Friday, August 24, 2012


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 sancturaries 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.”

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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