October 24, 2016

Ellora Caves- Rock Cut Temples and Monasteries

The cave temples of Ellora are an absolute celebration of brilliant art work. Dating to more than 1500 years, this UNESCO world heritage site is a combination of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves with stupendous display of  decorative art works carved on rocks. All the caves were built during the reign of Rashtrakuta and Yadava dynasty and were occupied by monks and pilgrims for prayers and meditation. While the Buddhist and Jain caves have works which spread a warmth of peace, the Hindu caves are embellished with dynamic scenes of gods and goddesses. This complex is also houses Kailash temple, believed to be the largest monolithic rock excavation in the world. Though remnants of paintings can be seen in a couple of caves, most of them have faded. However,  the archaeological department have tried their best to preserve the sculptures and carvings to an extent. Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist caves, 13 to 29 are Hindu caves and 30 to 34 are Jain caves.

Referred to as Maharwada, Cave 5 is one of the largest caves in Ellora and has a unique architectural design. One of the important Buddhist caves, it has cells, chambers and sanctums with various sculptures of Buddha. Lined with broad pillars, the huge hall here was used by monks for various rituals. The inner sanctum has Buddha in a preaching posture.

Cave 9 has wonderful carvings on its exterior and is a monastery.

Cave 10 is the only Chaityagriha in Ellora and is one of the prominent Budhist caves. Apart from the beautiful exterior, this prayer hall has exquisite carvings inside. The carved stupa with  the shrine of seated Buddha with Bodhisattvas, the carved pillars and the ribbed ceiling are magnificent works of art. The upper floor has more sculptures and a music gallery. This cave is also known as the Vishwakarma cave due to influence of wooden architecture and intricate works.

Cave 11 is a three tiered Mahayana monastery with numerous carvings.

Popularly referred to as 'Ravan Ki Khai' due to the sculpture of Ravana shaking the Kailasa, Cave 14 has numerous sculptures on its side walls. It has a circumambulatory passage which displays more carvings. This was earlier a Buddhist vihara and was converted into a Hindu cave.

With numerous sculptures of various incarnations of Vishnu, Cave 15 is also known as Dasavatara cave. A flight of steps lead to this double-storey cave which has a natya mandapa (dance hall) and the main structure has numerous squarish plain pillars with a nandi. It has sculptures dedicated to Shiva also, the most prominent being Shiva in dance pose.

Cave 16 or Kailasnath cave temple is undoubtedly the most outstanding cave in Ellora and would leave you enthralled with its structure. It is one large monolithic basalt rock which has been chiselled 115 feet from top to bottom, and carved outside to inside. It is said that this creation took 150- 200 years in the making. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple has numerous carvings and sculptures both inside and on its exteriors. Some of the interesting sculptures are Parvati refusing to play the dice with her husband, Ravana sacrificing his nine heads, Vishnu covering the three worlds, Shiva leading his shy bride to bed etc. While there are numerous shrines here, a huge Shivlinga is the main one. The main hall with carved pillars have paintings on the ceiling, most of which have faded. An aerial view of the temple from the adjacent rock shows the magnificence of this exquisite and dynamic creation. It is also often referred to as the most engrossing single work of art in the country.

Known as Rameshwara cave, Cave 21 is one of the oldest Hindu caves. It has a huge hall with beautifully carved pillars and numerous sculptures from Hindu mythology.

Cave 29 is also referred to as Dhumar Lena and is known for its massive figure sculptures guarding the main shrine, shivlinga. There are numerous other sculptures carved on the side walls, pillars and the main hall. A seasonal waterfall over the cave further enhances its charm during the monsoons.

Also referred to as Indrasabha, Cave 32 is a double-storey cave dedicated to the Digambara sect of Jainism. Decorated with detailed sculptures of of Mahavira and other Jain deities, it has a huge hall with exquisitely carved pillars and intricate works on its walls and door frames. Apart from sculptures, the upper floor also has paintings.

  • Make Aurangabad your base to cover both Ellora and Ajanta caves.
  • The caves are open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm and closed on Tuesdays.
  • After entering the premises, walk to your extreme right to visit the caves in chronological order.

30 Kms from Aurangabad (nearest rail head and airport)
100 Kms from Ajanta Caves
300 Kms from Mumbai
256 Kms from Pune 

Food & Accommodation:

There are a few small eateries near the entrance of the caves. Aurangabad has a wide range of hotels from budget to luxury to suit your needs.


  1. Lovely post... Nicely written post with beautiful pictures...

  2. Beautiful pictures, will keep a note of your tips!

  3. Wonderful coverage of architectural masterpieces.

  4. Great pics. When did you travel here, you seem to have missed all the crowd. :-)

    1. Thank you. I went in October. Tried to frame without the visitors. However, there was crowd. 😀

  5. Ah! look at all the work that's gone into these caves. Amazing!
    What treasures, right? :)


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