Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Maharashtra State (Ajanta and Ellora) -3

Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Maharashtra State

Ajanta Caves , Maharashtra


 Ajanta caves - the Buddhist rock-hewn Ajanta caves, are only about 59 kilometers from Jalgaon (Railway station on Delhi - Mumbai & Allahabad - Mumbai mail line of the Central railways); and from Aurangabad 104 kilometers (From Ellora 100 Kilometers).
At the end of seventh century, Buddhism began to decline in the land of its origin and its shrines fell into desolation and ruin. For a thousand years, Ajanta caves lay buries in the jungle-clad slopes of the western mountain range, until in 1819 it was discovered accidentally.
The isolated scrap of horse shoe shaped rock rising over a ravine to a steep height of 76.20 meter (250 ft.) made an ideal site for the monastic sanctuary. Limited in space, the Ajanta caves had to be more compact than those of Ellora caves. Most of them ware of an earliest date, the oldest belonging tp pre Christian times. The architectural and sculptural values in these rock temples are surpassed by the addition of third art form, painting, which, more than all else has given Ajanta its world fame.
Having seen these cave temples the visitor will perhaps wonder at the profusion of secular homes and motifs on the walls. He may be bewildered by the uninhibited vivacity of the female figures, the famous Ajanta type with well curves forms, elongated eyes, monks and their associates painted side by side and with equal zest the physical beauty of women and the spiritual beauty of the Bodhisattva.
There the thirty caves, some of them unfinished and negligible. Sixteen contains mural paintings, but the best work is to be found in Caves 1, 2, 16, 17, and 19. The best sculptures are in caves 1, 4, 17, 19, 24, and 26. The numbering of the caves has been done in consecutive order and has no relation to their chronological sequence. It starts at the western extremity of the rock, near the entrance. The present entrance does not seem to have been the original approach to the excavations.
Five of the caves 9,10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya-halls. The other is vihars. As for antiquity the oldest (second century B.C. to second century A.D.), the creation of the Hinayan system, are chaityas caves 9 and 10, and viharas 8, 12, 13, and 30. The others, excavated after a long interval, belong to the fifth and sixth centuries and make the Mahayana series. In older times, each cave had flights of steps which led to the picturesque stream flowing deep down through a narrow gorge. With the collapse of cave front most of these steps have been destroyed. Caves 1,2,16 and 17 are fitted with spotlights, available for use on payment. There use is essential.
Ajanta Cave paintings the technique employed by the painters in the ancient India has been described in contemporary works on aesthetics. First, a rough plaster of clay, cow-dung and rice-husks ware lay upon the selected rock surface and thoroughly pressed in. It made a layer about one and half centimeter in thickness. On this coat of fine lime was spread in order to attain a smooth surface. The outline was drawn with brush and then color was applied. The pigments used were of the simplest kind of materials such as yellow earth, red ocher, green rock crushed into burnt duct brick, lamp black and copper oxide. A second was then applied. Through this the outline was dimly visible. Other brushes were used to fill in color until the picture, in the language of ancient Aesthetics, bloomed. Finally, plastic relief was attained by shading with darker lines and toning the highlights.
The central theme on the walls comes under two heads-narrative scenes from the Buddhas life and illustrations of Jataka Fobles. Within this framework of spirituality an entire pageant of contemporary life has been vividly covered. Depicted on these walls is the portraiture not only of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, but of a wide range of human types in different attitudes, under the stress of varied emotions and drawn from every social level.
The paintings on the ceiling, unlike those on the walls, are mainly decorative patterns. They include geometric designs, floral and ornamental motifs, flying figures of celestial beings, animals, birds, plants. The grouping in panels or compartments is with adequate variation in color schemes


Ajanta Cave 1: Cave 1 is one of the finest examples of vihara architecture evolved towards the end of fifth century. The facade is lavishly ornamented, its beauty enhanced by six richly carved columns on the verandah. Their shafts are adorned with tracery-work and the bracket capitals have flying figures. The ornate doorway leaps into a big hall, 19.5 meter (64 ft.). On these sides there are rows of cells. Beyond the ante-chamber facing the entrance is huge Buddha image grouped with the master’s first five disciples and others. One central pillar in the right row has a curious carving done with remarkable realism; four deer in different positions have a single head which seems to belong to each one. The entire wall space and ceiling as also the pillars in the cave had once been painted. Much of the work has peeled off, but enough of great value has survived. This includes a few masterpieces.

The paintings mainly illustrate Jataka, stories. A typical one, at the left of the main entrance, has been identified with Sibi Jataka. The story goes that a pigeon, chased by a hawk, sought the protection of king Sibi, who was a Bodhisattva. The hawk came in pursuit and demanded its lawful prey. King Sibi struck bargain to save the little bird’s life. He gave the hawk a measure of his own flesh equal to the bird’s weight. The pigeon is seen there in the king’s lap (extreme left) and beyond a pavilion the king stands by a pair of scales (right). The side-walls of the antechamber present remarkable scenes from the Buddha’s life in large-scale compositions. The one at the left visualizes a moment when Gautam, at the end of seven years of seeking, was about to attain Enlightenment. Even since the time he had left his palace and taken to the ascetic’s life Mara, the Evil one, had been at his heels. “Turn back”, Mara had bidden, “the jewel wheel of empire will be yours”. Since Gautam scorned the prospect, Mara had made the threat. “Whenever you have a bad thought I shall know”. For seven years, Mara had followed Gautam like his shadow and when it appeared that the supreme moment was near, Mara, in alarm made one more bid. He let loose the force of seduction, his own beautiful daughters disporting themselves before the ascetic.

The composition on the right wall is the “Miracle of Sravasti”. Here the Buddha has turned himself into hundreds of Buddha’s in different attitudes.

The wall of the back corridor, to the left and right of the ante-chamber, contains two majestic Bodhisattvas which are among the Ajanta masterpieces. The one to the left is Padmapani. His eyes are lowered meditatively: his face has depths of spiritual calm born of compassion for all living forms. This great picture has fascinated the art-critics of many countries. Beside the Bodhisattva is his attractive wife, a dark beauty who had featured often in Ajanta reproductions. The left corner of the composition has divine figures and at the right, monkeys and peacocks are seen joyous-frolic.

The other Bodhisattvas, Vajrapani, are richly bejeweled. He leans gracefully against an attendant. A king offers him flowers. At the bottom are two dark women, and thought the paint has largely peeled off the delicacy of treatment is obvious.

Ajanta Cave 2: Cave 2 is somewhat alike in plan to cave 1. The verandah has a lovely painted ceiling. Among the excellent murals, one on the left wall of the hall, near the third cell-door, dramatizes the legend of the Buddhas birth with some vivid panels. In the panel above the cell door the Bodhisattva is seen in one of the heavens. He has already passed through a cycle of birth and rebirth on earth and now that he will have to be born for the last time he selects the place of his ultimate mission. It is to be a place in India close to the Himalayan reign, and queen Maya is to be his mother.

Maya has a strange dream (bottom left panel, this is badly damaged). While she sleeps in her bed chamber, a white elephant above the dream (the last panel above). The Brahmans at the royal court are invited to interpret its meaning (panel to the right). Their predictions is that the queen is about to bear a son with the entire world for the ascetic life, he would become a Buddha. Maya, on her fathers place with her ladies-in-waiting, stops awhile at the lumbini garden and here the pains of childbirth come upon her and the nativity takes place (lower panel).The new born child walks to the east he says, I shall attain the highest release. As he walks southward he says, I shall be the first of all created beings. And finally, I shall cross the ocean of existence.

On the right wall of the front corridor a painting in a bad stage of preservation is recognized as a superb piece of work. It shows a king, sword in hand, about to punish women for some reason. The woman is on her knees, begging for mercy. Her attitude is full of pathos: there is pleading in every curve of her slender body, graceful rendered: the figures are eloquent: the clothes are disheveled, huddled on the floor. Here is a picture rich in feeling and with great beauty of form. The chapels on each side of the ante-chamber have good murals. The one to the right has female figures which have been compared by art ceiling like Axel Jarl to Botticellis Primavera. No less remarkable are perhaps the best. One of the ceiling-panels shows a procession of twenty-three geese rendered with great skill.

Ajanta Cave 4 :
Ajanta Caves 4 is the largest Vihara at Ajanta. The decorated main entrance leads to a hall with twenty-eight pillars. To the right of the door is the carving of a Bodhisattva to whom devotees are praying for deliverance from the eight fears. The figures in niches and door jambs are full of good sculptural details. A man and women are seen flying from a mad elephant. A women leans against a trunk with a playful squirrel. A man lured by a temptress looks helpless and lost.

Ajanta Cave 5 :
Ajanta Cave 5: after ascending some steps there are Shal Bhanjikays on both sides of the entrance gate.

Ajanta Cave 6 :
Ajanta Cave 6: is two storied, the only Vihara of its kind. The influence of domestic architecture is plainly suggested. There are numerous Buddha figures in varied studies.

Ajanta Cave 7 :
Ajanta Cave 7, the plan and the pillars of this cave of different style.

Ajanta Cave 8 :
Ajanta Cave 8, there is arrangement of electricity in this cave.

Ajanta Cave 9 :
Ajanta Cave 9, a chaitya-hall, is assigned to the first century B.C. Here are many themes and motifs from everyday life; for instance, the frieze of herdsmen running after cattle
s. The row of austre Buddha figures on the columns, the scene on the walls at the back, the fragments of painting over a window these typical examples of Hinayana art stands in contrast to the vivacity of later times.
Ajanta Cave 10 :
Ajanta Cave 10 also is a prayer-hall and similar to cave 9, though it is much larger. An inscription on the front indicates its date as an early decade of second century B.C> this is the oldest of the chaityas, and possibly the earliest of all the Ajanta excavations. Of special interest are the examples of the ancient painting. The left wall opposite the third pillar shows a royal personage with a retinue of solder, dancers and musicians. The dresses, jewelry and coiffures of that remote period add to the interest of these pictures, even though are somewhat obscured by layers of deposit.

Ajanta Cave 11 :
Ajanta Cave 11, only few paintings are left in this cave.

Ajanta Cave 12 :
Ajanta Cave 12 the cave contains hinyan vihar, and on the three sides of the cave are living places for Buddhist Saints also beds made of stone are shown in this cave.

Ajanta Cave 13 :
Ajanta Cave 13 this cave is used by Indian Archaeological Department as their store.

Ajanta Cave 16: this point commands a good view of a river. Down the slope, the entrance gate is carved with an elephant on either side. Here the stairway leading to the river has survived in part. This could have been the original approach to the temples.

The architectural beauty of this cave temple makes it one of the most striking in the series. An inscription on the left end wall outside the verandah gives its history; a Minister of the royal court had it excavated as a gift for the best of ascetics. The date is late sixth century. The verandah has octagonal columns. The roof of the front aisle carries the contour of beams and rafters, an imitation of wooden construction of the time. The square windows for lighting the hall and the Buddha image make an architectural feature. Not many of the paintings have survived.

The nativity story started in cave 2 is continued here in number of panels on the right wall. Young Gautama goes to school and practices archery. He witnesses a ploughing contest and the sight of the tired toilers in the fields and the bleeding oxen throws into his first meditation about lifes realities, at the extreme right of the panel there is Maya Gautams mother, fast asleep, and the circular pavilion at its left shows: he royal couple possibly discussing the strange dream.

The masterpiece in the cave is painting next to the front plaster of the left wall, famed as the dying princess. There is agony in the drooping, sightless eyes, the helpless abandon of fingers, and the farewell gestures. The emotion of the attendant beside the princess is well expressed in their faces and attitudes.

The princess is possibly Sundari, the broken hearted wife of the Buddha half-brother Nanda, who left his palace and gave himself to monastic life. J. Griffiths has commented. For pathos and sentiment and the unmistakable way of telling its story, this picture, I consider, cannot be surpassed in the history of art, the Florentines could have put better drawing and the Venetians better color, but neither could have throws greater expression into it.

Ajanta Cave 17 : is in its design very much like Cave 16, and belongs to the same, but it has in addition an ante-chamber. Its entrance, with the decorative panels and the female figures embellishing the corner projections, is considered to be a thing of supreme artistic value. This cave temple has the largest number of paintings in good condition and they include several outstanding ones. Murals decorate the walls and ceilings of the portico and the walls of the great hall and corridors. On the porticos left wall, there is the wheel of life depicting life in its different phases. This wheel is still a living symbol in Tibetan monasteries. The adjoin wall has an intimate posture in a place pavilion; the prince holds out a cup of wine to his wife. Then the two proceed to the city gate. There is a large grouping of many human types. The flying gandharvas and apsaras are fascinating in their sensitive lines and their true purity form.

A mural on the porticos right wall illustrates the subjugation of a charging elephant, one of the eight great miracles attributed to the Buddha. Devadatt a, the Buddhas jealous cousin, made three attempts the Great Ones life. When the first two failed, he set an enraged elephant against the Master. The beast as it came charging, stopped and prostrated itself in submission. Inside the cave, the front corridor, left, presents a famous Jataka story. The Bodhisattva was once born in the Himalayan region as an elephant, the chief of a herd of eight thousand. He had two wives and happened to offend one of them. With the prayer to be reborn as a fair maiden and to become the queen of Banaras (Varanasi), so that she could avenge herself, she pined away and died. Her wish was fulfilled. In her position of power, she commissioned a hunter to bring to her the tusks of chief of the herd. The hunter having hit the elephant with a poisoned arrow struggled in vain to saw off the huge tusks. The Bodhisattva himself came to the hunters aid, pulling of his tusks and offering them as a gift to the queen. At right of them queen was stuck with remorse and died heart-break. The theme of self-sacrifice recurs often in these jataka pictures. One that covers a great a part of the left wall is based on the same idea and it also depicts a figure of great cruelty. The story goes that: the bodhisattva, born as price Visyanara, had a cravibf to give in charity whatever he possessed. When he had parted with the state elephant, which had the magical power to bring rain, the people of the kingdom forced him into exile. With him in the chariot went his wife and two little children. On his way he made a gift of chariot horses. Now they had to go on foot. When another supplicant appeared and asked for the children. The prince gave them away as well. The painting which presents this theme is badly preserved; but the supplicants intention depriving the exiled prince of his last treasures makes a striking portrayal.

A large composing on the right wall is recognized as a great work of art. The story recounts Prince Simhala conquest of Ceylon. Shipwrecked, Simhala with his five hundred merchants was cast ashore on an island of ogresses who noticed them in the guise of beautiful women. Howell, amid the revelry, Simhala sensed danger and forthwith made his escape on the back of a flying white horse who was a Bodhisattva. One of the ogresses went in pursuit. Her beauty captivated the ruler of Simhalas homelands. He married her and was presently devoured by his spouse. Simhala rose to the occasion. He chased out the ogre and then led an expedition on the enchanted island where his men had perished. Conquest followed and the victor becomes the king of island. The sections of this painting threat treat realistically a line of boats ashore, a charming group of dancers, a procession of elephants and finally the coronation. This painting is a work of art of great worth for the ensemble of the grandiose composition. The pilaster next to this mural has an attractive toilet scene in which a young, self-absorbed woman holds a mirror before her face and beatifies herself. The back wall of the anti-chamber contains the excellent mother and Child before Buddha. The Masters return to his palace door, a begging bowl in his hand. The baby boy he had left is now seven year old. At his mothers bidding, young Rahula begs of the Buddha his rightful inheritance as a son. Havell wrote in its exquisite sentiment it is comparable with the wonderful Madonnas of Giovani Beliini Lawrence Binyon called this picture: One of the most unforgettable things in Ajanta, adding that no picture any-where more profoundly impressive in grandeur and in tenderness.

Ajanta Cave 18 :
Ajanta Cave 18 is the one of the smallest cave and water tank is kept over here.

Ajanta Cave 19 :
Ajanta Cave19 is a chaitya-hall of the late Mahayana period, has an exquisitely carved faade with many large Buddha figures in relief. The great arched window ads to its grandeur. Boldly conceived and superbly executed in minute detail, this chapel is regarded as one of the best example of Buddhist art. With its large number of stone figures it has aptly been called, the sculptors treasure chest.

Ajanta Cave 20 :
Ajanta Cave 20 is again a good architectural study. The fights of steps here have a carved balustrade. The verandah pillars have capitals sculptures with attractive female studies.

Ajanta Cave 26 : is almost as crowded with sculpture as cave 19, but this Chaitya-hall is larger in size. It has a colossal reclining Buddha figure representing Parinivana in a grouping of kings and queens and monks. The same wall presents a relief of the temptation of the Buddha. A theme seen in mural in Cave 1-on the left is Mara seated on an elephant and assaulting Gautam with his demon forces. On the right is Maras retreat. In the foreground his daughters are trying to tempt the Great Ascetic


Best time to visit
Ajanta Caves and The Forest look beautiful in Rainy season. So its good to see Ajanta after the first 1-2 months of Rainy season, that is July -Nov.

The season extends all round the year.

Timings of the Tourist Places

Ajanta Caves (Except Monday)
6.00 am to 6.00 pm
6.00 am to 6.00 pm
6.00 am to 6.00 pm
6.00 am to 6.00 pm
6.00 am to 10.00 pm
6.00 am to 8.30 pm
8.00 am to 8.30 pm
Ajanta Caves are closed on Monday and Ellora Caves are closed on Tuesday.


How to reach Ajanta Caves


There is a train Devagiri Express from Mumbai to Nandeul & Tapovan Exp. Other super fast train is Sach Khand Express from Nanded to Amritsar and there are many trains from Manmad Junction. Aurangabad from where the transport and Taxies are available for Ajanta and Ellora separately. Maharashtra Governments Excursion tour are also available.
For Ajanta Caves Jalgaon Railway Station or Bhusaval Railway Station is at very near only 59 km. There are lots of MSRTC ST busses available from Jalgaon to Ajanta and Aurangabad. You can hire a Car or Taxi - Cab Hire a Car also


Busses can be arranged through Maharashtra State Transport corporation (Aurangabad and Jalgaon) on submitting application to the depot manager. Busses are also available with Indian Tourism Dev. Corp.
Transport Through Mharashtra Tourist and India Tourism.
  • Luxury Coach : Aurangabad to Ellora and Aurangabad city Tours.
  • Rate Adults Rs.: 77.00 - Departure from Holiday Camp at 10 am - Arrival at Holiday Camp 5.30 pm.
Luxury Coach : Aurangabad to Ajanta Adult Rs. 150.00
  • Departure from Holiday camp 8,00 am - arrival at holiday camp 6.pm
  • (Rates are inclusive of Guide Charges, Entrance fee, light charges and Transport both ways.)

Road Distance


  • Aurangabad to Jalgaon - 161 km
  • Aurangabad to Shirdi - 154 km
  • Aurangabad to Pune - 307 km
  • Aurangabad to Paithan - 56 km
  • Aurangabad to Nashik - 229 km
  • Aurangabad to Nanded - 307 km
  • Aurangabad to Bijapur - 440 km
  • Aurangabad to Mumbai (Via Pune) - 438 km
  • Aurangabad to Mumbai (Via Nashik) - 412 km
  • Aurangabad to Ahamadnagar - 112 km
  • Aurangabad to Shani Signapur - 90 km

Mumbai – Aurangabad (IXU) flight is a popular choice among the upscale tourists to Ajanta and Ellora.
You have a choice of some 5 daily flights between Mumbai and Aurangabad.
It is a short flight that takes between 45 to 60 minuets. In fact a larger part of the traveling time will be spend in negotiating the traffics the two cities, especially on roads of the more busy Mumbai.
One reason for the flight’s popularity is that you can save a days travel to reach Aurangabad. It is also not uncommon for tourists to opt for one way by flight and return by the night train. So it is a smart choice of options and budgets to a Ellora/Ajanta tour.
Jet Airways, JetLite, Kingfisher and Air India operated daily flights. The fare varies though it is about Rs3000 one way.
Aurangabad airport (also called Chikkalthana Airport ) is about 10 Km (6 Miles) east of the city center. Ellora is further some 30km  from the city. Ajanta is 100km in a different direction than Ellora. So making it to Ahjanta and Ellora on the same day, even if you opt for the flight to save time from Mumbai is a bit hectic.
Airlines and destinations

Air India
Delhi, Mumbai
Air India Regional
Jet Airways
Delhi, Hyderabad [begins 30 October], Mumbai, Pune
Kingfisher Airlines


Ellora Caves , Maharashtra


Ellora Caves are twenty eight kilometers (18 miles) from Aurangabad. The road passes by the base of the Daultabad fort.
The cave Temples of Ellora, are the product of three religious systems-Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism containing elaborate carvings of gods and goddesses and remarkable memorials of the three great faiths they represent.

History in short

Rashtrakuta dynasty ruled in large part of contemporary India in 6th – 10th centuries. These powerful clans had excellent internal organisation and managed to keep control over the vast area with sure hand, wisdom and also skilled use of religion as the organising institute for society. In these times Central India experienced gradual shift from Buddhism to Hinduism, at the end of this period Jainism became more widespread. These religions rather peacefully co-existed in Central India and Ellora Caves serve as one of the best examples for this. Ellora, especially the glorious Kailasanatha Temple is the highest architectural attainment throughout the rich history of art during the time of this dynasty.
First caves in Ellora were created shortly after the previous royal shrines of this region – Ajanta Caves – were abandoned. In many aspects Ellora Caves continue the tendencies originating in Ajanta, but there are numerous influences from other regions of India and new trends in art represented in Ellora.

Each system had its individual style of architecture and Ellora presents the varied styles side by side. The sculptural work, too, reveals the points of contrast. The excavations on a sloping hill-side are spread over an area, from north to south, of about two kilometers. Caves 1 to 12, making the southern series, are Buddhist. The next sixteen belong to Brahmanism, caves 30 to 34 are in the Jain group. The Buddhist caves are the earliest (500-700 A.D.).

The taxi-parking ground faces cave 16; in the Brahman series and visitors are apt to make this their starting point. However, it is advisable to walk down south, begin with Cave 1. And proceed in the right sequence. Having seen the southern and the middle series, it is best to return to the taxi and take it one and half kilometers up the road to another part of the hillside where the Jain Caves are situated. Those caves which may well be ignored have been omitted from this account. Among the most notable ones are Cave 5, 10, 15, 16, 21, 29, and 32


Buddhist Excavations

Buddhist Cave 1 is possibly the earliest excavation at Ellora. It is a plain vihara with eight cells.
Buddhist Cave 2 which look like a chaitya-hall has twelve massive columns with cushion capitals to support the roof. The lion-throne that holds the huge Buddha image is a symbol of the royal state, denoting a changed attitude in the great ascetic’s presentation. The galleries, however, have Buddha figures seated on lotus in the traditional posture of a preacher. There are several Bodhisattvas.
Buddhist Cave 3 is not unlike the preceding one and has a chapel at the portico’s end. The lotus on which Buddha is seated is supported by Naga figures with snake-heads.
Buddhist Cave 5 the largest in this series, is viahra, 35.66 meter by 17 meters (117 ft. by 56ft.), and has in addition two side recesses. Twenty four pillars hold roof. The interior seems to indicate that it was used either as a room for guest or as a classroom for novitiates. There is the usual Buddha image in a chapel.
Buddhist Cave 6 is mainly notable for its ante-chamber which has several interesting sculptures. These include figures from Buddhist folklore. An unexpected innovating is the figure of the Hindu goddess of learning, Saraswati – well-known In India today in the same representation.
Caves No. 7, 8, 9 are not worth seeing.

Buddhist Cave 10 is the only proper chaitya-hall at Ellora, has the semblance of masonry work. A porch surmounted by a gallery inside the chapel. The carved roof, again, brings to mind the timber construction of the time. Above the pillars there are figures in base-relief. This is figures in base-relief. This cave temple is dedicated to Viswarkarma, the architect of the gods and the patron saint of many Indian artisans even today, but having no connection with the Buddhist pantheon. This commingling of concepts, which the Mahayana system initiated, resulted finally in the absorption of Buddhism in the current of Hindu thought and its virtual extinction in the land of its birth, A staircase leads to  a large pillared court and to a gallery with a railed terrace.
Buddhist Caves 11 and 12 are by far the most important in this group. They are large; three stories structures alike in design and represent the peak of the earlier style at Ellora. Cave 12 is the biggest of two and more impressive, known as Teen Thal, it is faced by an open façade, nearly 15.24 meters (50 ft.) high, plain in austre-looking, has porches supported by pillars in each story. The ground or first story is 35 meters by 13.10 meters (115 ft. by 43 ft.). Three rows of pillars divide it into aisles. The large hall in the second storey 35 meter by 21.33 meter and 3.65 meter (115 ft. by 70 ft.) and 12 ft. high is divided likewise by forty square pillars into five aisles. The interiors make a striking contrast to the undecorated façade, for the hall in each floor has galleries. Among the huge Buddha figures, the one in the shrine, arms folded and the face deeply meditative, commands attention.

Brahman Excavations

The Brahmanical series, excavated between the seventh and ninth centuries are glimpses of a world apart from the chaitya-halls and viharas. The familiar Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas are gone. The motifs are still as religious as in Buddhist art, but the representations take other forms. The Brahman religion in India was based at the outset on the concept of one Supreme Being. But in later ages, the “life-force” found dramatic expression in symbolical figures and the offshoot was a great Hindu pantheon around which grew a vast, richness of mythology. The imagination and poetry of the new concepts was reflected in art which attained a new visual grace and power.
It is good to remember that the Brahman revival which produced this group of Ellora Caves under royal patronage had nothing in it of intolerance against the Buddhist system fought entirely in the intellectual arena. “The dharma (sacred duty) of a Hindu king as defender of the faith was to give protection to all religious devotees, are few of them failed in their duty in this respect. It would have been a flagrant outrage upon the Indo-Aryan sense of royal justice for king to attempt to controvert any form of religious argument except by the weapon of logic used in the debating hall”.
Brahmanical Cave 14 serves as an introduction to the new order. In the first panel to the left there in Durga the mother goddess, whose worship forms a great national festival in India. The third plan panel has Vishnu, one of the Hindu triad (Creator, preserver, and Destroyer). The shrine holds the goddess of wealth, lakshmi, who is the wife of Lord Vishnu. The right wall is dedicated to Lord Shiva and several goddesses, among who is Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, who will be frequently seen in the other caves.
Brahmanical Cave 15 is reached after a long climb over steps which lead to a carved gate. Double-stored, it has a courtyard with several small shrines and chambers for the residence of the temple priests. There is little to see in the spacious hall of the ground floor. In the upper hall, the vestibules on two walls contain reliefs carved with great delicacy.
The Archaeological Department has given name-plates to these panels. Notable among them are several depictions of Shiva – eight-armed, warlike, slaying a demon; dancing the tandava, dance of destruction; in a homely mood, playing dice with Parvati; rising out of his symbolical representation, the lingam: destroying Tripura, the terrible demon-king who challenged the might of the gods and tried to take Heaven by assault.
The shrine holds the presiding deity of the temple the lingam, and facing it in the centre passage is the Bull (Nandi), who is Lord Shiva’s mount and an inevitable feature in all Shiva Shrines.
Brahmanical Cave 16 celebrated as the Kailasha. Shiva’s mountain abone, is by far best of all Ellora excavation and it is one of India’s most famous monuments. Here is rock cut architecture at the apex of technical skill of eighth and early ninth centuries. Regarded as the greatest monolithically structure in the world. Kailash combines immensity with grace, energy and superb genius. Its conception and planning are matched by the jewel-like execution. Hundred of architects and sculptures created this grandeur out of living rock in an inspired period of the country’s art history.
“It is estimated that the task of quarrying its 3,000,000 cubic feet of rock must have occupied at least one hundred years”. As one of the earliest European visitor’s remark, “it is a wonder to see so great a mass in the air which seems so splendidly under-dropped that one could hardly forbear to shudder on first entering it”. There is no nobler achievement of Indian architects and sculptors, and no greater marvel of Indian sculpture. This and the superb sculptures of Elephanta Caves (in Bombay) which register the consummation of the same style are the offerings of the Rashrakutas, who succeeded the Chalukyas in Western Deccan in 753 A.D. The Kailasha Temple itself was constructed by king Krishna 1, of the Rastrakut dynasty in 760 A.D.
The work began at the chiff top. A rectangular trench was cut downward into the rock depths. Some three million cubic feet of rock seem to have been chiseled out so that a great pit was formed, 31.61 meter deep, 31.12 meter long, and 46.92 meter wide (107 ft. deep, 276 ft. long, and 154 ft. wide). The enormous block left at the centre was then chiseled through decades of time in the familiar shape of a Shiva temple, as complete in detail as the brick and mortar structures. It was double-storied, 45.72 meter by 30.48 meter (150 ft. by 100 ft.) at its base, was several ancillary features added later.
While the temple grew out of the shaping of the great mass of monolith detached from the ridge by the scooped area around, the sculptors were busy simultaneously, adding profuse ornamentation, achieving a wonderful composition, the entire architecture is, infant, a gigantic sculptural piece. The spacious court has three buildings connected by an overhead bridge. The main temple has a 76.20 meter (25 ft.) high plinth, the sides of which are done into bold friezes of life-size elephants. The huge beasts seem as train with the great burden of the temple on their backs.
The roof is pyramidal having a three-tier tower and projection gable-front. There is a cupola on top. From the outer court’s extreme right-hand corner, there is a cupola on top. From the outer court’s extreme right-hand corner, a panoramic view of the edifice brings out the main outline.
The northern court is featured by a huge elephant which has lost its truck, and also a victory Pillar. Further up, a gallery of twelve panel’s offers plastic rends rings of Shiva legends. Most of them depict the god with Parvati. The panels that continue in the eastern gallery reveal the god in other attitudes.
The adjoining wall makes the southern gallery. Here, Vishnu provides a variation. He is, for instance, seen in the Man-lion incarnation (Narsinghavtar) tearing with his claws the body of a demon king. The demon king was blessed with a boon from the creator which made him invulnerable to any one in human or animal form. Drunk with power, with none to challenge his might for the gods also were human in their image, he became an intolerable tyrant. Vishnu solved the problem of his destruction by attacking him in the form of a man-lion, neither human nor animal.
Close to this gallery is a sculpture masterpiece known as “Ravan shaking Kailasha”. Ravana, a central figure in the great epic Ramayana, stepped under Kailasha and tried to lift the mountain abode on his head as an exhibition of his great strength. By way of an answer, Shiva simply put his foot down on the floor and under the enormous pressure exerted, Ravana become helpless trapped. The depiction shows Parvati clinging to her husband, an alarmed maid in flight, and attendants seated unperturbed with full faith in the lord of kailasha.
Several other halls conations work of considerable value contributing to the total effect. The main hall on the first floor has well-decorated balconies. A central door leads to the shrine containing the great lingam.
The temple is faced by a pavilion, 15.24 meter (50 ft.) high and level with the main structure to which it is connected. This pavilion, 6.09 meter (20 ft.) square: is the abode of Nandi. On each side of the Nandi shrine is a pillar, a stone and a “flagstaff” about 15.54 meters (51 ft.) high with finely wrought carvings of Shiva Cult. These two pillars are among the best work of art in Kailasha. The only other temples of interest in this Brahmanical series are Caves 21 and 29.
Brahmanical Cave 17, the pillars of this cave huge and in the interior Garbh Greh, there is Shiv Ling and the images of Brahmma, Visnu, Ganesh and Mahisha Surmardni.
Brahmanical Cave 18, there are four pillars and Shiv Ling in the interiour Garbh Greh.
Brahmanical Cave 19, this cave contains Shi Ling in the Garbh Greh.

Brahmanical Cave 21 has an attractive façade. In front of it is Nandi on the usual raised platform, Close by are figures of the river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, Ganga (Ganges) big and beautiful, stands on her crocodile mount. The fine brackets of the pillars have female figures with foliage them and lotuses underfoot. Inside the chamber, Parvati’s marriage to Shiva is set in a panel filling almost an entire wall. There is a second chamber with several panels.

Brahmanical Cave 22, the local name is Neel Kanth and is a river.
Brahmanical Cave 23 and 24 are only Garbh Grehs.
Brahmanical Cave 25, this is a huge cave and interior contains a standings image of sun god in Rath (Chariot), which contains seven horses. The chariot is being driven by Arun and Usha and Pratusha are adorned with bows (Dhanush Bans).
Brahmanical Cave 26, this is a copy of cave 21.

Brahmanical Cave 27, this cave contains the images of  Haldhar Balram, Shri Krishna, Shej Shaai Vishnu, Varah Awtara and Mahisha-Surmardni.

Brahmanical Cave 28, there is an empty small room in this cave and the water fall runs only for six-seven months.
Brahmanical Cave 29 is a massive structure, 45.72 meter wide and 5.48 meter high (150 ft. and 18 ft. respectively). It has a group of halls built in the form of cross. Unlike the other Ellora temples it has three separate entrances, with wide columns, and a pair of stone lions crouching near the fight of steps – lions guards the entrance of many Hindu temples. Everything here is colossal. The verandah near the entrance is dominated by huge Shiva with eight arms. It is a powerful, depiction of the god conceived as the Terrible. Another colossal Shiva in the portico dances in destructive fury. A beautiful Yamuna, river goddess, waits outside.

 The Indra Sabha

The Indra Sabha (Cave 32) is a two storeyed cave with one more monolithic shrine in its court. It has a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. It got the appellation "Indra Sabha" probably it is significantly ornate and also because of the sculpture of the yaksha (dedicated attendant deity) Matanga on an elephant, which was wrongly identified as that of Indra. On the upper level of the double-storied shrine excavated at the rear of the court, an imposing image of Ambika, the yakshini of Neminath, is found seated on her lion under a mango tree, laden with fruits.

The Dashavatara

The Dashavatara (Cave 15) was begun as a Buddhist monastery. It has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa at the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear. The layout of the temple is closely related to caves 11 and 12. Large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes, which include the ten avatars of Vishnu. An inscription of grant of Dantidurga is found on the back wall of the front mandapa. According to Coomaraswamy, the finest relief of this cave is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon the shoulder of Hiranyakashipu.[10]

Other Hindu caves

Other notable Hindu caves are the Rameshvara (Cave 21), which has figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance and the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29) whose design is similar to the cave temple on Elephanta Island near Mumbai. Two other caves, the Ravan ki Khai (Cave 14) and the Nilkantha (Cave 22) also have several sculptures. The rest of the Hindu caves, which include the Kumbharvada (Cave 25) and the Gopilena (Cave 27) have no significant sculptures.

Jain Excavations

More than a kilometer away at the northern spur of the ridge, there are the Jain excavations (30 to 34). Jainism was founded in the sixth century before Christ, at the same time as Buddhism; through its early beginnings go back a further few hundred years. It is still a living faith among certain section of people. These excavations belong to the period between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The visitors may confine his attention to caves 32 and 34 only.


 Ellora  is 29 km (18 mi) North-West of the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra

Om Tat Sat

(My humble  salutations to the great devotees ,  wikisources  and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )


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