Ellora Caves See it To Believe It!
Many regions of Maharashtra are known for their basaltic rock formation due to ancient volcanic eruption creating layered landscapes called Deccan Traps. Spread across a stretch of more than 2 km, Ellora Caves, also known as "Verul Leni" by the locals, were chiseled out of the Deccan Trap and comprise of 34 caves. These caves were built between 5th - 11th century AD under the dynasties of Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta.
It is not just the architecture, the sculptures and the craftsmanship, but also the fact that these caves are dedicated to three different religions in one premises that makes them even more unique. A site that stands as an example of Buddhism ( Caves 1-12), Hinduism (Caves 13-29) and Jainism (Caves 30-34) thriving in the same complex speaks volumes about the secular harmony that was prevalent during ancient times. We seem to think that with passing time we have progressed by leaps and bounds, but have we actually? In the so called "modern times" riots/wars happen in the name of religion every now and then, which is mostly a political drama rather than any religious sentiment.
Apart from Secularism, the other fact that hogs the limelight is of course the Kailasa Temple (Cave 16.) This is the only cave that has been chiseled vertically from top to down. It is said that ten generations worked on it relentlessly and it took more than 200 years for completion. Every sculpture carved here is not merely for aesthetics but has a significance. The elephants and the pillar of victory standing in the courtyard reflect Rashtrakuta's supremacy and power. The figures of Snaka-Nidhi, Padma-Nidhi and Gajalakshmi in the courtyard symbolize their prosperity, and the figures of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati symbolize Purity, Devotion and Knowledge respectively.
Standing at Kailasha Temple, we wondered how such monumental and exquisite caves, sculptures, meditation halls and residential quarters were carved out to perfection with no modern tools. Many questions lingered or actually troubled us as we struggled to find answers. Was this mountainous task humanly possible when even in today's time with all the modern tools and technology it would be impossible to carve out such a monument. Even if they were able to chisel out the rock, it would mean close to 400,000 tons of rock that was chiseled out, so where did the waste go? Why are we not able to find any traces of the waste near the site like in other man made monuments. The sculptures were carved from what was seen around rather than imagination so are the carvings of humanoids carved around the caves not just a coincidence but pictorial facts?
A closer look and we can spot numerous passages that are blocked or are way too narrow that it is impossible for any adult human to pass through. That leaves us questioning that if humans were not able to go through the passages, how did they manage to create them. If these were not humanly possible, did they have help from aliens to construct this monolithic monument with flawless precision. And did those passages lead to an underground city like Derinkuyu discovered only in 1960. An Aerial view of the Kailasha temple shows the four lions carved at the topmost floor symbolize an X mark, which leaves us wondering if it was some source of identification or communication with extra terrestrial beings.
With no answers to these theories, we let the mystery linger in our heads and moved on to explore the other caves. The layout of the pathway is such that it leads you straight to Cave 16 after you pick up your entry tickets. One would spend most of their time here as every nook and corner of this monument has splendid carvings each portraying a wonderful story. As we stepped out of Cave 16 to our right were caves 17 to 34 & to our left were caves 15 to 1. One of the caves (Cave 10) has strong resemblance to the Ajanta Caves with a Buddha statue carved on a Stupa with rib like carvings on the ceiling. Cave 5 has a huge hall, with carved benches for seating during ritual recitations and Cave 11 was the residential quarters for the monks.
Cave 15 has carvings of ten incarnations (Dashavatar) of Lord Vishnu, one of the panel depicts the death of Harinyakashyap by Lord Vishnu in Narsimha (man-lion) form. Cenuries ago, even before Darwin was born the Hindu Scriptures have put forward the concept of "The Theory Of Evolution" in the form of Dashavatar.
Cave 14 and 17 focus on the carvings of feminine divinities emphasizing their importance during ancient times. Cave 32 has an exquisitely carved lotus flower on the ceiling.
Some of the sculptures on the caves portray the passion for love, there are carvings of people engaged in the best form of trance- the act of lovemaking. The concept of erotic art was never looked down upon or considered a taboo as it is considered today. Every emotion was given importance and so was love, they were not ashamed of it as they considered it art. However, it is disappointing that we shy away from discussing sexuality and sensuality labeling it vulgar and the same land that gave the world 'The Kamasutra' now does not even believe in providing sex education to children.
It would take anywhere between 3 to 4 hours to have a complete tour as you would be covering a few kilometers by foot. In the same premises there is a canteen that serves basic food and refreshments. These caves too are open for public from 9 am but do keep in mind that they are closed on Tuesdays.
If you have not been here we highly recommend you plan your next vacation to these wonderful monuments.