Search this site
Maharashtra: Ellora Caves - A Travel Guide
Ellora Caves :
Located at a distance of 28 km away towards the south- western side of the Aurangabad city, the Ellora caves are said to be the 3rd wonder of India. The half moon shaped caves uphold the ancient Indian tradition through its pretty architectural elegance. To watch the primeval carvings of the Ellora caves, you have to carry a flash light along with you.
The west facing caves get illuminated during evening by sun rays. Many want to gaze at this grandeur and hence decide to go to the caves during afternoon. Both Ajanta and Ellora caves can be seen on the same day. To get to know the historical stories in detail, you can ask the archeological department to arrange a guide for you. All these caves are kept open during 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on Tuesdays and on National holidays. Enlisted as the world heritage site, the caves of Ellora, can be accessed buying a ticket of 10 rupees each. Don’t forget to take permission, if you want to use your cameras.
Even though a confusion hovers around the name of the builder of these caves but experts of the archeological department believe that these caves were carved during 6th century.500 long years were taken to give its class-apart shape. The monitory aids of the emperors of Chalukya and Rashtrakut dynasties had made the process of carvings easier and faster.
The impressive carvings and architectural elegance of these caves were shattered later on by many destructive forces. Ruins of these caves definitely tell a gory and horrific story to all the visitors.
Well spread across more than 2 km, the caves of Ellora, were marvelously carved out of rocky slopes of the hill during 6th to 12th century. Hard basalt rocks were innovatively cut down to carve these historical caves. The shapes of these caves resemble the structure of the Buddhist Monastery (Vihara). 34 caves here surprise and enthrall huge numbers of visitors with their very own spectacle and stylishness.
Approximately 7000 laborers worked day in and day out to give the caves the desired shape. The anthology of pictures make the caves of Ajanta really a very special allurement but the sculptural and architectural modishness of Ellora Caves have the power to uplift your spirit and sooth your eyes.
According to Sir James Ferguson, it is one of the grand examples of Indian graceful art forms. The admirable carvings and art works of these caves fascinate everyone even today. The blending of various cultures and traditions are artistically depicted on the walls of these caves. The style and elegance of Hindu, Buddha and Jain cultures are prominent on the sculptures of these caves.
South faced first 12 caves are said to be the caves of Mahayana Buddhist communities where as the 17 caves are made for the Hindu communities. The last north faced 5 caves upholds the Jain customs.
Buddha Caves (600-800) 1-12: Simple but elegant Cave 1 is the oldest but it’s not known in the proximity for its architectural stateliness.
Dwarpal welcomes the visitors standing right at the entrance of the Cave 2. Climb up slowly to access the Cave 2. A huge hall inside the Cave 2 is covering 2 square meters of area. The ceiling of this cave is established on 12 contiguous pillars. The series of idols of Buddha, Bodhisatwa and Apsara are standing in the cave 2. The prime and most important idol is 3 meters tall Buddha idol.
The seated Buddha is positioned on the lotus throne in the consecrated Cave 3. 12 medication centers are there.
The 2 storied Cave 4 is not pulling crowds for its sumptuousness but Buddhists flock to this cave to watch the seated Buddha idol underneath the pepper tree.
The 5th cave (17.5*36 meters) is the biggest of the Buddha group. A class room of Buddhist Bhikshus was there previously as well. The ceiling of this cave is established on 24 contiguous pillars.
The rectangular 6th cave houses the goddess Saraswati. Many, however, opine that the goddess is the wife of Bidhisatwa (Tara). The idol of Buddha is residing in the Garbha Griha of this cave. The architectural excellence of the Garbha Griha is laudable.
Surrounded by his companions, the idol of Buddha is placed in the Garbha Griha of the Cave 7 and Cave 8. Quadrilateral Padmapani is residing at the right hand side of the Buddha idol. Bajrapani is standing at the left hand side of the idol of Buddha along with his companions. Devotees circumambulate through a particular path in this cave. The wall here looks pretty and appealing for the carved Saraswati idol.
The Cave 9 can be accessed through the hall of the 6th cave. The exterior carvings of the 9th cave are noteworthy. The only Chaitya cave here is the 10th cave. The visible carvings on the timbers of the ceiling of the 9th cave are splendid. The hall (26*13 meters) of this cave has a height of 10 meters. 4.5 meters tall Dharmachakra, a form of Buddha and a 9 meters tall heap are there as well. Lights are coming through the horse shoe-shaped auricle.
A number of Hindu deities are dotted in the 10th cave. The carvings of this cave had been done on wood instead of stones. Hence, it is known as Vishwakarma or the carpenter’s cave. The window outside the cave had been built on three different layers. The ornamentations of this cave amuse visitors mainly for the array of the idols of Apsaras. The idols of couples, engraved on the walls, represent sequential periods of Buddha religion.
Built during 8th century, the two storied 11th cave was the home of innumerable Buddhist monks and visitors. Later on, the idols of the Hindu deities, Durga and Ganesh were also built inside the cave. It is believed that this cave previously was a three storied one.
The three storied Math is there in the 12th cave. To recall the 7th manifestation of Buddha, 7 Buddha idols were erected in the cave. The 50 feet tall 12th cave showcases an ordinary and simple architecture on its outside walls. But, the architectural elegance on the inner walls of the cave proves the talents of the ancient architects and artists. The colorful portraits on the walls are an agreeable sight to look at. Hindu tantric influence is prominent on the works and architectures of this cave. Devotees believe that Buddha visits here once every 5000 years.
Hindu Caves (600-900) 13-29: The architecture of the 13th cave is not very attractive. Cross this cave and mark your way to the 14th one.
Carved during 7th century, the Hindu cave 14 showcases countless statuettes of Hindu deities. The idols of Shiva placed at various parts of the cave are drawing attention of the throng of spiritual people. Carvings in this cave depict various mythological tales, such as, the assassination of the devil by Shiva, Tandava dance of the blissful Shiva after the assassination and the game of dice (played between Shiva and his wife, Parvati). Vishnu is residing and is meditating in this cave. Vishnu had appeared in this cave in the form of Baraha, a popular incarnation of Vishnu. The powerful Hindu Goddess Durga is ferociously killing Mahishasura, the devil. Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is there in the cave as well. Nandi, the Hindu deity, is playing with a batch of boys. Indra is riding on an elephant. Ganesh along with Saptamatrica are residing in this cave at their respective places. Ravana with his power and supremacy is busy in uplifting Kailash.
The 15th cave, carved during 8th century, exhibits 3 Hindu deities, Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwar. The tale of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati are embossed on the panel as well. Nandi, the companion of Shiva, represents modernism. Parvati on the lap of Shiva, Vishnu with lotus in his hand, quadrilateral Bhavani, Kalika (praying), Ardhanarishwar and many more deities are classically imprinted on the walls of the 15th cave. Vishnu is peacefully taking rest on a snake. The lotus, born from the naval of Vishnu, gives birth to Brahma who is busy in creating the Universe. Vishnu is controlling Baman and Ashura appearing in the form of Nrisingha, an incarnation of Vishnu. The pictorial depiction of the recovery of an elephant from the grasp of a crocodile by Vishnu is venerable and deserves praise.
The sculptures, architectural panache and structural elegance of the 16th cave or the Kailash cave pull crowds in abundance. This monolithic cave of Ellora is the largest and most important cave. This is also the biggest cave of the world. Pretty architectural sumptuousness makes this cave really very special. The size of this marvelous cave is twice as big as Parthenon, Athens. It is a replica of Mount Kailash. 7000 architects worked day in and day out to obey the order of the emperor Krishna 1st of Rashtrakut dynasty during 756- 773. 150 long years were taken to complete the 30 meters tall “Lord of Kailash” or the summer resort of Kailashnath (82*47 meters). Enter into the cave through the road and watch different idols of deities, such as, Kuber (the God of wealth), conch shell and lotus (symbols of peace), Ganesh (the deity of good fortune) and Durga (the mother of Ganesh). The idols of the Goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna are residing at the entrance of the cave to greet visitors. The prime premise of the cave is accessible through a slender tract. Lakshmi (The Hindu Goddess of wealth), Nandi (the follower of Shiva) and two elephant (bending their knees down) idols are positioned there as well. Valmiki (the writer of Ramayana) and Vyasadeva (the writer of Mahabharata) are sharing space inside as well. Two 29 meters tall flag stands are positioned at both the sides of the cave. The northern wall of the cave displays different tales of Mahabharata, the Hindu epic. Ravana is uplifting the Kailash hill and is showing his dominance. Shiva and Parvati are residing here forever. Vishnu is residing in the form of Nrisingha, the incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Other interesting and charming carvings include the battle of Kurukshetra, quadrilateral Narayana, quadrilateral Brahma, quadrilateral Annapurna, quadrilateral Shiva on Nandi, Ardha Narishwar, the ferocious façade of Kalbhairav, numerous deities and animals.
Approximately 33 millions of Hindu mythological deities are embossed on the walls of the 17th cave.
The walls, pillars, doors and Garbha Mandir of the 18th cave are unostentatious historical evidences. The 19th cave is in ruins. The holy Shiva is residing in the 20th cave. The striking architectures on the door of this cave are worth watching.
The snapshots of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati can be witnessed on the walls of the cave 21, built during 6th century. Shiva and Parvati are playing dice. Ganga and Yamuna are riding on a crocodile. The idol of Nandi is notable as well.
The Garbha Griha of the 22nd cave or Nilkanth is painted with deep blue color.
The architectures of the 23rd and 24th caves are not praiseworthy.
Surya Dev, residing in the 25th cave, is worthy of mention as well. He is riding on a chariot which is driven by seven horses. The water stream of a river is coming down from the hill as a riveting waterfall here.
The 26th cave doesn’t look attractive but the 27th cave or the Gwalani cave showcases wonderful artistic carvings of Hindu deities. These are the notable examples of ancient architectural flairs.
The eight armed Goddess is embossed on the wall of the 28th cave. Built long back during 6th century, the 29th cave is well decorated with innumerable deity idols. A hallowed Shiva lingam is placed on the panel where as the Shiva as a destructive Hindu God is imprinted on the wall panel.
Jain Caves (800- 1000) 30-34: Located towards the northern tip of Ellora, Jain Caves were built after building all the other captivating and mysterious caves of Ellora. The size and volume of these Jain caves are not comparable to the other caves of Ellora but these are probably the best caves of Ellora to watch the exciting and imposing architectural flairs amidst a wonderful and quite natural locale.
Erected during 9th century, the 30th Jain cave resembles the structure and stylishness of Kailash and hence it is also known as the small Kailash. But, it’s true that the architectures and sculptural smartness are not impressive. 22 Jain tirthankars are stylishly embossed on the pillar and Jain tirthankar Mahaveer is residing in the chief temple. This cave, however, is incomplete one.
The 31st Cave is incomplete as well. This cave was out of reach for many due to its remote geographical location. It was inconvenient to access the cave and therefore it was abandoned.
The sculptural stateliness of the 32nd Jain Cave pulls crowds. This 2 storied primeval cave was carved out of rocky 200 feet tall hill during 9th century. It is said to be the legislative assembly of Indra. The 1st floor of this cave showcases simple architectural form and hence missing the required charm. Access the 2nd floor to appease your eyes watching the holy Jain Tirthankars, such as, Parswanath, Digambar and Gomoteshwar. This is a coveted destination for the Jain pilgrims. The seated Bardhaman Mahavir, the 24th Jain tirthankar, is residing here as well. He was the promoter of Jain religion. The portraits and depicted figurines on the ceiling of this cave are intellectually designed at that period.
Jagannath Sabha can be seen in Cave 33. The elegant architectural panache of the Jagannath Sabha would force you to look at it for a long time.
Even though the 34th cave is not very big but the attraction and appeal of this cave are enormous. Gaze at its sculptures and architectural designs to get fascinated. 5 meters tall idol of Parshwanath had been constructed atop the hill crest.
The grandness and flairs of these caves would attract you but due to tiredness and scarcity of time it is almost impossible to access and enjoy the spectacle of all these spectacular creations of these caves. But, make sure that you manage your time properly to get to see the splendid architectural touches of the 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 29th, 32nd and 34th caves.
The newest attraction which invites and entertains crowds of Ellora now is the majestic Ellora festival, organized by MTDC during the 3rd week of March.
28 new caves, Located at a higher acclivity of Ellora, had recently been discovered, atop the Kailash. All these caves were discovered during 9th- 13th century. It is believed that many more caves would be discovered in near future.
An ancient town in Ellora, built probably during 2 B.C. to 5 A.D., had been discovered as well. Innumerable evidences of the period of Satavahana dynasty had been found after excavation in Ellora.
Where to stay at Ellora: Kailash Hotel, Hotel Nataraj, Khuladabad Guest House, Local Fund Travelers Bungalow and Holiday Resort.
How to Reach: Reach Ellora from Aurangabad
Grishneshwar: About ¾ km away from the Ellora Caves, Grishneshwar is one of the 12 Jyotir lingams of India and is a popularly known Hindu pilgrimage. The ancient temple of Grishneshwar was demolished. Later on, in 18th century, the holy temple was erected by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar. The temple has a cream colored peak and it houses the brown colored Deity, Shiva. Everyone irrespective of creed and religion can watch the façade of the Joytir Lingam. Men, however, have to uncover their upper part of the body while getting into the temple.
Grishneshwar orchard is a nearby attraction. Tourists who visit the place should also catch a glimpse of the Holkar Sagar.
Due to the hallowed presence of the neighboring Ellora and Ajanta caves, Grishneshwar couldn’t gain its well deserved popularity and reputation.
You can avail a conducted tour to visit the temple along with your family members.