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Ellora caves*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Kailasha temple at ellora.JPG
Kailasanatha Temple, (Cave 16) view from the top of the rock
State Party  India
Type Cultural
Criteria (i) (iii) (vi)
Reference b 243
Region** South Asia
Inscription history
Inscription 1983  (7th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Ellora (Marathi: वेरूळ) is an archaeological site, 30 km (19 mi) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta (Kannada: ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರಕೂಟ) rulers. Well-known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site.[1] Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves" – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.[2]


The Buddhist caves

Cave 12

It was initially thought that the Buddhist caves were one of the earliest structures, created between the fifth and eighth centuries, with caves 1-5 in the first phase (400-600) and 6-12 in the later phase (mid 7th-mid 8th), but now it is clear to the modern scholars that some of the Hindu caves (27,29,21,28,19,26,20,17 and 14) precede these caves. The earliest Buddhist cave is Cave 6, followed by 5,2,3,5 (right wing), 4,7,8,10 and 9. Caves 11 and 12 were the last. All the Buddhist caves were constructed between 630-700.[3]

These structures consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood.[4]

Most famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or 'Vishvakarma cave', popularly known as the "Carpenter's Cave". Beyond its multi-storeyed entry is a cathedral-like stupa hall also known as chaitya, whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the heart of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. Amongst other Buddhist caves, all of the first nine (caves 1–9) are monasteries. The last two caves, Do Tal (cave 11) and Tin Tal (cave 12) have three stories.

Cave 1

Cave 1 is a vihara with eight cells, four in the back wall and four in the right wall. It had a portico in the front with a cell.[3]

The Vishvakarma

The Buddhist "Carpenter's" cave (Cave 10)

The Vishvakarma (Cave 10) is the only chaitya griha amongst the Buddhist group of caves. It is locally known as Vishvakarma or Sutar ka jhopda (carpenter's hut). It follows the pattern of construction of Caves 19 and 26 of Ajanta. On stylistic grounds, the date of construction of this cave is assigned to c.700. The chaitya once had a high screen wall, which is ruined at present. At the front is a rock-cut court, which is entered through a flight of steps. On either side are pillared proticos with chambers in their back walls. These were probably intended to have subsidiary shrines but not completed. The pillared verandah of the chaitya has a small shrine at either end and a single cell in the far end of the back wall. The corridor columns have massive squarish shafts and ghata-pallava (vase and foliage) capitals. The main hall is apsidal on plan and is divided in to a central nave and side aisles by 28 octagonal columns with plain bracket capitals. In the apsidal end of the chaitya hall is a stupa on the face of which a colossal 3.30 m high seated Buddha in vyakhyana mudra (teaching posture) is carved. A large Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) is carved at the back. The hall has a vaulted roof in which ribs have been carved in the rock imitating the wooden ones.[5]

The Hindu caves

The Hindu caves were constructed between the middle of sixth century to the end of the eighth century. The early caves (caves 17–29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period.[6] The work first commenced in Caves 28, 27 and 19. These were followed by two most impressive caves constructed in the early phase - Caves 29 and 21. Along with these two, work was underway at Caves 20 and 26, and slightly later at Caves 17, 19 and 28.[7] The caves 14, 15 and 16 were constructed during the Rashtrakuta period.[6] The work began in Caves 14 and 15 and culminated in Cave 16.[7] All these structures represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. Some were of such complexity that they required several generations of planning and co-ordination to complete.

The Kailasanatha

A painted panel showing the dancing Shiva (Nataraja) from the Kailash Temple at Ellora (Cave 16). One can still see a lot of the paint that once covered the entire temple.
Wall carvings – A scene depicting the wedding of Shiva(four armed figure,right) and Parvati (two armed,left).
Shiva-Parvati seated on mount Kailash, while Ravana tries to lift it.

Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa or the Kailasanatha, is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. This is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva – looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock, and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.[8]

All the carvings are done in more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by columned galleries three storeys high. The galleries are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.

Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandap and main Shiva temple are each about 7 meters high, and built on two stories. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandap are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.

A living rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandap to the porch of the temple. The temple itself is tall pyramidal structure reminiscent of a South Indian temple. The shrine – complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous lingam at its heart – carved from living stone, is carved with niches, pilasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures. 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). There are two Dhvajastambhas (pillars with the flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art. The construction of this cave was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took 100 years to complete.

The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. This project was started by Krishna I (757–773) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty that ruled from Manyakheta in present day Karnataka state. His rule had also spread to southern India, hence this temple was excavated in the prevailing style. Its builders modelled it on the lines of the Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal. Being a south Indian style temple, it does not have a shikhara common to north Indian temples. – The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, 1996, Takeo Kamiya, Japan Architects Academy and archaeological Survey of India

The Dashavatara

The Dashavatara (Cave 15) was begun as a Buddhist monastery. It has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa at the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear. The layout of the temple is closely related to caves 11 and 12. Large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes, which include the ten avataras of Vishnu. An inscription of grant of Dantidurga is found on the back wall of the front mandapa. According to Coomaraswamy, the finest relief of this cave is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon the shoulder of Hiranyakashipu.[9]

Other Hindu caves

Other notable Hindu caves are the Rameshvara (Cave 21), which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29) whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai (Cave 14) and the Nilkantha (Cave 22) also have several sculptures. The rest of the Hindu caves, which include the Kumbharvada (Cave 25) and the Gopilena (Cave 27) have no significant sculptures.

The Jain caves

Ellora caves. Cave 34. The Yakshi Ambika sculpture
A Jain cave in Ellora

The five Jain caves at Ellora belong to the ninth and tenth centuries. They all belong to the Digambara sect.[10] Jain caves reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They 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.[11] Cave 34 is a small cave, which can be approached through an opening on the left side of Cave 33.[12]

The Indra Sabha

The Indra Sabha (Cave 32) is a two storeyed cave with one more monolithic shrine in its court. It has a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. It got the appellation, Indra Sabha probably it is significantly ornate and also because of the sculpture of Yaksha Matanga on an elephant, which was wrongly identified as that of Indra. On the upper level of the double-storied shrine excavated at the rear of the court, an imposing image of Ambika, the Yakshi (dedicated attendant deity) of Neminatha is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits.

Other Jain caves

All other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing. Many of the structures had rich paintings in the ceilings – fragments of which are still visible.

See also


  1. ^ http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/243
  2. ^ Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Ancient India: Land Of Mystery (1994)
  3. ^ a b Dhavalikar 2003, p. 12
  4. ^ http://www.sacred-destinations.com/india/ellora-caves
  5. ^ Dhavalikar 2003, pp. 20-3
  6. ^ a b http://www.incredibleindia.org/heritage/ellora_caves.htm
  7. ^ a b Dhavalikar 2003, p. 33
  8. ^ Sarina Singh ... (2007). India. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet. ISBN 9781741043082. http://books.google.com/books?id=T7ZHUhSEleYC. 
  9. ^ Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. (1999). Introduction to Indian Art, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, ISBN 81-215-0389-2, p.52
  10. ^ Dhavalikar 2003, p. 87
  11. ^ Dhavalikar 2003, p. 88
  12. ^ Dhavalikar 2003, p. 96


  1. Dhavalikar, M.K. (2003), Ellora, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, ISBN 0 19 565458 7 .

External links

Coordinates: 20°01′35″N 75°10′45″E / 20.02639°N 75.17917°E / 20.02639; 75.17917

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Ellora Caves are an impressive complex of rock shrines, representing the three different faiths of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, that were excavated between the 5th to the 13th centuries CE. The complex is in Maharashtra State, about 24 km from Aurangabad.

The nearest airport (which is a domestic airport) from these caves is situated in Aurangabad (15 km) and can be reached directly from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur.

  • Aurangabad is the nearest railway station, and there are regular trains from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Amritsar etc. There is an overnight train from Mumbai.

How to Reach Ajanta by Air: Aurangabad, which is about 99 km from Ajanta and 30 km from Ellora, can be reached directly from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur airports.

How to Reach Ajanta by Rail: Jalgaon (59 km from Ajanta) is the nearest station where you should alight while coming from Delhi or Mumbai. Two trains Tapovan Express and Devgiri Express depart daily from Mumbai to Aurangabad.

How to Reach Ajanta by Road: Ajanta Caves are connected to a network of excellent roadways with Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Bijapur, and Aurangabad.

  • Aurangabad is the nearest location for inter-state buses.
  • Aurangabad to Ellora is around 30km. One can reserve Auto which will charge around Rs 350-400. Or else take Govt Buses from Central bus stop (Aurangabad).

Jalgaon (59 km from Ajanta) is the nearest station where you should alight while coming from Delhi or Mumbai.

  • There are numerous bus services running to Ellora from Aurangabad Central Bus Station, but the Maharashtra State Tourism Corporation (MTDC) Bus Service is most reliable.There is a luxury bus tour departing daily at 8AM from the MTDC office on Railway Station Road. In addition to Ellora, the tour also includes several famous sites in Aurangabad.
  • Taxis of all types are available from Aurangabad.One more option is Saibaba Travels which offers chauffer driven taxi service at reasonable rates and decent chauffers.one can contact them on (saibabatravelsabad@yahoo.co.in) or 919823167777.One can visit the Famous Daulatabad Fort while on the way to Ellora.
  • The caves are open from sunrise to sunset (closed on Mondays).
  • Cave Timings:

9.00AM to 17.30PM Indian Standard Time (IST) Ajanta Caves remain closed on Monday and Ellora Caves remain closed on Tuesday. BOTH CAVES REMAIN OPEN ON ALL NATIONAL HOLIDAYS


The tourist attractions in Ajanta are undoubtedly the Ajanta and Ellora (link to Ellora page) caves, located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra and about 300km northeast of the city of Mumbai. The 34 caves at Ellora and the 29 caves at Ajanta remained in obscurity for over a millennium, till John Smith, a British Army Officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while on a hunting expedition in 1819. Ajanta and Ellora are protected monument sites under the Archaeological Survey of India and has been included in the World Heritage list of monuments.

These murals and frescoes adorning the walls of these structures depict the story of Buddhism, spanning the period from 200 BC to 650 AD. Many of the caves have panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a treasure trove of stories about the several incarnations of the Buddha. This makes the Ajanta caves a fascinating spiritual tourist attraction for Buddhists and scholars and researchers of Buddhism.

Cave number 1 houses some of the best-preserved wall paintings here, which include two impressive Bodhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. Caves 2, 16, and 17 also contain amazing paintings, while caves 1, 4, 17, 19, 24, and 26 boast of some of the most divine sculptures. The flying apsara painting in Cave 17, and the image of the Buddha preaching, also in cave 17, are two unforgettable works of art in Ajanta. The Ajanta caves and the treasures they house are a landmark in the overall development of Buddhism in India and in general.


The entry fees for Ajanta is 10 Rs and for Ellora it is 10 Rs. If you are indian citizen then it is 10 rs but if you are NRI then you have to pay 100 Rs.

  • Hotel Kailash is a good, older hotel that is well equipped with different kind of food preparations and has an attached Beer Bar.The rooms are excellent but the service is average.

In Ellora there is no ATM, the nearest ATM is in Aurangabad. So carry cash accordingly.Very soon a SBI ATM will be operative.

Hotel Near Ellora caves

  • Hotel Kailas [1] is the closest hotel to Ellora Caves and is a few meters from the entrance. The hotel offers cottages and standard rooms. A few of the cottages overlook the caves but are priced slightly higher than the normal cottages.
  • Alternatively, one can stay at Aurangabad and visit the caves on a day trip.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ELLORA, a village of India in the native state of Hyderabad, near the city of Daulatabad, famous for its rock temples, which are among the finest in India. They are first mentioned by Ma'sudi, the Arabic geographer of the 10th century, but merely as a celebrated place of pilgrimage. The caves differ from those. of Ajanta in consequence of their being excavated in the sloping sides of a hill and not in a nearly perpendicular cliff. They extend along the face of the hill for a mile and a quarter, and are divided into three distinct series, the Buddhist, the Brahmanical and the Jain, and are arranged almost chronologically. The most splendid of the whole series is the Kailas, a perfect Dravidian temple, complete in all its parts, characterized by Fergusson as one of the most wonderful and interesting monuments of architectural art in India. It is not a mere interior chamber cut in the rock, but is a model of a complete temple such as might have been erected on the plain. In other words, the rock has been cut away externally as well as internally. First the great sunken court measuring 276 ft. by 154 ft. was hewn out of the solid trap-rock of the hillside, leaving the rock mass of the temple wholly detached in a cloistered court like a colossal boulder, save that a rock bridge once connected the upper storey of the temple with the upper row of galleried chambers surrounding three sides of the court. Colossal elephants and obelisks stand on either side of the open mandapam, or pavilion, containing the sacred bull; and beyond rises the monolithic Dravidian temple to Siva, 90 ft. in height, hollowed into vestibule, chamber and image-cells, all lavishly carved. Time and earthquakes have weathered and broken away bits of the great monument, and Moslem zealots strove to destroy the carved figures, but these defects are hardly noticed. The temple was built by Krishna I., Rashtrakuta, king of Malkhed in 760-783.

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