Aurangabad. India. We thought the Ajanta caves we toured Tuesday were tremendously impressive. And they are. But then, we saw the Ellora caves, which are completely mind-boggling.
The Ajanta caves are carved into solid rock. The Ellora caves were carved from the top of rock walls, down. Yes, someone was able to stand on top of the rocks, look their feet, and imagine how to create temples out of one solid piece of stone, by excavating the rock layer by layer. Think about that one.
This site is also different because it features Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments, dating from about 600 to 1000 CE. It’s hard to imagine until you see it, but the centerpiece, Cave 16, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot-shaped monument dedicated to Shiva. It is hard not to be awe-struck by the temple, and impossible to imagine how on earth they executed this intricate and ornate design – from the top!!!!
I may have gone overboard on the photos, but remember that everything you see was carved down into a single piece of rock. I just loved the elephants seeming to hold up the temple.
There are over one hundred caves at the site, twelve Buddhist, seventeen Hindu and five Jain, with each group representing deities and mythologies that prevalent in the first millennium CE, as well as monasteries of each respective religion. They were built in proximity to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India.
We saw several of the Buddhist temples, complete with Buddhist monks and nuns also touring. They do add a nice splash of color.
Our final stop was a Jain temple, reached by a shuttle bus. It has its own special style, and was as intricate, on a smaller scale, as others we saw today.
As it’s a weekday, there were lots of school tours and children at the site. Indian kids are the cutest and the friendliest of any we’ve ever encountered. And they love having their pictures taken. The monkeys, however, could care less.