Location & History
Ellora is only 29 km from Aurangabad and 3 km north of Khuldabad village. Ellora caves belong to the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta age span, nearly five centuries in time and cover 2 km in length.
Topographically, where Ajanta's rockface drop is virtually sheer, Ellora's slopes are more gradual, thus allowing the chiseling of complex entrance halls to open out into remarkable shrines.
Ellora is a Tantric centre with more focus on active, magical and even occult practices such as spells and rituals, thus abandoning the Mahayana emphasis on Buddha's compassion. Here the female figure is depicted in the form of Shakti' rather than the pre-historic mother Goddess who was revered and worshipped in the sub-continent.
The Ellora caves are of universal significance as it depicts an amalgamation of Gods and Goddesses for e.g. Hindu sculpture at Ellora centres on the phallus, the potent symbol of Lord Shiva, in addition to Durga and Parvati as his female complement is figured on many sculptured panels. Moreover Lord Vishnu and Brahma also make an appearance in these caves.
There are a number of caves in 'Ellora' some of them being as follows:
Cave 1 has no sculpture and is believed to have served as a granary or storehouse. The next three buildings are Viharas.
Cave2 has two gigantic Bodhisattavas protecting the entrance gate and shrine. Temple ornate pillar' with ribbed cushion capitals supporting the roof. Similar columns appear in cave 5.
Cave 6-9 The best features in these caves are the sculptured brackets with mystical beings, like the wondorous tara with snakes, swords, elephant, fire and shipwreck.
This cave is dedicated to Vishvakarma - the patron God of the architects. This is the only chaitya hall at Ellora. Carvings in this cave will stun any visitor with the depiction of its sensuous loving couples on the inner side of the parapet in the inner gallery.
It is named " Do Thal" (two stories) in which Buddha is depicted mainly in the teaching Mudra.
It is named "Teen Thal" or three storeys structure made in the 8th century. In this cave Buddha is mainly depicted in the meditation posture. The grandeur of these two viharas compels one to automatically pay tribute to the great masons and artisans of that time.
Cave 13 Like cave 1 this cave also seems to have served as a storehouse or granary.
In this cave Sita's captor "Ravana" is depicted in his varied evil forms, but this cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva here is shown dancing his famous "Tandav" dance. In addition the sidewalls depicts avatars of Lord Vishnu, Durga is also potrayed in various moods and forms on some of the panels. The river Goddess Ganga and Yamuna defend the doorway of the shrine.
This cave is dated to the period of the Rashtrakuta Sovereign Dantidurga (735-750). The Sculpture's of Buddha can be seen on the capitals of the first floor. The cave in addition has sculptures dedicated to Shivite worship with a relatively minor Vaishnavite sequence on a few walls. The case is locally known as "Ten incarnation of Vishnu "or "Dasavatara". Vishnu is shown as the lion man or Narasimha destroying the demon Hiranyakashyap, who forbade his son Prahlada to worship Vishnu. Some of the sculptures worth mentioning are the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, spearing of Andhaka, Shiva rescuing Markandeya from Yama, Shiva accepting the river Ganga in his hair, Shiva's son Ganesha, figures of Parvati and Lakshmi, Shiva emerging from the Lingam, Krishna raising the mount Govardhan, Vishnu or the Serpent, Garuda etc.
The Rashtrakuta monarch Krishna-1 (756-73) ordered the building of the Kailasa Temple but it was completed by his successors. This 8th century temple is spectacular to say the least. This temple is dedicated to Shiva. The artwork and architectural splendor of this rock-cut temple is mind-blowing. A quarter of a million tones of dark volcanic rock must have been painstakingly removed from the site to make this Monolithic mass isolated from the mountain from which artisans and sculptors would first remove huge masses of rock, then carve out scenes from Shaivite myth. This cave is one of the largest and most spectacular rock cut mountain in the world. It is here that one can see panels dedicated to Shaivite Gods and Goddesses like - Lakshmi, Parvati, Ganesha, Shiva as well as the river Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna Shrines and galleries were hewn from the rock, some of them being as high as two storeys and decorated with the most ardently inspired figures of the day. This cave is a must for every visitor.
This cave is dated to the late 6th century. Cave 18, 19 and 20 have nothing outstanding to talk about. Cave 21 and 22 have superb sculptures of Goddess Ganga and Yamuna, depicting erotic loving couples and Shaivite scenes like Shiva-Parvati marriage, dice game, Shiva doing the Tandav dance etc. Cave 22 is dedicated to "Shiva of the Blue Throat" or Nilakantha.
This cave depicts Surya with his chariot drawn by seven magnificent horses.
Cave 27 and 29
These caves are also called "Dhumar Lena". To visit these caves one has to get to a ravine. Beyond that is the last Hindu Temple dedicated to Ganesha also known as "Ganesha Lena".
Jains caves begin with these caves and are estimated to belong to the 9th century. This is also called "Little Kailasa" for its mimicry of the Kailasa temple (caves 16) but mimicry or not, it is no patch on the sculpture of caves 16.
Cave 31 and 32
These are the best Jain caves in Maharashtra, which is incomplete on the ground floor yet, it is ornate on the upper floor with artistically and finely chiseled pillars, beautiful sculptures and a few paintings. Caves 32 is also called the Indra-Sabha.
On the rear wall of caves 32 rise Parshvanatha and Gomateshvara. The former is a smaller version of the 60 feet towering Bahubali (1028), the image seen at Sarvana-Belagola in Karnataka. In Hindu mythology Gomateshvara or Bahubali overcame his stepbrother Bharata in the struggle for the kingdom of Paudanpura. After winning Bahubali renounced the throne to become an ascetic. His brother out of gratefulness for this gesture constructed a golden statue of him 2,000 feet in height in a forest and it was this image that inspired the figure here in Ellora, though it is much smaller than the original.
This is a pillared hall, which opens into a courtyard. It is also called Jagannatha Sabha.
At the far end of the mountain cave is a small shrine, which depicts the images of Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Gomateshvara on its lateral walls. These caves show the ingenuity and sheer perseverance of the artisans to carve out marvelous figures in the steep mountainsides. After seeing these rock-cut caves one's head automatically bows in reverence to the great artisans of that time.
If one wants to see and admire these caves minutely and at leisure then one can stay at the "Kailash Hotel" which is a few minutes walk from the main caves complex. One can also stay at the village "Khuldabad". Contacting the Executive Engineer, Zilla Parishad, Aurangabad can make reservation at the Local Fund Travellers Bungalow or one can stay in the State GuestHouse at Khurdabad.