"Extreme Reverse Engineering – The Ellora Caves" Top 5 Page for this destination Ellora by anilpradhanshillong

Ellora Travel Guide: 97 reviews and 585 photos

Elapura or Elura or Verul or Ellora is a collection of about 34 caves and a few temples, barely 30 kms from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Along with Ajanta and Elephanta, it makes up the trio of places where man’s natural urge to expression finds a unique and distinctive outlet. At all three places, three important religions of the region – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism – flourished in the olden days; at all three places, skilled craftsmen toiled day and night with rudimentary tools to produce astounding works of art; at all three places, monks and priests forsook the world to attain spiritual bliss. Unlike the Ajanta caves, Ellora was never hidden from public view but rather entertained a constant stream of pilgrims since its inception to the present day.

The hill where this 2 kms belt of caves is strung along is breath-taking in its beauty and is fittingly called, Charanadri, meaning the hills of the Charanas, the people of the celestial region. First comes the 12 Buddhist caves (northern-end) built between the 5th and 7th century AD dedicated to Lord Buddha, then the 17 Hindu caves excavated from the 8th to the 9th century AD in honour of Lord Shiva and other gods in the Hindu pantheon and finally the 6 caves (southern-end) belonging to the Jain religion, carved from the 9th to the 11th century AD, dedicated to Lord Mahavira and the Tirthankaras or teachers.

The most impressive caves are 6, 10-12, 14-16, 21, 29-34, the foremost being the Kailasha Temple of Cave 16, the largest monolithic structure in the world. Barely half a km away is the Ghrishneshwar Temple where one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (column of light) of Lord Shiva is enshrined. The temple was built by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar who ruled over Indore (1765-1795).

These artistic and religious expressions are astounding as they are living testimony to the principle of “extreme reverse engineering” (language of the guide), the top to down approach in the methodology of carving of the temples, the full faith reposed by the artisans in the behaviour of the rocks and the total confidence they had in themselves. Else, how could they start their excavations from the top and work their way to the ground below? This top-down approach speaks volumes of the skill of the dedicated workforce.

The sculptures in these caves are superb. We may even say that the entire temple structure is itself a sculpture. There are so much finely-carved statues and bas-relief work around that even a full day tour seems an injustice to the wealth. Added to this are remnants of paintings in the caves. While they do not compare either with the artistry of the Ajanta caves nor do they match the latter’s profusion, there is ample evidence of painting work here to justify a second look.

First Written: Apr. 10, 2012

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Over 34 caves – each more priceless than the next
  • Cons:Ajanta more touted than Ellora
  • In a nutshell:Ellora appears masculine; Ajanta feminine. For perfect paintings go to Ajanta; for perfect sculptures come to Ellora
  • Last visit to Ellora: Feb 2011
  • Intro Updated Apr 10, 2012
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Reviews (10)

Comments (1)

  • elpariente's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2013 at 1:30 AM

    "See Cave 16 (Kailashnath) at the end of your tour. Save the best for the last" In principle I agree with you , but my doubt is if at the end of the day we will not be too tired to enjoy the visit of cave 16 ?
    The same applies for Ajanta

    • anilpradhanshillong's Profile Photo
      Jan 15, 2013 at 2:41 AM

      The entire tour may be completed in about 3/4 hours unless you are a serious or religious traveller. Most tourists do not spend an entire day at the caves.

      Thank You for visiting my Ajanta and Ellora pages!

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