The cave temples were built between 350 and 700 years. The 2 km long cave system consists of 34 caves with Buddhist, Hindu and Jain places of worship. Of particular importance is the 30 m² large, richly decorated Hindu Shiva temple Kailasha.
Ellora cave temple: facts
|Official title:||Ellora cave temple|
|Cultural monument:||34 cave temples (»chaityas«) and monasteries (»viharas«), which were carved into basalt cliffs and extend over 2 km; 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain places of worship; including the 30 m² Hindu Kailasha Temple|
|Location:||Ellora, northwest of Aurangabad|
|Meaning:||Example of a place of worship of three religious currents in India that has existed for over four centuries and is run in the spirit of tolerance|
Ellora Cave Temple: History
|around 600-800||Buddhist cave temples such as cave no. 5 with 20 cells|
|around 800-1000||Jain cave temples such as Indra Sabhaum|
|900||Hindu cave temples such as Ravanas Cave (Cave No. 14)|
|1976||complete discovery of cave temple 11|
Ellora’s emptiness comes from humans
Buddhists who had previously left Ajanta carved the first temples into the rocks of Ellora in the 6th century. The Hindus followed and later the Jaina. But there is no trace of the most famous and notorious residents of the sanctuaries today. At the beginning of the last century, some distance from the city of Aurangabad, the so-called “Thags” had settled in the caves along the rocky Maharashtra plateau. These were members of a fanatical secret society who worshiped the bloodthirsty goddess Kali. The Thags made human sacrifices to her. Strangers were attacked and strangled according to a ritual that was fixed down to the smallest detail until they died in agony. The victims were then cremated. Even the British colonial rulers were long lost to the secret society, despite all their military power. It was more than three decades before the Thags could finally be fumigated; a victory that cost many victims and was only achieved after agents had been smuggled into the secret society.
The stone pillars, replicas of the god Shiva and countless other deities watched the murderous activities of the Thags just as silently as they let countless visitors pass by today who stroll noisily through the caves. It gives the impression that they want to drive away the eerie memories, maybe even the evil spirits that could live in the semi-dark caves. Most of the visitors to Ellora have no idea of the bloodthirsty history from modern times. According to areacodesexplorer, Indian chroniclers like to hide this episode from the first half of the 19th century. Instead, they try to emphasize the peaceful coexistence of Buddhists, Hindus and Jaina.
Ellora is highly praised by many as the largest rock sanctuary in India. It is an appreciation that the caves have earned mainly because of the Kailasha Temple. The construction of this replica of the mountain of gods Kailash in the Himalayas, on which, according to tradition, the god Shiva is enthroned, took several decades. 15,000 tons of overburden – a weight equivalent to around a thousand medium-sized cars – was painstakingly carved out of the volcanic rock and removed. This temple is not really a building, but basically a sculpture. The builders of this rock temple let their workers remove rock until a 60 by 90 meter and 30 meter deep square with a 30 by 60 meter boulder in the middle remained. The temple, including all ornaments, was then carved out of this. Columns, shrines, figures all emerged from this one solid boulder – a complete structure that is outwardly no different from other south Indian temples. The temple is three stories high on the back wall; pillars up to 15 meters high line the side passages – a unique highlight of rock architecture in South Asia, in view of which the other caves of Ellora almost threaten to fade in their charisma.
But the builders weren’t just interested in creating a unique masterpiece. In their opinion, the temple was only worthy of the world-ruling god Shiva if the rock from which it was built has had its place there since the beginning of the world – like the mountain of the gods Kailash in the Himalayas, a 6,000-meter-high summit Hindus go on pilgrimages to this day. Man should not create the building, he should only take care of the empty space that surrounds the seat of the gods. A fascinating concept: the human being as the creator of emptiness, of nothing. The builders of Ellora were not only great builders and craftsmen, they also had philosophical foresight.