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Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

The Ellora cave temples, one of the excellent examples of rock-cut architecture of India, have been attracting tourists and travelers for centuries. Carved out with hammer and chisel, these temples and monasteries are the results of the laborious endeavor of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain monks. Listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites the Ellora Caves in Aurangabad is mostly included in the itinerary of the tourists coming to the region. The following write-up is meant to help the visitors in exploring these structures better.

Keynote on Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

Address: Ellora Cave Rd, Ellora, Aurangabad, Maharashtra 431102

Opening time: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm (Tuesday closed)

Entry Fee: 600 INR

Famous for: Cave paintings and detailed sculpting 

Visit Duration: Half a day

Best time to visit: Winters, especially October to March is suitable for the trip 

How to Reach: Ellora Caves are around 27 km away from Aurangabad city. You can hire private taxis or buses to reach the venue.

Overview of the Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

Made with just hammer and chisel, these ancient caves have been listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List. One of the finest examples of ancient Indian architecture and artistic sensibilities, this place is the high point of rock-cut architecture of the country. According to historical records, these caves were carved out over centuries by skillful Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu monks. Unlike caves of Ajanta, these structures were created from a long steep slope. This allowed the architects to create a detailed patio.

While touring the vast network of caves, one could find chapels, monasteries, and temples. These caverns were used by the monks for residential and educational purposes. Constructed on the face of the Charanandri Hills, these caves were also used as a resting place for pilgrims and traders.  

History of the Ellora Caves

According to several historical records and travelogues of the time, the Ellora Caves, Aurangabad were constructed throughout 600 to 1000 CE. Comprising of more than a hundred caves within the vicinity, only seventeen Hindu, five Jain, and twelve Buddhist caves are open to the public. These structures were used by the monks, traders, and travelers for lodging.

The several inscriptions of the cave point out that the Hindu and the Buddhist caves were excavated during the Rashtrakuta dynasty. On the contrary, the Jain caves were a later period addition, during the reign of the Yadav dynasty. Records point out that the construction of these structures was carried out in three phases – the first phase starting from 550 to 600 CE, while the second phase ran from 600 to 730 CE. The last phase of construction lasted from 730 to 950 CE.

The Architecture of the Ellora caves

The Ellora Caves have been one of the prime examples of India’s artistic sensibilities. Grouped into three categories – Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain – these caves are decorated with sculptures, murals, and detailed carvings. Some of the most popular caves of these vast structures include Vishvakarma Cave (Cave 10), Kailasha temple (Cave 16), Dashavatara Cave (Cave 15), and so many more.

Buddhist Caves

Located on the southern side of the Aurangabad Ellora Caves was constructed around 630 – 700 CE. Among the twelve Buddhist caves, eleven caves were primarily monasteries or Viharas with praying halls. These monasteries had Buddhist shrines carved out on the walls of the cave. The sculptors have chipped the stone walls of the cave to give it a texture resembling wood.  

Caves 5, 10, 11 and 12 are architecturally superior among the Buddhist caves of the region. Especially Cave 5 is remarkable. The ghetto has a pair of parallel dining hall-like benches with a statue of Gautama Buddha in the rear. Cave no. 10 contains a huge hall-like structure that was used as a prayer hall.   

Caves 11 and 12 were three-level structure, decorated with motifs and designs associated with mandalas and images of deities associated with Buddhism.    

Hindu Caves

Records point out that these caves were constructed in two phases, starting from the mid-6th century till the 8th century. Initially, the nine temple caves were constructed during the 6th century followed by the remaining four caves.

The Hindu Caves were mostly dedicated to Shiva, an important Hindu god, with a rock-cut Linga Yoni carved inside the shrine surrounded by space for parikrama or circumambulation. Research has revealed that cave Dhumar Lena (Cave 29) was among the earliest constructions within the premise. Other important attractions of the place are the Kailāśa Temple (Cave 16), and the Dashavatara Cave (Cave 15).

Jain Caves

Located at the northern end of Ellora, the Jain themed caves belong to the Digambara sect. Smaller than the Buddhist and Hindu caves of the premise, these structures have highly detailed carvings. One of the important features of these carvings includes symmetrical mandapa, pillared veranda and a place of worship. One can find sculptures of Jain spiritual leaders, Tirthankaras, nymphs, demi-gods and goddesses, and so on.

The Ellora Caves in Aurangabad is the epitome of India’s rock-cut architecture. Exploring these caves is a way to peek into the glorious past of the country, uncovering fascinating data about society and the culture of those times.        

More Attractions in Aurangabad:

Aurangabad Caves

Kali Masjid

Panchakki, Aurangabad - Medieval Era Watermill

Jama Masjid