In this hundred and thirty-third archive story by Kristian Bertel, we visit the Ellora cave temples near Aurangabad, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Well known for its monumental caves, the Ellora Caves are one of major tourist attractions in Marathwada region of Maharashtra and is built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty and Yadav. Cave 16, also known as the 'Kailasa Temple' is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is dedicated to Shiva, and also contains smaller, detached shrines dedicated to Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
Well known for its monumental caves, the Ellora Caves are one of major tourist attractions in Marathwada region of Maharashtra and is built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty and Yadav. Cave 16, also known as the 'Kailasa Temple' is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is dedicated to Shiva and also contains smaller, detached shrines dedicated to Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

Ellora Caves in India

The World Heritage-listed Ellora cave temples about thirty kilometers from Aurangabad that are the pinnacle of Deccan rock-cut architecture. Over five centuries, generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved monasteries, chapels and temples from a two kilometer-long escarpment and decorated them with a profusion of remarkably detailed sculptures.


Why is Ellora famous?

Ellora is famous for Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cave temples built during 6th and 9th centuries the rule of the Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties. The five Jain caves at Ellora belong to the ninth and tenth centuries and they all belong to the Digambara sect.


Hindu temple cave complexes
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Sambhaji Nagar district of Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, with artwork dating from the period 600 to 1000 before the Common Era. One of the caves features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailash Temple, a chariot-shaped monument dedicated to the god Shiva. The Kailash Temple excavation also features sculptures depicting various Hindu deities as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu epics.


Construction of the Ellora Caves
There are over hundred caves at the site, all excavated from the basalt cliffs in the Charanandri Hills, but under half of them are open to public. These consist of Hindu caves, Buddhist caves and Jain caves, each group representing deities and mythologies prevalent in the first millennium before the Common Era, as well as monasteries of each respective religion. They were built close to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India. All of the Ellora monuments were built during the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which constructed part of the Hindu and Buddhist caves and the Yadava dynasty, which constructed a number of the Jain caves. Funding for the construction of the monuments was provided by royals, traders and the wealthy of the region. Basalt is a fine-grained extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron exposed at or very near the surface of a rocky planet or moon. Although the caves served as temples and a rest stop for pilgrims, the site's location on an ancient South Asian trade route also made it an important commercial centre in the Deccan region.

Styles of the construction
The construction at Ellora has been studied since British colonial rule. However, the overlapping styles between the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves has made it difficult to establish agreement concerning the chronology of their construction. Kristian Bertel | Photography found out that he disputes generally concern, one, whether the Buddhist or Hindu caves were carved first and, two, the relative dating of caves within a particular tradition. The broad consensus that has emerged is based on comparing the carving styles at Ellora to other cave temples in the Deccan region that have been dated, textual records of various dynasties and epigraphical evidence found at various archaeological sites near Ellora and elsewhere in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. It is many a times also thought to be derived from 'Ilvalapuram', named after the asura 'Ilvala', who ruled this region and who was vanquished by Sage Agastya.

Ellora, also called 'Verul' or 'Elura', is the short form of the ancient name 'Elloorpuram'. The older form of the name has been found in ancient references such as the Baroda inscription, which mentions the greatness of this edifice and that this great edifice was built on a hill by Krishnaraja at Elapura, the edifice in the inscription being the Kailasa Temple. In the Indian tradition, each cave is named and has a suffix 'Guha', 'Lena' or 'Leni', meaning cave.




"The best cave to visit if really pressed for time is cave 16, although this is more of a temple that has been cut away from above, than an actual cave. The carving and work required for this cave are potentially greater than all the other caves in Ellora. It is easy to find this cave as it is directly in front of the entrance. Most photographs of Ellora Caves feature this cave as the centerpiece"




Immerse yourself in the history
Ellora Caves are an absolute must-visit on your trip to Aurangabad. Heck, it is worth making a trip to Aurangabad for Ellora and Ajanta Caves and for the people. These caves are not really caves which are naturally occurring, but distinct and deliberate creations across centuries. The first set of caves at Ellora are Buddhist in origin, covering but Hinayana and Mahayana ideologies. Then come the Hindu ones, the crown jewel of which is as mentioned before cave 16. The photographer walked through all the main sections, not just seeing the architecture, design and history behind the caves, but also photographing to clarify his many questions and thoughts. Ellora Caves and specifically Kailasa Temple, is deserving of finding it's place as one of the wonders of the world. It is beautiful and you should look to keep anywhere a minimum of 3-4 hours to fully explore the whole set of caves with a government-certified guide.

During his trip to Aurangabad, he also covered Ajanta Caves amongst other places in India. The caves and other monuments around the city are quite a distance away, so even if you bring your own car, do consider having a driver drive you around so you can enjoy the experience fully.

A heritage walk at the Ellora
These are a series of caves and temples, some bare and some with beautiful rock carvings. The most famous among these is the Kailash Temple. This is a rock that was cut from topdown to carve out the temple. As you walk around the temple, you can almost imagine how majestic it would have looked aeons ago, lit by 'Diyas', painting on walls, reverberating with sounds of 'Shlokas' and 'Artis'. He had decided to see all of the caves so he walked from one end of the caves starting with Buddhist art to the other end with Jain temples. Many people go directly to Kailash temple which is in the middle and after that visit caves only to one side, thereby missing many more.

The Photographer learned that some of the Buddhist caves are bare praying rooms, some of them are beautifully carved, the pillars deserve special mention. The Jain temples are small and well preserved. They can be reached by Bus, in his case he walked to them. Most people do not visit them since you have to walk a bit, which is a shame because the temples have beautiful pillars and deities Lord Mahavira and Parshavnath. There is a restaurant outside the premises and bunch of eateries a little farther. The area outside the premises is dirty and unkempt.

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More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a cave in Maharashtra. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.