Kailasa Temple near Ajanta and Ellora

Introduction

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] INitially the temple was covereed with white plaster thus even more increasing the similarity to snow covered Mount Kailash.

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.

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Ajanta Caves (Ajiṇṭhā; Devanagari: अजिंठा लेणी) in Maharashtra, India are 28 – 30 rock-cut cave monuments created during the first century BCE and 5th century AD, containing paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art[1] and universal pictorial art. The caves are located just outside the village of Ajinṭhā in Aurangabad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra (N. lat. 20 deg. 30′ by E. long. 75 deg. 40′). Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ajanta and nearby Ellora are two of the most amazing archaeological sites in India. Although handcrafted caves are scattered throughout India’s western state of Maharashtra, the complexes at Ajanta and Ellora – roughly 300 kilometres northeast of Mumbai (Bombay) – are the most elaborate and varied examples known. The caves aren’t natural caves, but man-made temples cut into a massive granite hillside. They were built by generations of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks, who lived, worked, and worshipped in the caves, slowly carving out elaborate statues, pillars, and meditation rooms.

 

Kailasa Temple

Although all of the caves at Ellora are stunning architectural feats, the Hindu Kailasa Temple is the jewel in the crown. Carved to represent Mt. Kailasa, the home of the god Shiva in the Himalayas, it is the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved top-down from a single rock.
It contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world.


Mount Kailash.

Within the courtyard is the massive multi-level temple, its pyramidal form replicating the real Mount Kailasa, the Himalayan peak said to be the home of the Hindu god Siva. 


The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project.

The rear wall of its excavated courtyard 276 feet (84 m) 154 feet (47 m) is 100 ft  (33 m) high. The temple proper is 164 feet (50 m) deep, 109 feet (33 m) wide, and 98 feet (30 m) high.


Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
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It consists of a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Virtually every surface is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the puranas (sacred Sanskrit poems). The temple is connected to the gallery wall by a bridge.

Described as Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple is considered
the pinnacle of Indian rock-cut architecture

The gigantic, 8th century Kailasa Temple at Ellora, Cave 16,
was chiselled from solid stone. Click for
 bigger image

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Dramatic sculptures fill the courtyard and the main temple, which is in the center.
It must have been quite a spectacular sight when it was covered with white plaster and elaborately painted.

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
© Courtney Milne

  

Unlike other caves at Ajanta and Ellora, Kailasa temple has a huge courtyard that is open to the sky,
surrounded by a wall of galleries several stories high.

The Kailasa temple is an illustration of one of those rare occasions when men’s minds, hearts, and hands work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal.


The Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta (more properly Ajujnthi), a village in the erstwhile dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad in India and now in Buldhana district in the state of Maharashtra (N. lat. 20 deg. 32′ by E. long. 75 deg. 48′) is celebrated for its cave hermitages and halls.
Located 99-km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Ajanta encompasses 29 rock-cut rooms created between 200 BC and AD 650using rudimentary hand tools. Most are viharas (living quarters), while four are chaityas (temples).


Ajanta Caves

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The Ajanta caves were discovered in the 19th century by a group of British officers on a tiger hunt.

Ajanta began as a religious enclave for Buddhist monks and scholars more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed that, originally, itinerant monks sought shelter in natural grottos during monsoons and began decorating them with religious motifs to help pass the rainy season. They used earlier wooden structures as models for their work.  As the grottos were developed and expanded, they became permanent monasteries, housing perhaps 200 residents.

The artisans responsible for Ajanta did not just hack holes in the cliff, though. They carefully excavated, carving stairs, benches, screens, columns, sculptures, and other furnishings and decorations as they went, so that these elements remained attached to the resulting floors, ceilings and walls.

They also painted patterns and pictures, employing pigments derived from natural, water soluble substances. Their achievements would seem incredible if executed under ideal circumstances, yet they worked only by the light of oil lamps and what little sunshine penetrated cave entrances.

The seventh century abandonment of these masterpieces is a mystery. Perhaps the Buddhists suffered religious persecution. Or perhaps the isolation of the caves made it difficult for the monks to collect sufficient alms for survival.

Some sources suggest that remnants of the Ajanta colony relocated to Ellora, a site closer to an important caravan route. There, another series of handcrafted caves chronologically begins where the Ajanta caves end.

Ellora Caves

Near Ellora , village in E central Maharashtra state, India, extending more than 1.6 km on a hill, are 34 rock and cave temples(5th–13th century).

Located about 30 Kilometres from Aurangabad, Ellora caves are known for the genius of their sculptors. It is generally believed that these caves were constructed by the sculptors who moved on from Ajanta. This cave complex is multicultural, as the caves here provide a mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions. The Buddhist caves came first, about 200 BC – 600 AD followed by the Hindu 500 – 900 AD and Jain 800 – 1000 AD.

Cave 30: Chota (small) Kailasa Temple, Ellora

Of the 34 caves chiselled into the sloping side of the low hill at Ellora, 12 (dating from AD 600 to 800) are Buddhist (one chaitya, the rest viharas), 17 are Hindu (AD 600 to 900), and 5 are Jain (AD 800 to 1100).

As the dates indicate, some caves were fashioned simultaneously – maybe as a form of religious competition. At the time, Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism regaining ground, so representatives of both were eager to impress potential followers.

Although Ellora has more caves than Ajanta, the rooms generally are smaller and simpler (with exception of Kailasa Temple).

Visiting Ajanta and Ellora

One of India’s greatest architectural treasures, the Kailasa temple attracts thousands of tourists annually.
Today, both Ajanta and Ellora are maintained by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation. The sites are open daily from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with guides available for hire. Visitors pay a small admission fee to enter the Ajanta site and extra to attendants for lighting cave details. Entry is free to all caves at Ellora except the Kailasa Temple.

A good base from which to visit Ajanta and Ellora is Aurangabad, serviced daily by Indian Airlines and East West Airlines flights from Mumbai (Bombay). The city has a variety of accommodations, ranging from a youth hostel to five-star hotels.

At least a three-night stay in Aurangabad is advised, because Ajanta
(100 kilometres northeast by road) requires a full-day excursion and Ellora
(30 kilometres northwest) a half-day.

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A renowned Artist of India, has restored and preserved the Indian Heritage of Ajanta painting.

Renowned artist of Marathwada Mr. M.R. Pimpare has for the past 55, Years been trying to recreate the paintings of the Gupta – Vakataka period around 450 A. D. unfolding to the world the actual glory of Ajanta which over the years has suffered deterioration.

The centuries –old paintings of Ajanta caves recreated exactly as they were when freshly painted by the unknown artist recapture the past glory of the wall paintings on gigantic sheets of paper.

Mr.Pimpare has completed 350 paintings which measure from one foot to 65’ x 4’ in length capturing minute details of expression, facial flexion, contours of the body, movement of the muscles and other minute details.

Ajanta art gallery is a display of the restructuring of Ajanta cave paintings. It is a devoted work of 30 long years by Mr. M.R. Pimpare, an artist whose work is done on the basis of photographs and historical records like drawings with all details prepared indicating the extent of damaged portion and contracting it faithfully in colour.

Mr. Pimpare has undertaken an entirely new approach of preservation and conservation as well as restoration of paintings with the help of most scientific modern and sophisticated instruments. The new approach aims at conservation of paintings in its exact duplicate copy form exactly like the original which are displayed in the Art Gallery. It is also proposed by the Marathwada Statutory Development Board to have a permanent art gallery which would provide glimpses of the famous National Heritage.

Ajanta Art Gallery at present is located in Eknath Nagar, Near Shahnoor Miya Dargah.

World Mysteries