Ellora is an archaeological site, 30 km (18.6 miles) from the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. It is world wide famous for its monumental caves.
Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.
The Hindu caves were constructed in the 500 A.D.and 1000 A.D.and represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. The early caves were constructed during the Kalachuri period, while the caves 15 and 16 were constructed during Rashtrakuta period. Other notable Hindu caves include the Dashavatara cave, which depicts the ten avataras of Vishnu, the Ramesvara cave which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. An inscription of grant of Dantidurga is found on the back wall of the front mandapa of the Dashavatara. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai and the Nilkantha also have several sculptures.
The Buddhist caves were the earliest structures, created between the fifth and seventh centuries. These 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.
Most famous of the Buddhist caves is a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or 'Vishwakarma 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.
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, the Indra Sabha and the Jagannath Sabha. The Indra Sabha is a two storeyed shrine with a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. In another cave, 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. All other Jain caves are also characterized by intricate detailing.
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