On our way to the Ellora Caves we first stopped at what is known as “The poor Man’s Taj”. My family felt bad that i wouldn’t be seeing Agra’s Taj Mahal on my first trip to India, so made sure that we came to this one! “Bibi Ka Maqbara” is a maqbara built by Prince Azam Shah, (grandson of the original Taj Mahal builder) in the late 17th century as a loving tribute to his mother, Rabia Durrani. The comparison to the Taj Mahal has resulted in a general ignorance of the monument but i found it quite stunning.
The centre of the southern wall is occupied by a handsome portal entrance closed by folding doors which are covered with a running foliage pattern in brass
Back on the road, passing many overflowing cars and trucks
Until we arrived at the Ellora caves which represent the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 “caves” – actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history
The Buddhist caves were constructed between 630-700. These structures consist mostly of viharas or monasteries: large, multi-storeyed buildings carved into the mountain face, including living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms.
Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Buddha, bodhisattvas and saints. In many of these caves, sculptors have endeavoured to give the stone the look of wood. Most famous of the Buddhist caves is cave 10, a chaitya hall (chandrashala) or ‘Vishvakarma cave’, popularly known as the “Carpenter’s Cave”. Beyond its multi-storeyed entry
is a cathedral-like stupa hall also known as chaitya, whose ceiling has been carved to give the impression of wooden beams. At the heart of this cave is a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose
The Hindu caves were constructed between the middle of sixth century to the end of the eighth century. All of the structures represent a different style of creative vision and execution skills. Some were of such complexity that they required several generations of planning and co-ordination to complete.
Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa or the Kailasanatha, is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. This is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva – looks like a freestanding, multi-storeyed temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock.
It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project!
Virtually every surface of the centre temple is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the puranas (sacred Sanskrit poems) Stunning.
The five Jain caves at Ellora belong to the ninth and tenth centuries. They all belong to the Digambara sect and reveal specific dimensions of Jain philosophy and tradition. They reflect a strict sense of asceticism – they are not relatively large as compared to others, but they present exceptionally detailed art works.
The Indra Sabha (Cave 32) is a two storeyed cave with one more monolithic shrine in its court. It has a very fine carving of the lotus flower on the ceiling. It got the appellation, Indra Sabha probably it is significantly ornate and also because of the sculpture of Yaksha Matanga on an elephant, which was wrongly identified as that of Indra.
It was an amazing day and we were all blown away by both the age and artistry of the Ellora Caves, highly contemplative as we drove the 3 hrs back to Pune.