Jan 11, 2021
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Ellora rock temples – a man-made wonder of India

1. The uniqueness of the village of Ellora

The rock temples of Ellora are a man-made wonder of India.

The small village of Ellora, located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, has become famous all over the world thanks to the majestic temples carved out of stone. Being the standard of religious architecture of the most ancient civilizations, they still impress with their scale. From VI to IX centuries. n. e. on its territory, cave temples were carved from rocks of fantastic beauty, from which they breathe a special energy and even mysticism.

Ellora cave complex is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List (India).

And it is no wonder that people managed to cut down 34 most beautiful cave temples, having only the simplest tools. But, no matter what legends about the participation of higher powers go, the surviving masterpieces only confirm the genius of the ancestors, who mastered the art of accurate mathematical calculations and were able to perform man-made miracles.

The Kailash Temple is an incredible man-made miracle of India (Ellora). | Photo:

It is noteworthy: The nature itself contributed to the fact that the village turned into a special place. The mountain range, in which man-made cave temples were created, is crossed by four rivers from west to east. The largest river, Elaganga, forms a giant waterfall during the rainy season, enhancing the mystical effect of these places.

2. Tolerance towards representatives of other faiths

34 temples for followers of three religions at once (Ellora, India) have been created in the rock for 2 km.

Given the fact that several trade routes converged in this area at once, along which merchants and travelers from all over the world followed, it is not surprising that the complex consists of temples belonging to 3 religions at once – Buddhist, Jain and Hindu. The very first began to build Buddhist temples, although the largest number is intended for followers of Hindu philosophy and religion.

3. Buddhist temples

Buddhist temples in the Ellora caves (India).

Construction began with Buddhist halls, which are located in the southern part of the cave complex. In total, 12 Buddhist monasteries (viharas) were created, in which monks lived, meditations, teachings and religious rituals were held. The main decoration of all these cult objects was the sculptures of the Buddha, always looking to the east, towards the rising sun, although the poses could be different. Some temple objects were decorated with filigree carvings, exquisite statues, massive columns and beautiful high reliefs reflecting scenes from Indian mythology.

Ellora Buddhist Caves (India).

Among the large number of monasteries located under the arches of the rock, Rameshwara is especially impressive, which has become one of the most visited tourist sites. In addition to Buddha statues, columns and the finest carvings, a large number of fantastic creatures await in the main hall of pilgrims who literally step on those entering, causing genuine fear. And this is not an exaggeration. To create a special atmosphere, the ancient architects were able to masterfully convey plastic and volume in the sculptures of ancient gods and mythical animals, creating the illusion of movement of all these characters.

Buddha statues and filigree carvings adorn Buddhist monasteries built deep in the rocks (Ellora, India).

But Tin-Thal is considered the largest underground temple not only in Ellora, but throughout India. It is also the main religious building, consisting of three floors and located at the depth of a 20-meter well.

4. Hindu temples of Ellora

The 29-meter main Hindu temple rises above the rocky complex (Kailasanatha, India).

There are 17 Hindu cult halls in the Ellora temple complex. Each of these unusual shrines is beautiful in its own way, but the most grandiose and impressive is the Kailasanatha temple. Its construction technology is still driving specialists from different industries to a dead end, because it has not been possible to figure out how in ancient times they were able to cut down a temple structure from a monolithic rock, such a kind of Kailash Mountain – the abode of Shiva in the Himalayas.

The uniqueness of the Kailasanatha Temple is that it was cut from a monolithic rock from top to bottom (Ellora, India).

The main mystery of the construction is that the gigantic sanctuary, whose height reaches 33 m, with a width and length of 36 and 61 m, respectively, was carved from top to bottom. The most difficult work was carried out for more than 150 years, and over such a long period about 400 thousand tons of rock were extracted.

The most fantastic Hindu temple on the planet rests on statues of elephants and lions (Kailasanatha, India).

Particularly impressive is the design of the rectangular courtyard of the temple, surrounded by rows of statues of deities located in carved niches, above which is the main sanctuary with a multi-column worship hall. It is noteworthy that all the elements of the religious structure are covered with skillful stone carving, and the temple itself is located on giant statues of lions and elephants, which are a kind of base.

Each element of the unique temple is decorated with carvings and high reliefs (Ellora, India).

According to the editors, the initially fantastic structure, which is both a cave and a ground temple, was covered with white plaster, which emphasized its beauty against the background of dark rocks. At the same time, all the three-dimensional elements of the decorations created visual effects, especially noticeable at sunset. As the sun went down, numerous shadows appeared, creating the illusion of movement of the stone-carved deities.

5. Jain caves

Jain traditions of rigor combined with sophisticated decor (Ellora, India).

The Jain caves are considered the “youngest”. Despite the fact that there are only 5 of them, they are worthy of their famous “neighbors”. They are also of particular interest to researchers and pilgrims who rush to their shrines. But tourists practically do not come here, because ascetic temples are located 2 km from the main architectural complex. The unique carving and artful images of Mahavir, the founder of the Jain religion and philosophy, have been perfectly preserved to this day; there are also statues of two more revered mentors and philosophers of the Jains – Gomateshwar and Parshvanatha.

A lotus flower carved from stone on the ceiling of a Jain temple (Ellora, India). | Photo:

Unfortunately, only one temple was fully completed; in addition to divine sculptures, you can see giant stone lotuses and formidable lions with huge elephants. But this is where the decoration ends, there is no splendor of Hindu shrines with an abundance of sculptures and carvings on every centimeter of rock. For some unknown reason, the rest of the temples were never completed.

It makes me happy when the ancient shrines are treated with awe and cherished for the next generations of creators, many of whom will have to study for a long time in order to even remotely approach the skill of their ancestors. Strange and absurd creations of our contemporaries and compatriots have become a vivid confirmation of this, their “masterpieces” more resemble blatant hack-work, and not works of art.

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