Ellora Caves Maharashtra: A Religious Fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism

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Ellora caves structure

About Ellora Caves

A feat of magnificence, the Ellora caves Maharashtra are a series of 34 monasteries/temples carved from the basaltic cliffs of Charanandari hills and are spread over 2 kilometers. They’re a sacred site in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Central India.

 They mark the fusion of 3 religious histories – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism with monuments and sculptures that date back to 600 C.E., about 1500 years ago. Being one of the largest rock-cut cave temples in the world, The Ellora Caves have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ellora caves Maharashtra are made up of 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and 5 Jainist caves. They have been excavated vertically and exhibit delicate craftsmanship and intricate works of art including sculptures, paintings, and frescoes from all three religions.

These caves are buried by thick forests all around. One can only imagine the time and effort it took to hand-carve rocks with only the tools available during the time and still achieve something so brilliant that even modern architecture shies away from it.

The Kailasa temple is the most remarkable monument of the Ellora caves dedicated to Lord Shiva and is cave number 16. They are named after the ‘Kailash Parvat’ of the Himalayan mountain range where Lord Shiva is said to reside. It is constructed in the 16th cave, shaped like a chariot,  and is carved from a single monolithic rock, the largest such excavation in the world.

The caves showcase skillful Indian architecture and are a tribute to archaic Indian handiwork. From Hindu deities, mythological depictions, and epic panels, to sculpted Buddhas and other religious figures, the caves were a shared space for habitation, art, and religious devotion. They are of interest to both religious enthusiasts and inquisitive travelers and are nothing short of an architectural masterpiece and stand as a remarkable example of religious tolerance especially in current times.

Ellora Caves History

The Ellora cave’s history dates back to the 2nd century BC. They are said to be built around the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD. The caves were built under the reign of Hindu dynasties—Hindu and Buddhist caves were built during the Rashtrakuta dynasty and the Jainist during the Yadava dynasty. The caves served as monasteries, temples and rest stops for pilgrims of all three religions and also as a popular commercial center due to its location on the South Asian trade route. 

The Ellora caves in Aurangabad are said to be built in three main phases — an early Hindu phase that dated from 550 to 600 CE, a Buddhist phase from 600 to 730 CE, and a later Hindu and Jainist phase from 730 to 950 CE. 

Some of the earliest Hindu caves built by the Kalachuri dynasty are said to be inspired by Shiva as compared to the later Hindu caves. The Buddhist caves are said to be built by the Chalukya dynasty and the later Hindu and Jaina caves by the Rashtrakuta and Yadava dynasty. The history of the magnificent Ellora caves in Aurangabad is one of wonder and inspiration. Ellora caves built by the various dynasties are truly a fusion of diverse and majestic architectural features. 

The Ellora Caves to this day remain an archaeological mystery, the way the caves were built is just too advanced even for our modern-day technology. So in a way, the Ellora Caves mystery helps show us how advanced these ancient civilizations actually were. 

Ellora Caves Paintings

The Ellora caves Maharashtra have 5 different caves in which mural paintings are found. But it seems to be as if the Ellora caves paintings were done in phases. The first phase seemed to have been done during the construction and carving phase of this great cave system. Then it appears as if several centuries later another phase has taken place and the murals were completed. 

Although unfortunate, it seems as if most of the Ellora Caves paintings were not that well preserved, with the exception of the Kailasa temple. 

Tips for travelers

  1. You can save money by pre-booking your Ellora caves entry ticket online for your family and friends and avoid queues at the counter.
  2. Carry a flashlight with you for dark, unlit corners of the caves. 
  3. Entry to the caves opens from as early as 7:00 in the morning and this is the best time to avoid crowds and for peaceful exploration.
  4. There is a walking path around the top of Kailasa Temple which offers some picturesque views from the top. 
  5. To make your trip valuable and worth the money Ajanta caves, Aurangabad caves, Daulatabad Fort, and Aurangzeb’s tomb are unmissable attractions.
  6. Try to avoid visiting them on weekends to avoid crowds.
  7. For a better, more informative experience you can buy audio-visual guides from the tourist information center nearby.
  8. The caves are shopper-friendly and sell items handcrafted by local artisans including Buddha sculptures, semi-precious stone, silver ornaments, clothing, footwear, and Buddhist and Jain paintings.

Interesting facts about Ellora Caves

  1. Ellora Caves are locally called Verul Leni. 
  2. Dashavatara cave (cave 15) depicts the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu.
  3. Jon Smith, a British Officer accidentally discovered the horse-shoe shaped rock in 1819 while hunting a tiger.
  4. Various incidents from Gautam Buddha’s life and the Jataka Tales are recreated on the walls of these caves.
  5. The caves were used as a refuge by monks during the rainy season. This is when they filled the walls with paintings. Although Buddha was against all materialistic things, his followers painted his life stories to have something to look up to.

ellora caves interior

Timings and Entry Fees

Ellora caves Maharashtra are open for visitors from sunrise to sunset but remain closed on Tuesdays. These hours may vary with the seasons but the general hours are 8:00 – 17:30. 

The entry fees are as follows:

Indian citizens (Adult) – Rs. 40/-

Foreigners – Rs. 600/-

Children (up to 15) – Free entry

Best Time to Visit

As summers can get quite hot and stuffy, the best time to visit is from June to March. In the monsoon season and part of the fall, the temperatures are moderate and the weather is quite pleasant and soothing with average showers. If you would like to avoid the rainy season, the best time would be November to March which provides quite a respite from hot temperatures or rain.

How to reach 

By Road – The distance from Aurangabad to Ellora caves is only 30 kilometers. Hiring a local taxi or using state transport buses is an efficient means of transport.

By Rail – The Jalgaon Railway station is closest to Ellora caves and is well connected to Mumbai and Pune. From this station, local transport is easily accessible.

By Air – Aurangabad is well connected to Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad via air. The airport is only 35km away from Ellora caves.

Visit the greatest monolithic structure of India. The intricacy of the architecture and the etchings all are surely going to mesmerize you! Do not miss out on the chance to carouse in the architectural marvel- The Ellora Caves.

Read More:

Explore more Glorious Monuments genre articles written by Tour Bharat here!

Credits:

The Ellora Caves photography involves a lot of dedication. The Ellora Caves photos used in this Tour Bharat article were provided by Mr. Aseem Madar and Mr. Paresh Bagi.

You can check out their Instagram @aseemography and @bagiparesh respectively

 

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