ruins, ancient, Buddhist architecture, Hindu architecture, Jain architecture, Aurangabad, Charanandri Hills, Ellora Caves, monasteries, shrines, Gautama Buddha, bodhisattvas, Indra Sabha, Shiva, Kailasanatha Temple, Kailash temple
Nineteen miles from the Indian city of Aurangabad can be found the Charanandri Hills. Formed more than 5 million years ago by uniquely intense volcanic movements the hills are a ridge of rock protruding from the Earth’s surface half a mile wide and nearly eleven miles long. Over the last 15 centuries these hills have been home to three very separate religious clans; the Jaina, the Hindus, and the Buddhists. These three groups worshipped here in peace with one another over centuries and each of the three left their mark on the hills in the form of 34 massive and intricate temples carved deep into the stone hills. Welcome to the temples of the Ellora Caves…
The Buddhist carved temples are for the most part large, multi-storeyed monasteries: many of which include living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, as well as numerous other nondescript spaces. A few of the temples were built as shrines to Gautama Buddha, bodhisattvas and the saints. Massive relief sculptures have been carved across the stone walls to depict scenes from these scriptures, but more impressively the reliefs were intentionally carved in such a way that lends them the appearance of carved wood.
It’s estimated that the Hindu caves were carved sometime between the sixth century and the eighth century. They are far more intricate than either the Buddhist or Jain temples, and in fact it is believed that the planning for these temples would have required several generations.
Much smaller than the Buddhist and Hindu temples are the Jain caves. However; the Jain caves represent a far higher focus on asceticism. The most impressive of Jain temples is the Indra Sabha; a two storeyed cave with a monolithic shrine standing in the center of its courtyard, and displaying a large finely carved lotus flower on the ceiling.