Day 2, 26 Dec 2007 Destination Ellora Caves
Caves 1 to 12, Buddhist monastries
Ellora caves are 28kms north of Aurangabad. After the visit to Ajanta caves, we were eager for more! And Ellora caves had cave temples dedicated to three different religions. I don’t think any other place in world can boast of historic monuments with sculptures of three different religions. It shows how different religions have developed and existed in harmony for centuries in India. Salutations to the spirit of tolerance of our great country - India!
It is best to start sequentially when you are there, i.e. walk right up to the first cave and keep exploring and walking towards cave 16. If you don’t have enough time it would be wise to spend the time at Kailash Temple as I mentioned earlier. Cave 1 doesn’t have any sculptures or carvings, but just eight cells. They must have been used by the monks staying there.
Cave 2 is small but attractive and lavishly decorated with sculptures of Buddha...huge standing Boddhisattvas at entrance to sanctums.
Ellora caves are scooped out in the sloping hillsides, and unlike Ajanta caves, are spread over a distance of two kilometers. The entrance from Cave 1 is closed and tickets are issued only in the parking lot in front of Kailash temple. The taxi dropped us right in front of Kailash Temple the (cave 16). Facade of cave 4...delicately carved columns...
Image of Buddha radiating calm and peace ...we accessed the cave 9 through cave 6. The Ellora caves is a UNESCO world Heritage site.
Lord Buddha inside the sanctum with Boddhisatvas Avalokiteshwar and Padmapani on right and left of entrance.
Cave 10...This cave is called the Vishwakarma cave, named after the legendary architect of Universe.
Caves 11 and 12 the Do Taal and Teen Taal caves are huge and look like three storey apartments of today, the facades are plain and don’t have any sculptures.
Cave 11 was known as Do Taal as the ground floor was not discovered for a long time. The interiors are again elaborately decorated and spacious and feature two sculpture panels with images of Buddha in teaching and meditative postures.
Buddha in Pralambapad Asan, just one look at Buddha’s face and you will be forced to pause there totally mesmerized.
Caves 13 to 29, the Hindu group of caves
All the 17 caves are dedicated to Lord Shiva. In most of the caves the idols have been so skillfully carved that you get to see the details of ornaments, their hair dressings...just amazing!
Cave13 was empty... probably a resting place. Most of the other caves have Shiv Ling installed and some of them continue to be worshipped.
Cave 14 is called the Ravan Ki Khai. All the walls have sculpted images but it was sad to see many damaged. All attention by the authorities seem to be focussed on Cave 16, nobody to stop anyone from damaging these sculpted treasures.
The facade of cave 14. The long flight of steps to cave 15. It has two storeyed temple and a large courtyard. School children had come there on picnic and Ishani commented, "How lucky they are to come to such an interesting place on a picnic."
Varah Avtaar, reincarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar. After visiting the Kailash temple we left for Caves 17 to 27, which was half a km away. (You will do well to)Replenish your water bottles here and stuff yourself withsome energy boosters as well.
Mahishasura mardhini and Ganesha on either side of entrance to cave 20.
Shiv Ling. Caves 17,18,19 each had ShivLings. The caves had incomplete sculpted work with traces of several colors on some of them.
Cave20. The set of caves had no care taker. Ellora caves do not seem to have any elaborate protective measures when compared with Ajanta caves. There were no guides around too.
Cave21...Nandi outside the cave placed on a high pedestal.This is the only cave where Nandi is placed outside. The facade to this cave is also very beautiful...the carvings very intricate compared to the caves of 17, 18, 19
Ganga with apsaras...extremely graceful...embodiment of celestial beauty
Ravana shaking mount Kailaash...this sculpture was found in a few other caves too. Here I took the closeup of Ravana..many hands sculpted depict the vigorously shaking action I guess...
Caves 17 to 28 stretch across a climbing path. Ishani took a breather even as Arundhati found the motivation to strike a sculpted pose...This was at cave 26
Cave 27 had the standing images of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in one group and Krishna, Balram and Shubhadra in another.
Cave 28 is situated under the waterfalls...We walked back all the way to cave 17 to the waiting taxi and drove to cave 29. Tourists climbing up the way to cave 29. As there is no proper hold along the way, and with our taxi waiting we gave the adventure a miss...
Cave 29 also called as Sita ki Nahani or Dhumar cave. At the entrance is a pair of majestically seated lions. This cave is a massive structure with huge columns and a number of halls.
There are many large scale reliefs on the walls of this cave. Ravan shaking mount Kailash.
Shiva killing Andhakasur-colossal Shiva dances in destructive fury.
Marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Click on the image for a more detailed view of the Gods witnessing the marriage.
Beside this cave was the waterfall of river Yelganga. It is dry this winter. Many tourists climbed down and took the adventurous route to cave 28. One has to visit in the rainy seasons to view the water falls there.
Caves 30 to 34, the Jain group of caves
The last of the five caves 30 to 34 are just under one kilometer from the last Hindu cave-Sita ki Nahani. We got dropped here by Taxi.
These Digambara Jain excavations date back to the period between ninth and eleventh centuries.
Cave 30A was on a nearby hill, it was sort of abandoned and not very well maintained. The work around looked incomplete too.
The other caves were at the foothill. You will need to leave footwear outside. Cave 30 resembles the Kailash temple and is rightly called the 'Chota Kailash'.
A life-sized sculpture of an elephant at the entrance of cave 32. This is a double storey cave. One can find the best examples of Jain sculpture here.
The lower floor is incomplete. The upper floor had pillars and columns richly sculpted. The delicate ornamental work quite resembles ivory carvings. (see picture) besides this were carvings of Mahavir flanked by Tirthankaras.
Cave 32 is known as Indra Sabha. The walls had carvings of elephants, lions and Tirthankaras like in the image. There was a beautiful shrine beside this... ceilings carved with lotus... large figure of Mahavira...
Cave 33 - there was Lord Indra seated on an elephant, under a banyan tree and in the opposite side Indrani Devi under a mango tree. If you observe carefully you can see a monkey plucking mangoes.
We accessed the cave 34 from the Indra Sabha and came out through its main entrance, peeping into the small rooms and dark passages on the way. At the end of it all was a mixed sounding, "Mama it is over ..."
We returned with memories, definitely tired but reverently proud of all that we had seen.