The Temple caves at Ellora , escavated between the sixth and ninth century AD, are the product of three religious systems: Buddhism (the earliest ones), Brahmanism, and Jainism. Here are a few photos I took there in August 1997.

Les temples-grottes d'Ellora, creusées entre les sixièmes et neuvièmes siècles, sont le produits de trois systèmes religieux: Bouddhisme (les plus anciennes), Brahmanisme, et Jaïnisme. Voici quelques photos que j'y ai prisent en Aout 1997.

Ellora 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 extraordinary.
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!

Of 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 wife Parvati.
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 powers.
Outside, monkeys move about, staring at the tourists, and wonder if Hanuman would approve.

Read the story of the whole trip HERE! (en Anglais seulement, désolé!!)

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Buddha statue in Ellora cave !
Ravana shaking Kailasha !
Painted Ellora column !
Outside a Temple cave at Ellora !
Inside a Temple cave !
Kailasha and Elephant !
Monkeys and goats at Ellora !
Kailasha and Victory Pillar !
Cows at Ellora !
Kailasha temple !
Kailasha Temple !
Pilgrims at Kailasha !
Elephant frieze !
Buddhist Chaitya-hall !
Kailasha elephants !
Kailasha Temple !
Kailasha temple cave !


All Photographs Copyrighted © Michel Polizzi 2000

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