Ellora caves are an exclusive jewel in the crown of Indian Buddhist heritage. A masterpiece of Maharashtra, it is a world heritage site illustrating the monastic caves and rock cut temples belonging to the ancient antiquity. Located 29 km northwest of Aurangabad, these caves comprise the amazing wealth of sculptures.
The Ellora tour trails through the unity of 34 Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples and monasteries carved on a 2 km long volcanic ridge of Chamadiri hills. The prime attraction here is the colossal Kailasha temple (Cave no. 16). This megalith cave is famous for vertical excavation, the carvers began chiseling the single rock formation from top spire and excavated downwards. Legend has it that over hundreds of years; about 400,000 tons of rocks were dug out to reach this excellent monolithic structure. The result was an excellent cave temple complex based on colonnaded halls, galleries and shrines.
The cave complex rose to prominence as a bustling center for artistic and spiritual activities due to its location. It was the busy caravan route that was strategically located on the way prosperous north cities and the western coastal ports. This is what attracted the monks and artists to stay inside the Ellora caves and carve the splendid marvel.
The Buddhist Group of Ellora Caves -
The Buddhist caves line along the gentle depression in the Chamadiri escarpment. All the 12 caves except cave no. 10 feature monastery halls and complexes, where monks used to study, meditate and do communal worship. As one ventures the complex in detail, the chambers exploration richly unveil the impressive scale and tone in which the Buddhist complex are carved. Cave 10 is the majestic chaitya hall carved in rock cuts.
The Hindu Group of Ellora Caves
The largest number of Ellora Caves, i.e. seventeen is dedicated to the Hinduism. Located in the middle of the escarpment, these caves display the Brahmanical revival in the Deccan region. The huge bas reliefs and scenes from the Hindu scriptures adorn the caverns. Most of the caves are associated with Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration, but there are imagery interpretations of Vishnu (the Preserver) and his various incarnations.
The Jain Group of Ellora Caves
The last four caves explored during the Ellora tour towards the north of escarpment are dedicated to Jain faith. Carved in the late ninth and tenth centuries, these Jain caves are Ellora’s swan song. The modesty and simplicity of the faith is evident in its carvings. The subdued interiors resonate with the faith, although some of them feature fine decorative carvings. The must visit cave here is cave no 32, famous as the Indra Sabha or Assembly Hall. This is the miniature version of the Kailash temple renowned for elaborate stonework and ornate pillars. The naked figure of Gomatesvara is beautifully carved specimen of the Jain saint, the one who is deeply immersed in meditation and creepers have grown up his legs, and animals, snakes and scorpions crawl around his feet.
The most attractive and noteworthy Buddhist caves in this world heritage site are numbered 2, 5, 6, 10 and 11. Cave no. 2 interestingly presents the Sravasti tales on bas reliefs. Cave no. 5 consists of large prayer halls, with terraces, aisle walk-away and ornamented columns. The cave entrance is decorated with Bodhisattvas and the inner sanctum here houses a seated Buddha. Cave no. 6 also preserves some celebrated Buddhist figure works, most remarkable among them is one of Avalokiteshwara with lotus, Mahamayuri wisdom king and other small rock sculpture figures.
Excursions Tour Packages Near Ellora Caves
Established by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, this city is visited for its Mughal monuments like Bibi ka Maqbara (replicated on Taj Mahal). The gateway city of Ellora tour and Ajanta tour, this destination is famous for Humroo shawls, Kimkhwab and Mushroo handicrafts. Another prominent attraction of visiting Aurangabad is its close proximity to Grishneshwara temple. This is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva in India.
Formerly a Hindu bastion called ‘Deogiri’, Daulatabad was renamed by Mohammed Bin Tughlaq as his territory of wealth. This 14th century city is known for splendid fortress.
Ellora tour is incomplete without a visit to the ancient Ajanta caves. The caves here are entirely Buddhist in nature and feature the splendid monastic cells, chaitya grihas and prayer halls.
How to reach Ellora Caves:
Chikalthana airport at Aurangabad (30 kms) is nearest, direct flights fly in from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur etc.
Either, Aurangabad if you have enough leisure time, or Jalgaon, if you need faster trains.
Good road condition, and a superb connectivity from Mumbai.