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Ellora Travel Guide

ElloraThe cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 26 kms. north of Aurangabad. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas, or halls of worship, and Viharas, or monasteries, Hindu and Jian temples.

Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5th and 11th century AD, the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (cave 29). The most imposing excavation is, without doubt, that of the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) which is the largest single monolithic structure in the world. Interestingly, Ellora, unlike the site of Ajanta, was never 'rediscovered'. Known as Verul in ancient times, it has continuously attracted pilgrims through the centuries to the present day.

Ellora has been designated as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.

Cave 1 :
This is the first monastery at the southern end of Ellora. It has four residential cells cut into the side walls. The cave is devoid of any carvings or sculptures.

Cave 2 :
This has a verandah, with a recess at the right, housing images of Panchika, the god od wealth, and Hariti, the goddess of prosperity. The entrance is flanked by guardians, next to whom are figures of the Buddha and other divinities. Each of the lateral walls in the hall has sculptures of five seated Buddhas flanked by celestial figures and by Bodhisattvas, or saintly beings who are destined to become Buddhas. A similar but larger figure of the Buddha can be seen in the sanctuary. The porch to the right of the sanctuary depicts the Miracle of Shravasti when the Buddha manifested himself in a thousand forms.

Cave 3 :
This cave has an unfinished image of the seated Buddha in a shrine. Pot and foliage motifs adorm the columns of the hall.

Cave 4 :
A two-storeyed excavation, this cave is now mostly in ruins. At the lower level is a plain hall, with a columned asile leading to a shrine where a figure of the seated Buddha is accompanied by attendants. A similar but smaller shrine is located on the upper story.

Cave 5 :
Excavated at a higher level, this large cave consists of a spacious hall divided into three aisles. Porches in the middle of the side walls have small cells on either side. Columns are decorated with medallions and other motifs surrounded by intricate foliage. Several benches are carved out of the floor. The entrcane to the central shrine is carved with Bodhisattvas bedecked with intricate headgear and jewellery. In the shrine is a figure of the seated Buddha.

Cave 6 :
The rectangular hall in this cave has columns with pot and foliage capitals. The walls of an antechamber in the rear of the hall, which leads into a small shrine, are covered with figures of the Boddhisattva and the goddesses Tara and Mahamayuri. The doorway of the shrine is carved with elaborate sculptures on other side. On the left is Analokiteshwara holding a lotus and a rosary in his hands, with a deer-skin draped on his left shoulder. On theright is the sculpture of Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning, within the shrine is the figure of the seated Buddha, flanked by multiple smaller Buddhist figures, attendants and devotees on the side walls.

Cave 7 :
This is a simple hall with four plain pillars.

Cave 8 :
This is the only monastery at Ellora, where the sanctum is isolated from the rear wall, with a circular passage around it. The passageway has three cells on the left, an incomplete columned gallery at the rear and two columns in the front. Sculptures of the Buddha adorn the hall.

Cave 9 :
This consists of an open terrace with a balcony and a shrine housing figures of Buddhist divinities. The embellished façade has, among other motifs, an unusual scene of the goddess Tara rescuing devotees from the perils of a snake, a sword, an elephant (left). Fire and a shipwreck (right).

Cave 10 (Vishvakarma) :
Named after Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, this cave marks the culmination of Chaitya architecture in India. The hall has porticos on three sides, raised on a basement carved with animals. A long frieze depicting a hunting scene appears above the brackets in the hall. A Stupa in the middle of the rear wall has a seated Buddha figure. A flight of steps in the verandah leads to the upper gallery. The façade behind this gallery consists of a doorway flanked by Chaitya window motifs, flying celestials, and Bodhisattvas with female attendants. On either side of the doorway, to the inner gallery, are recesses housing the figures of female deitied and the Bodhisattva. A large figure of the Buddha , in the teaching position, is carved on to the front of the central Stupa accompanied by flying attendants and Bodhisattvas.

Cave 11 (Do Tal) :
A three-storeyed excavation dating back to the 8th century. Do Tal, or two storeys, was the name erroneously given to this cave when its ground floor was buried under debris. The lowest level has two cells and a central sanctuary withg figures of the Buddha in the teaching position. The intermediate level consists of five excavations, the first being incomplete and the last being a cell with a rock -cut bed. The remaining three have images of the Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas the uppermost level has a long columned hall with a shrine in the cenntre. On the rear wall are images of the goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha , indicating that this cave was later converted for worship by Hindus.
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