India's most majestic monastery cave complex – 8 fascinating pictures
This rock-cut complex called the Ellora Caves is a beautiful tribute to faith, spirituality and ancient Indian workmanship.
Some quick Ellora Caves facts:
- it's known as simply Ellora, Verul or Elura;
- it's one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India;
- the site is located in the Aurangabad district of the state of Maharashtra;
- there are more than 100 caves at the site.
Temples of three different faiths were dug here side by side
The complex features Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples and artwork.
The Ellora Caves are spread over a distance of 1.2 miles (2 km)
The site is housed in a cliff formed by volcanic activity more than 60 million years ago. The vertical face of the cliff allowed the architects to access many layers of rock formations, so they were able to use finer basalt grains while sculpting small details.
The monuments and temples were build during the 6th–10th centuries CE
Because of the three overlapping styles present at the site, it was difficult to define the chronology of their construction.
Most scholars agree that the Ellora caves saw three important building periods
They are an early Hindu period (~550 to 600 CE), a Buddhist phase (~600 to 730 CE) and a later Hindu and Jain phase (~730 to 950 CE).
If you love history, test your knowledge of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World with this fun trivia quiz.
The Hindu caves are the earliest structures of the complex located in the central area (caves 13–29)
The Kailasa temple is the largest one at the Ellora Caves, also being the largest rock-cut structure of the world. The temple was dedicated to Shiva and named after mount Kailasa, which is traditionally recognized in Hinduism as Shiva's abode.
The Buddhist caves are found in the Southern area of the site (caves 1–12)
Most of the Buddhist caves are occupied by viharas – Buddhist monasteries with prayer halls. These large multistory buildings carved into the mountain also contain living quarters, kitchens, sleeping rooms and other units. Most rooms are decorated by the figures of Gautama Buddha, saints and bodhisattvas.
The Jain monuments are found at the North end of Ellora (caves 30–34)
As asceticism is one of the main religious premises of Jainism, the Jain structures are smaller and more modest than other caves. Still, they are decorated with exceptionally detailed art works.
Would you like to visit the Ellora Caves one day? Or have you already seen them?
Which other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India would you like to learn about?
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