Kailashanath Temple at Ellora is situated in Northern Maharashtra, about 400 kilometers (250 mi) from Mumbai. The entire Ellora cave system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural marvel. The vastness and intricate carvings of these caves will astonish everybody with the precision and innovation that ancient communities used to create one of the most amazing sites in the world.
History of Kailashanath Temple at Ellora
With the Kailashanath temple at Ellora, the rock-cut architecture of the Deccan reached the zenith of creativity and ambitious design. Till then caves had been excavated into the hillside and then the walls, ceiling, and facade embellished with carvings.
At Kailashanath a whole temple with a plinth, walls, shikhara, and subsidiary shrines carved out of a hillside between the 8th and 9th centuries. It begun in the reign of King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty and took over a century to complete. Visualized as Mount Kailash, Shiva’s home in the Himalayas, this remarkable creation makes this temple not a product of architecture but pure sculpture.
Amazing Architecture of Kailashanath Temple at Ellora
Ellora was called Elapura in ancient times. Here thirty-four Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu cave temples were excavated out of the black basalt hillside. The Kailashanah temple is the world’s largest monolith structure that is twice the area of the Parthenon of Greece and one and a half times as tall. Only the guilds of Indian sculptors could have shown such panache and daring in visualizing this temple which is a marvel of ambitious engineering and superb carving technique. Generations of carvers visualized a complete temple that was scooped out of the hillside.
The stone cutters began on top of the hill, cutting out three trenches at right angles to leave an island of rock in the middle. This immense slab of rock of 6,500 square meters area stood in a pit 86 meters long and 48 meters wide. The temple that emerged from it was an area of 1700 square meters. It carved from the top down, a process of cutting down as against the traditional building up.
The carvers working from the top first chiseled out the shikhara and then moved downwards to the walls, pillars, gateways, and then to the plinth. Once the outward shape created, they moved to the interior. The garbha griha, antarala, and a sixteen-pillar maha mandapa carved out and decorated with friezes of sculpture. A shrine of Nandi created in the courtyard, flanked by two pillars, the dhwajasthambhas.
Sculptures Inside the Kailashanath Temple at Ellora
A series of gateways lead into a courtyard surrounded by cloisters with the Nandi shrine and the monolithic dhwajasthambhas. The main shrine has the mahamandapa, antarala and the garbha griha. The pretty toranas lead into the temple where the walls covered with a profusion of animals, humans, celestial apsaras, demons, dwarfs, and deities. The high plinth ornamented by a frieze of elephants and lions. Shiva worshipped as a giant lingam in the garbha griha.
The shikhara rises in three tiers above the sanctum, soaring to over 30 meters and topped with a cupola. Many episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana shown in the friezes along the outer walls. Among the tableaux, the most interesting are the myths of Shiva. One shown his transformation into a column of light, the jyotirlingam and there is the omnipotent god with his foot on Ravana’s head as the demon king tests his strength against Shiva by trying to shake Mount Kailash.
Kailashanath Temple at Ellora -Main features
Apart from the gopura, the main temple has a sabha griha (hall), vestibule, and a Nandi mandapa that leads to the Garba griha (sanctum sanctorum) with a Shiva linga, all of which deeply carved and with a Dravidian shikhara (tower). A bridge connecting the Nandi Mandap to the Gopuram has been made.
The beauty of the lotus on the roof of the sanctum made the steep climb up the hill worthwhile. The lotus crowned by a finial with four mythical lions, each facing a cardinal direction.
How to reach Kailashanath temple at Ellora
The nearest railway stations to the industrial city of Jalgaon are Aurangabad for Ellora Caves (45 minutes away) and Ajanta Caves (1.5 hours away). Travel time from Mumbai to Aurangabad by Indian Railways train is 6-7 hours.
Aurangabad also has an airport, so it is possible to fly from many cities in India.
Alternatively, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation organizes affordable daily guided bus tours from Aurangabad to Ajanta and Ellora Caves. The buses comfortable air-conditioned Volvo buses. Tours run separately—one goes to Ajanta and the other to Ellora—and can be booked in advance at the Central Bus Stand and CIDCO Bus Stand.
Ellora bus journey departs from Central Bus Stand at 8.30 am and comes back at 5.30 pm.
Or, if you prefer to travel independently, you can easily take a public Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation bus from Aurangabad’s Central Bus Stand to Ellora and Ajanta.
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