Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 86, Ellora Caves, Indian UNESCO site

We are in absolute awe of the Caves in Ajanta...and some of us think that it should have been considered as one of the 7 new wonders of the world!

We are so loving these of course our next stop is the Ellora Caves......

Over five centuries, generations of monks (Buddhist, Hindu and Jain) carved monasteries, chapels and temples from a 2km-long escarpment and decorated
them with a profusion of remarkably detailed sculptures

Because of the escarpment's gentle slope, in contrast with the sheer drop at Ajanta, many of the caves have elaborate courtyards in front of the main shrines.
Altogether Ellora has 34 caves:

12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain .

The site represents the renaissance of Hinduism under the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the subsequent decline of Indian Buddhism and a brief resurgence of Jainism under official patronage.

The sculptures show the increasing influence of Tantric elements in India's three great religions and their coexistence at one site indicates a lengthy period of religious tolerance.

Ok guys...let's explore...The Buddhist Caves

The Buddhist caves (also called Vishvakarma caves) are the earliest of the Ellora Caves, dating from 500 to 750 AD.

All except Cave 10 are viharas (monasteries), which were used for study, medita
tion, communal rituals, eating and sleeping.

The caves become steadily larger and more elaborately decorated as they progress to the north, which scholars have explained by the growing need to compete with
Hinduism for patronage.

The earliest Hindu caves at Ellora date from 600 AD, right in the middle of the
Buddhist period.

Caves 1-9 are monasteries , and some of these monastery caves have shri
nes including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints.

In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood .

We are now standing outside the magnificent Cave 10

This cave dates from the early 700s and is known as the Carpenter's Cave (Sut ar Jhopadi) because of its imitation in stone of wooden beams on the ceiling.

At the heart of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose....hmmm, reminiscent of Ajanta Caves......

The last two caves, Do Tal (cave 11) and Tin Tal (cave 12) have three stories.
Cave 12, known as Tin Tal , also has an impressive upper hall.

The walls of the shrine room are lined with five large bodhisattvas and is flanked by seven Buddhas, representing each of his previous incarnations.

I don't know about any of you...but I am simply blown away by these caves.......stunning.....

Okay, lets see the Hindu Caves next.

Created during a time of prosperity and revival of Hindusim, the Hindu caves
represent an entirely different style of creative vision and skill than the Buddhist caves.

The Hindu temples were carved from top to bottom and required several generations of planning and coordination to take shape.

The early caves (caves 17–29) were constructed during the Kalachuri period, while the caves 15 and 16 were constructed during Rashtrakuta period.

There are 17 Hindu caves in all (numbered 13 to 29), which were carved between 600 and 870 AD. They occupy the center of the cave complex, grouped around either side of the famous Kailasa Temple.
Wow, a sight to behold......the view from up here is absolutely breathtaking.

The most notable Hindu cave (Cave 16) is not a cave at all, but a magnificent temple carved from the solid rock, patterned closely on the freestanding temples of the time.

It represents Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, and is called the Kailashnath, Kailash, or Kailasa Temple.

It originally had a thick coat of white plaster to make it look like a snowy mountain.

The Kailash Temple is a stupendous piece of architecture, with interesting spatial effects and varied sculpture. It is believed to have been started by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I (756-773).

This gargantuan structure looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock!!

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 was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 250,000 tons of rock by 7000 labourers, took 150 years to complete and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens!!

Stupendous!! WOW!

Ok, we are now going to take a rickshaw down this asphalt road to the Jain Caves (dating from the late 800s and 900s) which are situated about 2km down the road.

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).

The most notable of the group is Cave 32, the Indra Sabha (Indra's Assembly Hall), a miniature of the Kailash Temple.

The bottom level is plain but the upper floor has elaborate carvings, including a fine lotus flower on the ceiling.

Two tirthankaras guard the entrance to the central shrine.

On the right is the naked Gomatesvara, who is meditating deeply in the forest - so much so that vines have grown up his legs and animals, snakes and scorpions crawl around his feet.

Another amazing sight to behold!

These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, that were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life.

Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

Another mindblowing UNESCO world heritage site.........its such a pity that when foreigners think of India...the only monument that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal...when there are gems like this be explored.

Btw, did you know that the breathtaking Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) is the world's largest monolithic sculpture hewn from the rock?

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