and natural objects remain untouched. The desecration of the idols and images are attributed to Muslim armies in 15th to 17th centuries.

Architecture of Ellora Cave 32

The Jain cave belonging to the Digambara sect is smaller than the Hindu caves.However there are certain similarities in the pillared verandahs, symmetric mandapa and pooja worship. The cave has been cut into the basalt mountain without the help of modern tools and technologies.

Lord Mahavira Flanked by Matanga Yaksha and Ambika

The cave has two stories. A modest gateway leads to an open courtyard. A monolithic shrine of the Tirthamkaras occupies the middle. A tall pillar called manastambha is to the right and a huge elephant to the left. The manastambha has a crown of four seated figures.

A staircase leads to a large shrine on the first floor. The deity is Mahavira. There are two smaller shrines on the east and west, both dedicated to Mahavira.

Gomateshwar and Matanga Yaksha

Monuments and Rock Carvings

The shrines have idols of Mahavira seated in padmasana pose. The central shrine shows Sarvatobhadra, where four Tirthankaras of Jainism are aligned to the four cardinal directions.

There are notable carvings on the pillars and walls.

Matanga Yaksha (God of Prosperity)

Numerous rock carvings decorate the temple. A massive lotus on the ceiling is remarkable. Matanga Yaksha is the God of Prosperity. He sits on an elephant under a banyan tree. Ambika Devi is the protector goddess of the second Tirthankara, Neminatha. She sits on her lion under a mango tree.

Massive Carved Lotus on Ceiling

Getting There

Ellora Caves are 29 km (50 min) from Aurangabad railway station. Nearest airport is Aurangabad International airport.

Leave your comments and questions in the comment box. I will get back to you quickly.


History

These rock temples and monasteries were constructed between the 5th and 8th centuries AD. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma (patron saint of Indian craftsmen). The Vishvakarma cave is both a Chaitya and a Vihara, with a seated Buddha placed. Its two storied structure sports a colourful pageant of dwarfs, dancing and making music.

The caves are located about 30km from Aurangabad and are known for the genius of their sculptors whom moved from Ajanta. The cave complex is multicultural, providing a mix of religions, the Buddhist caves came first, about 200BC – 600AD followed by the Hindu 500 – 900AD and Jain 800 – 1000AD.

The Hindu Caves

The Hindu Caves were constructed between 500CE and 1000CE, and represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills, which required several generations of planning and coordination to complete it. During the Kalachuri and Rashtrakuta periods, the caves 17-29 and the caves 15, 16 were contructed, respectively.

The most significance is the cave 15, Dashavatara, begun as a Buddhist monastery. An open court with a monolithic mandapa at the middle and two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear are the main characteristics in this cave. The large panels between the wall colums on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes including the ten Vishnu’s avataras.

According to Coomaraswamy the cave depicts the finest relief of the Hiranyakashipu’s death where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon the shoulder of Hiranyakashipu.

The cave 21, Ramesvara, has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance. The cave 29, Dhumar Lena, has a similar design to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. The cave 14, Ravan ki Khai, and the cave 22, Nilkantha, have several sculptures.

The Buddhist Caves

The Buddhist Caves created between fifth and seventh centuries and were the earliest structures. Mostly consist in large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, called viharas or monasteries which include living and sleeping quarters, kitchens and some of them have shrines with carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints.

In many of these Buddhist caves, the stone seems wood due to the endeavour of their sculptors. The cave 10 is the most famous chaitya hall known as the “Carpenter’s cave”, whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the middle a 15 foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. In relation with the other Buddhist caves, the first nine are monasteries.

The Jain Caves

The Jain Caves reflect a strict sense of asceticism and reveal specific dimensions of its philosophy and trandition. In spite of not being large as compared to others caves, they has an exceptionally detailed art works. The most important shrines are the cave 30, Chhota Kailash the cave 32, Indra Sabha with the lotus flower on the ceiling and the cave 33, the Jagannath Sabha. Many of the caves had rich paintings in the ceilings, nowadays fragments of which are still visible.

Maybe as a form of religious competition, some caves were formed simultaneously as the dates indicate. At the time, Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism regaining ground, so representatives of both were eager to impress potential followers. Although Ellora has more caves than Ajanta, generally the rooms are smaller and simpler with exception of Kailasa Temple.

Kailasa Temple

The Kailasa Temple, the jewel in the crown, in the cave 16 also named Kailasanatha represents the unrivalled centrepiece of architecture in Ellora. Designed to recall the Mount Kailash, the home of the god Shiva in the Himalayas, it covers an area double size of Parthenon in Athens. The temple, carved top-down from a single rock along the largest cantilevered rock ceiling is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Also the image of Vishwakarma is placed on it.

The scale work in which it was undertaken is enormous, so it covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. Probably it is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers and around 150 years to complete the entire project.

Kailasa Temple consists of a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Virtually every surface is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the sacred Sanskrit poems (puranas). The temple is 50m deep, 33 m wide and 30 m high. In addition the temple is connected to the gallery wall by a bridge.

The Kailasa Temple is an illustration of one of those rare occasions when men's minds, hearts, and hands work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal.


Watch the video: Anand Shankar - Indra Sabha


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