Thursday, October 30, 2008


Kailasanatha Temple, (Cave 16) view from the top of the rock

Like Ajanta, Ellora in India is the location of a series of cave temples hewn into the living rock. It is located 80 kilometers (48 mi.) southwest of Ajanta. There are 34 individual temples extending along a distance of two kilometers (1.2 mi.). Twelve of these are Buddhist, 17 are Hindu, and five are Jain. The Buddhist temples, which date between 200 B.C.E. And 600 C.E., include sanctuaries and monasteries, with sleeping areas for monks cut into the rock. The most remarkable Hindu structure is the Kailasanatha temple. It is one of the world’s largest statues, because by removing more than 200,000 tons of basaltic rock, the makers created a highly decorated free-standing monolith. Its inspiration lay in the recreation of Mount Kailasa, the home of SIVA. Its construction falls in the reign of King Krishna I (c. 756–773). It is 50 meters long by 33 wide, and it stands to a height of 30 meters (165 by 109 by 99). Remarkably, it is covered in carvings depicting scenes from Hindu epics, including the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa. A contemporary copperplate Inscription described it as “compelling the admiration of even the celestials, who pause on their heavenly course to gaze at the beauty of so magnificent a monument, and wonder how anyone could create such an extraordinary structures.”


Kailash Temple Maharashtra

At Ellora , 34 cave temples were carved out of the hillside with hand tools. Only 12 of these 34 caves in the centre are the most impressive. The massive Kailash Temple (cave 16) is nearly one a half times taller than the Parthenon and occupies almost twice its area. It is believed that it was constructed by excavating approx. 200,000 tones of rock and is possible the world's largest monolithic structure. Representing Shiva's Himalayan home, the temple is exquisitely sculpted with scenes from Hindus mythology, each pulsing with drama, energy and passion. The Kailash Temple situated near the village of Ellora. It is considered as one of the most astonishing 'buildings' in the history of architecture. This temple is the world's largest monolithic structure carved from one piece of rock and the rock-hewn temples and monasteries of Ellora that lies just 30 kms from Aurangabad.. Kailash Temple at cave 16, were a big Shiva-linga (form of Lord Shiva) is worshiped. It is the biggest building carved in a stone in the whole world. is a part of Ellora Cave Complex. The Kailasanatha temple is the world's largest monolith structure that was literally scooped out of the hill side. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a giant lingam in the garba griha. Beautiful sculptures from Ramayana and Mahabharatha are carved on the walls of this cave temple.


The depiction of the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailash is a masterpiece contain the scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and popular life of the ancient times, as told in romances and plays. Some pictures recall the Greek and Roman compositions and proportions, few late resemble to Chinese manners to some extent. But majority belongs to a phase which is purely Indian as they are found no where else. These monuments were constructed during two different periods of time separated by a long interval of four centuries. The older ones were the product of last to centuries before Christ and belongs to Hinayana period of Buddhism in later part of 2nd century AD when Buddhism was divided into two sections, after the conduct of the fourth general council under another great king, Kanishka.

The new feature of Mahayana Buddhism was the concept of future Buddha's. The Buddha, himself probably thought that he was the last of the long succession of earlier Buddha's who lived before him. According to the Buddhist traditions, these former Buddhas were revered even in the historical Buddha's lifetime. By the time king Ashoka, their cult was widespread and was patronized by Ashoka. Later, when the stupas were constructed and beautified, the carvings were executed in a symbolic way. An inspired sculptor began to carve images of Buddha himself and within the few generations, all the Buddhist sects took to worshiping images. The universe of Mahayana contains numerous Bodhisattava, the chief of whom is Avalokitesvara with attributes of compassion. He is also called Padmapani or the lotus bearer. The Manjushri with a naked sword in one hand, stimulates the understanding. The sterner Bodhisattava who is a foe of the sin and evil and bearing a thunderbolt in the hand is Vajrapani. The future Buddha, Maitreya will take birth to save the world.


It is believed that work on the Kailasha temple was begun in the mid-8th century and under the direction of King Krishna I (757-775) of the Rashtrakutadynasty, the rulers of the western Deccan area. One of the India's greatest architectural treasures, was hewn out of the solid rock of the hillside to form a free-standing temple consisting of a gateway, two-storied halls and the main shrine within. The most majestic creation is the Kailash Temple, a full-sized freestanding temple flanked by huge elephants all carved from solid rock, pillars and podiums, as the workers dug away some 200,000 tons of rock. The result is an awe-inspiring representation of Shiva's Himalayan abode. Nearby caves are alive with stone murals depicting divine struggles and victories. With these caves before us, it is clear that India far surpasses the rest of the world in the glory of its rock-cut architecture.


Further reading: Burgess, J. Cave Temple of Ellora.

Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1999; Malandra, G. H.

Unfolding a Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora.

SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies. New York: State University of New York, 1993; Pant, P. Ajanta and Ellora: Cave Temples of Ancient India. Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1998.

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