and its Buddhist, Hindu and Jaina temple caves have to rank as the supreme
experience of the trip! Each religious system, living side by side in
harmony I might add, had its own individual architectural style, and
contains some of the most elaborate carvings of Gods and Goddesses.
The Buddhist caves are the oldest (500-700 AD), and include several
"Vihara" and "Chaitya halls". Huge Buddhas seating
on Lion and lotus thrones supported by Naga figures with snake heads,
richly decorated facades, chapels inside galleries inside chapels, carved
roofs and pillars covered with ornate bas-reliefs, the diversity is
The main Buddhist cave, No. 10, is dedicated to Vishwakarma, the Hindu
architect of the Gods, having no connection with the Buddhist pantheon!!
This commingling of concepts resulted finally in the absorption of Buddhism
in the current of Brahmanical thought, and its virtual extinction in
the land of its birth!
the Hindu caves, No. 16 is the most celebrated as the Kailasha, Lord
Shiva's mountain abode. It is one of India's most famous monuments,
a marvel of rock-cut architecture at the apex of technical skills.
Excavated in the eighth and ninth centuries AD , it is regarded as the
greatest monolithic structure in the world, combining immensity with
grace, power with jewel-like execution, and the awesome talents of hundreds
of sculptors and architects who created this grandeur out of the living
rock! It is estimated that the task of quarrying and chiseling out its
three million cubic feet of rock took over a century!
A square trench, over a hundred feet deep and a hundred and fifty feet
wide surrounds the huge Shiva temple in the center. The three buildings
in the spacious court are connected by an overhead bridge, there are
bold friezes of life-size elephants, seemingly straining with the great
burden of the temple on their backs, the pyramidal roof has a three-tiered
tower and a projecting gable-front, and many panels show depictions
of Shiva's legend, featuring the god in various situations with his
The greatest masterpiece is known as "Ravana shaking Kailasha".
A central figure in the Ramayana, Ravana decided one day to display
his great strength by lifting Shiva's mountain abode on his head. By
way of an answer, Shiva did what you and I would do. He simply put his
toe down, and under the enormous pressure, Ravana became helplessly
trapped. An alarmed Parvati clings to her husband as courtiers and attendants
sit unperturbed by the shaking mountain, fully confident in Lord Shiva's
Outside, monkeys move about, staring at the tourists, and wonder if
Hanuman would approve.