Ellora, locally called ‘Verul Leni’ is 29 km away form Aurangabad city. Built by the mighty Rashtrakuta dynasty, at present the caves are kept under the surveillance of Archaeological Survey of India since its discovery. Today, the caves are declared as a World Heritage Site - Ellora epitomizes the enriched Indian rock-cut architecture with 34 caves excavated out of the vertical lengths of the Chanderi Hills. The rock sculptures are divided into three segments- Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina caves. From Caves No.1-12, visitors can see the Buddhist viharas. The Hindu caves belong to Cave No -13 to 29 and the Jain Caves belong to No 30-34.
The Ellora Caves were created out of the basaltic rocks of Maharashtra. The best part that inspires all about the creation of the rock magnificence up on the volcanic - The Deccan Trap region, is that it was a single rock that had been cut and sculpted to form Ellora Caves. Kailas is the largest single monolithic excavation in the World till date. Monsoon is considered to be the best season to enjoy the true essence of the Caves. The people living in the neighborhood never miss a chance to explore the Ellora caves during the rains not just to take a glimpse of the caves, but also to enjoy the lush green nature that blooms during this season. Travelers, who can take a chance, shouldn't miss a chance to visit Ellora during the monsoon to enjoy the best of the magnificent rocks.
The Magnanimous Buddhist Caves
The Buddhist caves in the Ellora rocks were built nearly during the 5th to 7th century. Caves 1-5 have reminiscences of the excellent masterpieces by God sent craftsmen of that era. Caves 6-12 were built in the later half that is between the middle of 7th to 8th. Researchers of the recent days believe that few of the Hindu Caves holding numbers of 27, 29,21,28,14,19,26,20, and 17 precede the Buddhist caves. Cave 6 has evidence of the earliest Buddhist cult. Caves 5,2,6,3, 5 lies in the Right wing while 4, 7, 8, 9, 10,11 and 12 were the last ones created inside the magnanimous Ellora caves apparently around 630-700.
The famous ‘Vishvakarma cave’ i.e Cave no 10 deserves special mention as popularly this is called the Carpenter’s Cave. Rest of the monastery caves has the statues and wall art sculptures of Lord Buddha, many Bodhisattvas and monks.
The Famous Hindu Caves
it has been studied that the Hindu Caves were built in the mid 6th century to the end of the 8th century. The early caves like 17-29 were built under the Kalachuri era. The caves 14, 15 and 16 were sculptere during the rule of the Rashtrakuta. Particularly these three caves carry evidence of a variety of artwork of different styles with a distinct creative vision and execution abilities.
The greatest of all monolithic sculptures is the magnificent Kailasanatha Temple. The dancing Nataraja of Ellora caves is a wonder. The theme behind building the temple was Mount Kailash, which is believed by the Hindus to be the Abode of Lord Shiva.
Travelers can get a chance to revisit the enriched era of artistry when they explore Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa Temple, deserve no special introduction. Inside, it is a freestyled, multistoried complex that is curved in one single rock which is measured to be the double of the Greek Parthenon. Initially, the caved ere coated with white plaster to make it look like Mount Kailash, as the mountain remains snow-covered all throughout the year.
Besides, Nandi sculpture is there at the entrance to the Central Temple. Here, the Nandi Mandapa, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva is found in front of the Lingam. 16 pillars are holding the weight of the Nandi Mandapa, which is around 29.3m high. The base of the mandapa is designed with enlarged elephant holding the structures. Reminiscences of South Indian-Dravidian temples are traced in the rock statues of Ellora. Alongside the temple has crafted pillars, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, the Shiva Lingam, images of deities curved with niches, mithunas (erotic women and men) and many other figures.
There is a distinct feature noted in the temple that the right-hand side is developed with the concept of Shaivism (believers of Lord Shiv) while the left-hand side of the temple walls are crafted with the followers of Vaishnavaites. The 200,000 tones rock was sculpted to form this masterpiece that the world has ever seen and it took 100 years to make it done!
Other important Hindu Caves in Ellora are the Dashavatara- that was started to be a Buddhist monastery. The ten avatars of Lord Vishnu are the main theme of building the Mandapa. As per Coomaraswamy, the finest piece here is the depiction of the death of the King Hiranyakashipu in the hands of the Lord in his Hiranyakashipu avatar.
The Jain Caves
The Jain caves of Ellora were built around the 9th and 10th centuries with the theme of the Digambara sect. The sculptures here depict some of the main philosophy of the Jains. These temples are not that significantly larger than the Kailasa Temple or the Buddhist monasteries, but reflect the ecclesiasticism of the Jains. Cave 30 is known as Chhota Kailash, Cave 32 as Indra sabha, Cave 33 as Jagannath sabha. The Samvatsarana is an important interest of the Jains and at Ellora Caves, some clue of this philosophy has been carved by the ancient master craftsmen. These halls are marked as the preaching halls of the Tirthankaras after elevating to omniscience.
Though, the ideal time to travel here is winter. But, to enjoy the true beauty of the Ellora Caves visit during the monsoon.
The Ellora Caves remain closed on Mondays. Otherwise, the caves open from morning to sunset.
Entry Fee: Indians have to pay Rs 10/head. Foreigners have to pay Rs 250/head. Children below 15 years can enter without any ticket.
By Air: The nearby airport is Aurangabad which is around 15 Km away from Ellora. Different flights connect the place from Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai and Udaipur.
By train: Jalgaon is the nearest railway station, which is around 53 km from the Ellora caves. This is a major railway station where various trains coming from different parts of India stop.
By road: The city of Aurangabad is connected with National highway. Therefore, reaching there via Mumbai or any other places is easy.