Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India.
It is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Hinduism in particular and few Buddhist and Jain monuments with Artwork dating from the 600–1000 CE period.
These man-made temples cut into a giant rock hillside are a sight to cheer, and not just because they were constructed with just a chisel and hammer. Imagine carving out intricate sculptures from stone! These caves had remained hidden in obscurity for over a century until a British Army officer, John Smith, stumbled upon them during a hunting expedition in 1819.
But now, the Ellora Caves are a must-visit spot for tourists. With 34 caves from different time periods and religions, there’s something for everyone. The 12 Mahayana Buddhist caves date back to 550-750 AD, while the 17 Hindu caves belong to 600-875 AD, and the five Jain caves date from 800-1000 AD. And if you’re looking for the crème de la crème, look no further than the Kailasa Temple in cave number 16, which is truly the most outstanding of them all.
The Kailasa Temple is the pièce de résistance of the Ellora Caves, and it’s not hard to see why. This megalithic temple is one of the most impressive cave temples in India and is made entirely from a single block of excavated stone. While no one is entirely sure who commissioned its construction, it’s believed to have been built by the Rachtrakuta king Krishna I, who ruled from about 756 to 773 CE.
But legend has it that Kailasa was actually built from the top down! According to one story, a queen prayed to the god Shiva for her husband’s recovery from a severe illness. In return, she vowed to construct a temple in Shiva’s name and fast until the temple’s peak was completed. Though it may be a legend, it’s true that this temple is a true feat of engineering, requiring 200,000 tons of volcanic rock to be excavated.
As you explore Kailasa, you’ll be in awe of the enormous stone carvings depicting different Hindu deities, with particular attention given to Shiva. Look to the left panels for his followers, and to the right for the devotees of Vishnu. And don’t miss the herd of carved elements at the base of the temple, which appears to carry the load of the temple on their backs. It’s no wonder that Kailasa is considered an outstanding example of Indian art and architecture.