26th September, 2015: Ellora Caves
Ellora, located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India, is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600-1000 CE period. There are over 100 caves at the site, all excavated from the basalt cliffs in the Charanandri Hills, 34 of which are open to public. These consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, with each group representing deities and mythologies that were prevalent in the 1st millennium CE, as well as monasteries of each respective religion. They were built in proximity to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India.
The Hindu monuments: Caves 13-29.
Kailasanatha Temple, Cave 16.
Cave 16, in particular, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Shiva. The Kailasha temple excavation also features the gods, goddesses, and mythologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaktism as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu Epics.
The Kailasha temple, inspired by Mount Kailasha, is dedicated to Shiva. It is particularly a notable cave temple in India because of its size, architecture and having been entirely carved out of a single rock. The structure is a freestanding, multi-level temple complex covering an area twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens.
Rameshwar temple, Cave 21.
Although the cave features similar works to those in other Ellora caves, it also has a number of unique pieces, such as those depicting the story of goddess Parvati’s pursuit of Shiva. Carvings depicting Parvati and Shiva at leisure, Parvati’s wedding to Shiva, Shiva dancing and Kartikeya (Skanda) have been found in other caves. The cave also features a large display of the Sapta Matrika, the seven mother goddesses of the Shakti tradition of Hinduism, flanked on either side by Ganesha and Shiva.
The entrance to Cave 21 is flanked by large sculptures of the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna representing the two major Himalayan rivers and their significance to the Indian culture.
The Buddhist monuments: Caves 1-12.
These caves are located on the southern side and were built either between 630-700 CE. Eleven out of the twelve Buddhist caves consist of viharas. or monasteries with prayer halls: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms. The monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Gautama Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints.
Cave 5 is unique among the Ellora caves as it was designed as a hall with a pair of parallel refectory benches in the centre and a Buddha statue in the rear. This cave, and Cave 11 of the Kanheri Caves, are the only two Buddhist caves in India arranged in such a way.
The Vishvakarma Cave, Cave 10:
Most notable among the Buddhist caves is Cave 10, a chaitya worship hall called the ‘Vishvakarma cave’ (literally the cave of one who accomplishes everything, or the architect of the gods), built around 650 CE.
The main hall of the Visvakarma cave is apsidal in plan and is divided into a central nave and side aisles by 28 octagonal columns with plain bracket capitals. In the apsidal end of the chaitya hall is a stupa on the face of which a colossal high seated Buddha in vyakhyana mudra (teaching posture). A large Bodhi tree is carved at his back. The hall has a vaulted roof in which ribs (known as triforium) have been carved in the rock imitating the wooden ones. The friezes above the pillars are Naga queens, and the extensive relief artwork shows characters such as entertainers, dancers and musicians.
BONUS PICTURES: Mini Taj Mahal, Bibi ka Maqbara and Paithani sarees.
Paithani Saree weaving machine and weaver
few examples of design patterns and colors characterising a Paithani Saree.