The Kailash temple at Ellora – preserving ancient wisdom for mankind

The Kailash temple at Ellora – preserving ancient wisdom for mankind

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When visiting the Kailash temple in the silence before dawn, one can’t help but bow down to the ones who designed and carved this majestic reminder of an unknown past. As it is still dark, it is not the time to wander around and see what is there for the physical eye, such as the enclosing high walls of rock, the beauty and perfection of the structures of the shrines, the many statues of Vedic deities and celestials, the panels of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the rows of elephants, lions and makaras, the powerful lion-like sharduls or the water pots topping the temple roofs. All this is for later in the day. Now, before noisy tourists, screaming school classes and groups of pilgrims come, is a time to go upstairs to the holy shrine, leave the senses behind to feel the REAL and communicate in solitude with what is beyond the mind.

The intricate and detailed panels carved into the temple wall. Credit: Kartika

Entering the Mandapa, in front of the Hiranyagharba, the Sanctum Sanctorum, is like entering another world. The sixteen massive pillars, set in perfect symmetry in groups of four, stand in majestic command, glowing from an Inner light. Whispering voices tell to circumambulate these pillars from left to right as though circumambulating the Universe and read the symbols, carved into each of the four pillar sides. Nothing is meant just as decoration, all bears a message to tell. But – how to read it? Only the heart can do so. For an analysing mind, the symbols remain just that. What if the heart is not open or not open enough? There are keys, some are easy to find, others are only for the Highest of women or men, waiting to be opened at a time when mankind is ready to understand, accept and realise a new era of Life.

One of the keys is easy to get. The Kailash temple is not built. All is cut and carved from ONE single piece of rock, hewn out of the Charanandri hills of the Sahyadri range of the Deccan Plateau at a village, which once was called Elapura, now it is known as Ellora, 30 km northwest of Aurangabad.

Nothing of the original temple was brought in from outside. All was created out of One, all is part of One. Nothing stands by itself. All is a symbol of the functions of creation. The Kailash temple is not just one of the many ancient sites the ancestors have left in what is India today. Officially it is a Hindu (Brahmanic) temple but it is more than that. It may well be one of the holiest sites on earth, a keeper of wisdom from long ago, a preserver of the lost knowledge of life. It is there for all who come and want to learn.

The Kailash temple. Credit: Kartika

Though this temple, its structure, design and carvings have been altered many times, the original message survived, guarded and protected by scores of angels, which are seen hanging in reliefs on the temple walls, surrounding the sculptures of deities or feel them as etherical beings when they come in the silence of the night to keep the cosmic functions alive by singing their songs of creation. Angels are all over Maharashtra’s ancient sites, but nowhere else are so many in just one place. Is this why the Kailash temple is open to the sky?

There are many more temples at this Ellora site, all next to each other; thirty four are open to visitors. Some are Hindu, some are dedicated to Lord Buddha and some to Mahavira, the founder of the Jains. But unlike the Kailash temple, they are caves, hewn out horizontally, open only to the front (except for another smaller temple of the Jains). The Kailash temple was cut from the top down in a U-shape form, about 50 Meters deep in the back and sliding to lower levels on the sides to the front where there is the entry gate. Cut with what? With hammer and chisel? There are chisel marks along the walls of the rocks, but spiritual masters say, the chiseling was done long after the rock walls were cut and the original temple created. Were the chisels just use to straighten and smoothen the sides and carve out new galleries and caves in the enclosing walls? The mystery remains. How was it possible to cut down straight into this Basalt rock, dig a broad trench and leave a huge piece in the center out of which the temple shrines were carved, ten altogether?

That these rocks are full of crystals may be part of the answer. Could it be there once were technologies, using crystals not only to hold information as they now do in computers and mobile phones, but turning their vibrations into energy to cut rocks as hard as Basalt? Many of the visitors who come today, can still feel the strong energy, as though their bodies are batteries being charged from the ground. Geologists and physicists, who are breaking out of the restrictions of conventional thought have started to experiment with such techniques. They may be rediscovering the past.

The ten temple shrines are set in one line, all on the upper floor, which one reaches through a narrow set of stairs. One starts from the shrine above the entrance gate, which once held the big drum, and goes on to the shrine where the mount of Lord Shiva, the Nandi (Bull) sits all by himself. From there, one walks on to the small porch in front of the pillared mandapa, and then passes through this mandapa to the Sanctum Sanctorum – the small, square, dark and undecorated place, where the holy symbol of the Formless rests. For the Hindus, this is the Shivalinga, Buddhists can see it as a symbol of Sunyata, the realm beyond form. For others, it is whatever they feel. Above the Sanctum Sanctorum rises the Shikara into the sky, aligning the earth with the Universe. All these shrines are connected by bridges from one to the next, symbolising that all depends on all. The entrance gate lies to the West, so that one walks the shrines by facing east.

Then there are another five shrines, surrounding the Sanctum Sanctorum in a semicircle on a platform outside.

There are so many questions to which answers cannot be given by rational explanations. There are no inscriptions, no dates, no names, no-one knows who the conceptor was, who the artists were, what the original temple looked like, or why this temple was named after the snow-covered mountain Kailash, 1500 miles to the north…

By Kartika

Kailash Temple

“I will continue to fast until I see a new Shiva temple with my own eyes”, said the wife of the famous king Krishnaraja-I to her husband. What does a king supposed to do upon hearing this seemingly impossible demand from his beloved wife? Especially, when the queen’s demand was driven by her love towards the king himself. It was just a few months ago when Krishnaraja had suffered from a serious illness and could not be cured even after trying all possible treatments. His wife, who loved him very much, prayed to the god Ghrishneshwar (Shiva) to cure her husband and she vowed to construct a temple in the name of Lord Shiva if her wish was granted. The word Ghrishneshwar means “god of compassion” and the Ghrishneshwar temple which was nearby was an esteemed temple because it is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines. Queen’s strong belief, prayers and her dedication towards her husband resulted in Krishnaraja getting cured and now she wanted to complete her vow. But constructing a temple takes time and it is not something that can be accomplished in a day, or a week or even a month. With every single day passing, queen was getting weaker and Krishnaraja who equally loved his wife was feeling helpless. When circumstances are exceptionally demanding, human creativity is also at its best. Recognizing that the queen had to see the newly constructed temple very soon, an architect came up with an ambitious but possible plan. He was going to carve a temple from a nearby hill and he was going to start carving from the top. Queen could see the top of the hill from a window in her apartments. Work was started immediately and the top of the temple (known as Shikhar) was carved out in just a few days. From her window, queen could see the finished Shikhar of the temple and she broke her fast to the delight of king Krishnaraja. What followed is a true marvel in the history of mankind. The entire hill was carved out in the form of a temple and the resulting structure is the world famous Kailash temple, sometimes also known as Kailasnath temple. It took several more years to bring this marvelous temple to life. Once built, the temple came to be known as “svayambhu” or “self-created”, because no one would believe that it could be built by humans. Work on the temple continued for several more decades, well beyond the reign of Krishnaraja.

There are several example of rock cut architecture in the world. Abu Simbel in Egypt, Petra in Jordan and Ellora caves in India are some of the most beautiful structures built by carving out rocks. Sometimes the entire facade of a rock is cut or sometimes carving is done in and around a cave. But Kailash temple is the only structure in the world where an entire temple complex is carved out of a single rock. It is also the largest structure in the world cut out of a single piece of rock. By looking at it’s intricate design and sheer size, one can’t stop but marvel at the ingenuity and planning that went into its construction.

A wonderful example of an art created using the ancient rock cutting technique using chisels and hammers, Kailash temple is a creation worth preserving.

Kailasa Temple of Ellora Facts and Architecture

Actual Date of Kailasha Temple Construction Still Unknown

The fascinating fact is, almost nothing is known about the origins, constructors and builders of Kailash temple, there are no dates neither, any trace or inscriptions to describe the construction to be known to the world on the overall process and entire purpose of construction. This indicates that the carving dates back to hundreds of years – other experts put it thousands of years old and later some developments and changes were made by Buddhist and Jainese monks – thereby involvement of several generations of Hindu kings and later also followers of new religions when some of the Hindu kings got inclined towards some aspects of Buddhism and Jainism. The inscriptions are very old, most of them got diminished as hundreds of years passed by. Deciphering and reading inscriptions is almost impossible. A pious Hindu Sage can reassess the entire process of construction, if he has yogic powers to telepathically interact in the past-timescale with the Sages of that time. Recently, Rashtrakuta king (756-773) undertook some of the renovation in terms of cleaning and upkeep of the divine structure.

Where Each Pillar Speaks to You in Divine Language

Tags archive: mysteries of kailash temple ellora

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सत्य वचन: धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् |
भावार्थ: धर्म का लोप कर देने से वह लोप करने वालों का नाश कर देता है और रक्षित किया हुआ धर्म, रक्षक की रक्षा करता है। इसलिए धर्म का हनन कभी नहीं करना चाहिए, जिससे नष्ट हुआ धर्म कभी हमको न समाप्त कर दे। ।
Meaning: Immortal Truth- Sanatan Hindu Dharma annihilates the abuser and destroyer and protects the one who protects Sanatan Hindu Dharma. Therefore, Sanatan Hindu Dharma should never be mocked and ridiculed, so that the destroyed and mocked Hindu Dharma never end up decimating us instead.

The Amazing Rock Cut Kailasa Temple

When most of us were growing up, we learned about a handful of man-made wonders of the world such as the pyramids in Egypt, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Great Wall of China. One that may have slipped right past you could have been the Kailasa Temple in Maharashtra, India. This temple is the world’s largest monolithic structure carved out of one single rock. Considered as one of the most astonishing ‘buildings’ in the history of architecture, Kailasa Temple measures about 109 ft wide and 164 ft long.

Kailasa Temple is one of the 34 monasteries and temples that constitute Ellora Caves. They were dug side by side in an area of 2 km in the wall of a high basalt cliff of the Sahyadari Hills. The temple – cave number 16 – has traces of Pallava style and bears resemblance to Dravidian architecture for its workmanship and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture.

Dedicated to Hindu Lord Shiva, the temple was built in 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. But looking closely at the many symbols and codes at the Kailasa Temple, their origin point to an unknown past, though the sculptures of the deities, celestials, pillars, pots and animals seem to have been done in AD times.

The construction of the temple began in 757 CE and was completed in 783 CE.

– Image Source

According to Archaeologists over 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out which would have taken not years, but centuries of human labor to construct this monolithic structure. Historians have no record of such a monstrous task and they think that it was built in less than 18 years.

The temple design has surprised historians and architects due to the complexity involved in creating such a magnificent complex. Kailasa Temple’s architecture is notable for its vertical excavation, dug from top to bottom. Legend has it that carvers took 20 years to remove about 200,000 tonnes of rock to construct this monolithic structure.

Entire Temple covers an area twice the size of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It is one of the largest structures in the world, rivaling even the Taj Mahal in Agra.

This is the only example in the whole world where a mountain was cut out from the top, to create a structure. Carvers started at the top and excavated downward, exhuming the temple out of the existing rock. The traditional methods were rigidly followed by the master architect, which could not have been achieved by excavating from the front.

Even the sculptures at Kailasa Temple are carved from the same piece of rock as the rest of the temple. Most of the deities on the left side of the temple’s entrance were Shaivaites while those on the right are from Vaishnava community. A three-floor high columned arcade edges the temple courtyard.

The Kailasa Temple is sometimes called the Kailashnath Temple, and was designed to resemble the sacred Mount Kailash located in Tibet, which is said to be the abode of the Lord Shiva.

The two structures in the courtyard, as per traditional Shiva temples, have an image of sacred bull, Nandi, facing the Shivalinga. The Nandi mandapa and main Shiva temple are 7 m tall and built over two floors. Both are solid structures with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base level gives an effect as if elephants are holding the entire structure.

Originally, this structure was coated in a thick layer of white plaster so that it appeared to be covered with snow like the sacred mountain some traces of this plaster remain today.

One of the noteworthy structures in the temple is of demon king Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa.

Ellora Caves remained in oblivion for several centuries but the cave temples of Ellora were known to the civilised world through ages as an example of Indian religion and art. The Baroda Copper Plate grants of Karka II refer to the magnificent excavations at Elapura (ie Ellora). Arab traveller Al Masudi and historian Farishta were two early authorities of the Muslim period to record Ellora in their accounts.

Mugahl King Aurangzeb who destroyed thousands of Hindu temple, also tried to destroy Kailasa temple. In 1682, he ordered that that the temple be destroyed, so that there would be no trace of it. Records show that a 1000 people worked for 3 years, and they could only do a very minimal damage. They could break and disfigure a few statues, but they realized it is just not possible to completely destroy this temple. Aurangzeb finally gave up on this impossible task.

Kailasa Temple among the caves also stands out as the highest architectural attainment during the rule of Rashtrakuta dynasty. Thousands of sculptures, drawings and inscriptions in Ellora exude artistic richness and philosophy making the caves a major achievement of ancient Indian civilisation.

Tags archive: secrets of kailash temple

Since 2001, HariBhakt is ad free, donation free and analytics tracking free site. A small drop in the ocean of efforts to spread history, knowledge, bravery and facts about Hinduism and Bharat. Keep it lifetime free by sharing all our articles in social media sites. Be a Proud Sanatan Dharmi. Click to CONTACT US/SUGGEST US | Email us:

सत्य वचन: धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् |
भावार्थ: धर्म का लोप कर देने से वह लोप करने वालों का नाश कर देता है और रक्षित किया हुआ धर्म, रक्षक की रक्षा करता है। इसलिए धर्म का हनन कभी नहीं करना चाहिए, जिससे नष्ट हुआ धर्म कभी हमको न समाप्त कर दे। ।
Meaning: Immortal Truth- Sanatan Hindu Dharma annihilates the abuser and destroyer and protects the one who protects Sanatan Hindu Dharma. Therefore, Sanatan Hindu Dharma should never be mocked and ridiculed, so that the destroyed and mocked Hindu Dharma never end up decimating us instead.

Ancient abodes of Shiva

He’s Bholenath–the innocent one. He’s Nataraj–the divine dancer. He’s Mahadev–the God of gods. He’s Loknath–the ruler of the world. It’s easy to see why many are fascinated by Lord Shiva. He isn’t the typical definition of ‘god’ as far as Hindu deities go. Not only is he a leader of the gods and an enchanting dancer, but also rather human in his temperament–gentle one minute, but ruthless when irked! And with Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy novels painting the deity as a heroic man rather than as a god, Shiva has become all the more relatable.

He’s probably the most revered of all Hindu gods the innumerable Shiva temples across South-East Asia are a testament to that. While Shiva may reside in all these temples, they say his presence can be strongly felt in the most ancient ones. Some believe it’s the architecture that incites such a spiritual experience, while others insist it’s their innate powerful energy that draws devotees. Whichever the case, certain ancient Shiva temples are thought to be auspicious given the special legends about their birth. They’re also considered unique for recording history by marking the rule of certain dynasties. Here’s Soulveda delving into the history and legends behind the birth of renowned ancient Shiva temples in Southeast Asia.

Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

Archaeologists believe that the Prambanan Temple in Indonesia was originally designed to look like Meru, the mountain home of Shiva, complete with the Hindu cosmological concept of Bhurloka (mortal world), Bhuvarloka (angel world) and Svarloka (godly world) in its architecture. The temple is said to mark the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty, back in 856 CE, going by the information available in the Shivagrha inscription housed within its premises. Historians believe that this temple signified the Medang court’s shift of patronage from Mahayana Buddhism to Shaivite Hinduism.

Lord Shiva in this temple is accompanied by his consort Durga. The statue of Durga within the complex is associated with the Javanese legend of Princess Rara Jonggrang. The story goes that Princess Rara was persistently pursued by Bandung Bondowoso, who had killed her father. Unwilling to marry him, she challenged that Bandung build a thousand temples for her overnight. Bandung accepted the challenge and conjured demons to do the work for him. Upon hearing of his remarkable progress, Rara attempted to thwart him. She had a fire lit in the eastern part of the temple, and got the villagers to pound rice. Thinking that dawn was rising, even cocks began to crow. This sent the demons scurrying to the underground, in fear of daylight. Furious that he had been tricked, Bandung cursed Rara into a stone, and this stone is now said to be worshipped as Durga.

It is said that there are 12 Jyotirlinga temples in India, which collectively represent the body of Shiva. These temples are considered auspicious as the deity is said to have appeared as a column of light near their premises.

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

It is said that there are twelve Jyotirlinga temples in India, which collectively represent the body of Shiva. These temples are considered auspicious as the deity is said to have appeared as a column of light near their premises. The Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is known to represent Shiva’s head. According to Nepal’s earliest chronicle Gopalraj Vamsavali, the Lichchhavi King Supuspa Deva built this temple.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva once turned himself into an antelope in the forest on the Bagmati river’s east bank. The gods later caught up with him, grabbed him by the horn and forced him to resume his divine form. This broke one of his horns, which then came to be worshipped as linga, but over time, it got buried and lost. Centuries later, a herdsman found one of his cows showering the earth with milk at a certain spot. Upon digging that site, he discovered the linga of Pashupatinath, the lord of all animals, thus founding the temple.

Lingaraj Mandir, Bhubaneshwar

The Lingaraj Mandir was supposedly built by the Somavamsi Dynasty King Yayati I, during the 11th century CE, with later alterations by the Ganga Dynasty in the 12 th century CE. Here, Shiva is worshipped as Harihara, a combined form of Vishnu and Shiva. The temple also has images of Vishnu, given that the Ganga Dynasty had several Vaishnavites.

Interestingly, Ekamra Purana, a 13 th century CE Sanskrit treatise, mentions that the presiding deity was not considered a lingam during the Satya and Treta Yuga. The linga in the temple is a naturally occurring crude stone that rests on a shakti (feminine energy). Such linga are known as krutibasa or swayambhu, and this one is among the 64 swayambhu found in India. It was only during the Dwapara Yuga (third Hindu era) and Kali Yuga (fourth Hindu era) that it was worshipped as a linga.

Kailash Temple, Ellora

The Kailash Temple in Ellora is one of the biggest rock-cut ancient Hindu temples known to mankind. The structure is remarkable not only for its megalithic quality, but also its sheer size and brilliant sculptural features uncommon in the architecture of the time.

According to a medieval Marathi legend, the Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna I (r. 756-773 CE) had this temple built upon his queen’s request. The story goes that the king suffered from a severe disease and his queen prayed to Lord Shiva at a temple in Elapura (now Ellora) to cure her husband. She vowed to have a temple built for the deity if her wish was granted. She even swore to fast until she could see the temple’s shikhara (top).

When the king was indeed cured, she bid him to carry out her promise. Many architects insisted that the temple would take months to build and that it was unlikely for the queen to honour her vow. However, one architect by the name of Kokasa assured them that the queen could indeed see the temple’s shikhara in a week. The clever architect chose a large monolith and began by carving the top of the temple. He was done with it within the week and the queen was able to honour her vow and break her fast.

The Ancient Kailasa Temple in Maharashtra, India: A mountain made into a shrine

We see ancient edifices around the globe, like thе pyramids in Egypt, Borobudur in Indonesia, and the Pyramid of the Sun in the Valley of Mexico, and we ask ourselves, how? How could mankind, so far back in time, build such enormous structures? And all without the advanced technology we enjoy today.

Furthermore, when one looks at Stonehenge or similar prehistoric monuments, one instantly wonders: What drove men back then to erect such a thing? Place them in such situations where they are unable to give concrete explanations, and humans always presume the same old story, giving credit to some more advanced, often alien, civilization to explain their perplexing mystery.

The last couple of generations have achieved much more than any others before, but still, it seems as if we are determined to discredit everything anyone before us ever accomplished if we ourselves can’t replicate it. But the truth is, civilizations in ancient times were more advanced than we usually give them credit for. For instance, ancient Hindu Indians were masters of mathematics and architecture, with their trigonometry and algebra invented and developed independent of the Western world.

Kailasa temple features the use of multiple amazing architectural and sculptural styles Author: Jorge Láscar CC BY-SA2.0

There are approximately 30 million Sanskrit texts still waiting for experts to translate. That’s about all of the other civilizations writings combined, and if some somehow we manage to interpret just a small fraction of them, we might just find answers to the whats and whys that are troubling us. Like, for instance, how one temple was carved out of a mountain, stone by stone, ton by ton until 200,000 tons were extracted in no more than two decades to give the image of what is now the ancient Kailasa Temple in Maharashtra, India.

Ground plan of the temple

As to why, well, it is believed it was built as a tribute to the divine Lord Shiva, to symbolize his home on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. And the legend says it was due to a death threatening sickness a king had, and his queen’s determination to build Shiva a temple if only her deity would answer her prayers and save her poor husband from the inevitable. Time was running out and so if this was to happen it had to be completed in no more than a week. And while many saw it as an impossible task, according to the Marathi people and this legend of theirs, an architect named Kokasa had a perfect solution in mind and built the temple within a week as he promised he would, carving a mountain from its top downwards. Thanks to him and his inventiveness, the king was saved, or so the legend goes.

The temple architecture shows traces of Pallava and Chalukya styles Author:Arian Zwegers CC by 2.0

While this might not be entirely true, with many historians and archeologists believing it was constructed somewhere in between years 757 and 783 AD, the fact still remains that it actually was constructed over a single rock by excavating a mountain from the top downwards.

In the period of two decades, by using a practice referred to as a “cut-out monolith” instead of the much more common and utilized “cut-in monolith” method, Hindus of the Rashtrakuta Empire excavated a total of 200,000 tons of rock, although others suggest that it was actually 400,000 tons, out of a volcanic rock in the Charanandri Hills in Ellora.

Kailasa is one of the 34 cave temples that collectively are known as the Ellora Caves Author: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra CC By 2.0

This means that, if people were working 12 hours a day, every single day, for let’s say 20 years, they would have to dig up no less than 20,000 tons a year, 1,666 tons a month, 55 tons a day, or 4-5 tons of rock every single hour. And this takes into account only rocks and dust that had to be removed from the place, aside from the actual excavation of the temple as well as the time and workforce required so the Kailasa Temple could look like a place fit for a God.

A medieval Marathi legend appears to refer to the construction of the Kailasa temple Author: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra CC By 2.0

Apart from the commitment and the immense collective effort required for it to be built, it is actually the complex design and the aesthetic manner in which it was constructed that makes this temple truly unique and stand out among the other 33 rock-cut religious cave-temples in the Ellora cave complex.

The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the whole structure Author:Arun Sagar CC By 2.0

While on the top there are carved statues of elephants with a gorgeous Shikhara right beside them, the inside is filled with countless statues and reliefs as well as intricate carvings engraved almost in every corner. The 100-foot tall pillar and the elephants in the Arcades carved at the very bottom of the temple, which give the impression that they are carrying Mount Kailash on their backs, make this place truly breathtaking.

There are five other detached shrines in the temple’s premises Author: Arian Zwegers Cc By 2.0

The Ellora cave complex consists of 34 Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Temples, all built by different civilizations in different times. Interestingly enough, they are all numbered, yet not chronologically.

Many archaeologists have come to an agreement that Kailasa is the oldest one built in the complex, while some even suggest it could date back much further than the official dating.


The beguiling murals of Ellora cave temples on an iconic trip to India narrate a story that’s like none other. Moreover, its timeline lies somewhere between the 6 th to the 10 th century. During this time, Ajanta was being deserted, which led to the carving of yet another cluster of cave structures in 550 AD.

The cave jaunts in Ellora bring back to you the time when Buddhism in India was dwindling and Hinduism was restoring in the states. It was during this time, the Chalukyas and the Rahtrakuta were emerging as the flag bearers of the movement called the Brahmanical movement. In fact, most of the Ellora carving took place during this time only. And this includes the monolithic marvel of the 7 th century we were talking about earlier. Got caught up in the history of these caves already? Well then, brace your heart as we are sure that the 65 million years old rocks here will definitely make you go bananas.

Indian Panorama Travel Blog

“The Cave You Fear to Enter Holds the Treasure You Seek” – Joseph Campbell.

History is often Half Mystery!

The Sleeping Buddha, Ajanta Caves

From the Edakal Caves in Kerala with neolithic petroglyphs to the holy Badami Cave Temple in Karnataka, every cave in India has its own surreptitious tale to enthral the historians, painters, sculptors, and architects of the world. But no cave in the world came close to the legacy of the Ajantha and Ellora sisters resting for thousands of years near the once Mughal territory, Aurangabad (The city was named after the infamous Aurangzeb) Many catastrophic injustices had occurred to the 29 caves in Ajanta and 34 caves in Ellora (The Divine-sculpted Kailasa is one among them) but none could completely destroy the murals, art, and soul of the caves.

The Surreal Heritage Corner

Ajanta Caves – The Rock-Cut Buddhist Temples

Close to the trekkable Daulatabad Fort near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the horse-shoe shaped Ajanta Caves built and updated constantly from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD is just at a distance of 100 km from Ellora. While the oldest is Ajanta, “Verul-Leni” or Ellora is near to Aurangzeb’s wife’s mausoleum, “Bibi Ka Maqbara” (Dakkhani Taj) and Grishneshwar Temple built out of the red rock for the powerful Lord Shiva is an inevitable Shaivite pilgrimage site. Islam and Hinduism encircle the cave making it a true Unity in Diversity destination, both inside and outside the human-made marvel. It is clearly a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also requires the maximum attention from tourists, architects, restorers, photographers, Indians, and foreigners to approach this heritage in a responsible manner.

“The Tomb of the Lady”

Michelangelo once commented, “Work of Angels” looking at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The artist would have stayed forever in India to find how the Rock-cut Kailasa Temple had happened which is sure “Work of the Creator of Angels”. Double the size of Parthenon, the Caves in Ajantha are completely draped in Buddhism while Ellora is a blend of Hinduism (17 caves), Buddhism (12 caves), and Jainism (5 caves). We’ ll see the must-visit caves lists with exact cave numbers, later.

Ellora Caves – The Union of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism

“You don’t let a historic site rot.” – Robert Ballard

This quote is essentially the heart of this write-up. To preserve and give the right amount of respect for a noteworthy place that takes in more than 4,000 visitors per day. The number must be cut into half since human breathing near the paintings are lethal as carbonization tampers the original inscriptions, storylines, and carved pillars. All the Earth colours, vegetable colours, Banyon bark, sawdust, hibiscus cannabis, horse manure, cow dung, and minerals used in an intelligent way to convey anecdotes, everyday scenes, and historically unforgettable happenings should not be erased just for the sake of puny bribes given at the entrance of these precious caves. Like mentioned before, people surrounding this area, employed or unemployed, Indian or foreigner must take care of the cave’s creative carvings.

The Finely Cut Pillars, Arches, and Ceilings of Ajanta Caves

Restoration Mistakes – The Dawn is Not So Far

The Organization Preserving the Cultural Heritage of the Indian Nation

The Architectural Survey of India (ASI) is really doing their best to restore the lost glory of the deteriorating paintings. Still, some zealous restorers combined with their poor varnish removal techniques have made notable damages to the paintings. Not only now, during the reign of the Nizams, the use of a distinct varnish, “shellac” by a renowned Italian expert L. Cecconi had also invited misery to the ineffable illustrations. The eroded surfaces of the deforested hills have contributed to the unwanted dust accumulation and ultra-violet rays have ruined some portions too. Soon, the Archaeological Survey of India will interfere and enhance the look and feel.

“Ruins for me are the beginning. With the debris, you can construct new ideas. They are symbols of a beginning.” – Anselm Kiefer

The Tourism Hotspot of Maharashtra

The Planet Focuses on Responsible Tourism

Paintings like the Black Princess and Apsaras are under a constant threat as more hours of spent by tourists standing close to it. Responsible tourism can only solve this issue along with intuitive and logical actions of the ASI. Luckily, the cave’s location saves it from constant nudging but from November to March, dance and music festivals stuff the premises. To save a monument, rules aren’t enough, responsibility is important to increase the life of a heritage site thereby conducting it to the future generations.

The Super-detailed Carvings of Ellora

The gradual decay of the bonding element used in murals have come off as chunks and some paintings have even become chalky. SilverFish, a tiny insect is suspected to have eaten portions of the paintings. Biodegradation and Bat Excreta have played their role in destroying the monument’s signature works. Mass fumigation is a must to preserve the work of the alien-alike genius humans of the past.

Note: Flash photography is forbidden inside the caves. (As you know some places are beyond beautiful to be just photographed.)

Prasad Powar and his Contribution to the Ajanta Caves

“It is good people who make good places.” – Anna Sewell

Prasad Powar – The Digital Restorer

Captain John Smith in 1819 had been into vandalism inside the caves knowingly or unknowingly. After incidents like these, the amount of restoration couldn’t save the amount of vandalism that had happened. Would you believe if a photographer had dedicated 27 years to digitally restore the paintings of the Ajanta Caves?

Meet Mr Prasad Powar (50) who has travelled to China and Sri Lanka to study the elements used in the painting and works with the sun. What? Yes, under the poor light conditions where highly emitting artificial lights are not allowed, Prasad Powar is making use of the sun’s natural beam falling inside the caves to digitally restore the lost statuesque of paintings like the famous Padmapani.

Paintings Made of Rice Husks, Cow Dung, and A Raw Clay Plaster

He has studied Pali, Marathi, Sinhalese, and Tamil literature just to understand the characters, their depths, and positioning significance to fix the missing parts of the storylines present inside the caves. He has been once honoured by the Buddhist sage, Dalai Lama and his IGNCA exhibitions about Ajanta caves is a dream come true mission. The intricate artworks cannot be refurbished as it is done for a dilapidated bungalow, the must-read storyline and intense emotions of the characters have a lot to share with the world and people like Prasad Powar are keeping its hopes alive.

The Timeless Buddhist Sculptures and Carvings

His photographic documentation has covered 14,400 sq.m of the Ajanta Caves. He often wonders how our ancestors painted such a marvel in low light conditions whereas our technological world is no match for their hammers and chisels. The artist turned photographer isn’t looking for monetary aid from the government sooner or later. More people like him interested in saving the deteriorating monuments of India should come forward. While constant monetary help should be rendered by the Indian government for taking cultural tourism to the next level.

Strange Events or Warnings?

  • Attempts to facsimile the beautiful murals of Ajanta by the East India Company in 1866 failed due to an untimely fire accident which burnt the work of 2 decades.
  • In 1872, a principal from Mumbai had tried to do the same but the strange fire accident has once again burnt his works.

Cave by Cave – Ajanta

The Stunning Murals and Paintings of the Horse-Shoe Shaped Ajanta Caves

Catch the terraced pathway and enter the caves. Don’t miss the panoramic view from the “viewing platform”. You are inside a gifted monument that had been dedicated to Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Here are the must-visit caves with their numbers.

  • Cave 26: It is a melancholic Chaitya (a discussion arena of the past) with the reclining Buddha, in the verge of death with mourning disciples.
  • Cave 17: Celestial figures on the ceiling – musicians, guardians of the door, Apsaras, Nymph, and Ogresses.
  • Cave 16: Sundari, a fainting princess is a major attraction.
  • Cave 15, 13, 12: Theravada monastery caves
  • Cave 10: The oldest in Ajanta (prayer hall of Theravada)
  • Cave 9: An architectural brilliance (prayer hall) with arched windows for allowing sunlight to naturally light up the caves.
  • Cave 8: A detailed monastery.
  • Cave 4: Incomplete cave still the largest.
  • Cave 2: Adorned ceilings with fictional creatures – demons, flowers, fruits, and other celestial objects.
  • Cave 1: The most popular cave with Vajrpani holding the thunderbolt on the right and Padmapani on the left holding the water lily.

The sanctum here is full of Jataka Tales and outside the caves, a sick man, an old man, and a corpse are in the form of friezes to depict the life-changing moment of Buddha.

Cave by Cave – Ellora

Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravati (Ravana Lifting Mount Kailash)

Dating from the 600-1000 CE, staying close to the Jalgaon Station, Ellora is a blend of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism developed in the respective order. So, what are the must-visit caves?

  • Cave 1-12: Belongs to Buddhism
  • Cave 5: Maharwada Cave (The Mahar tribe’s shelter during the monsoon)
  • Cave 6: Developed early in the 600’s, it has the intense and powerful Goddess Tara on the left and the Buddhist Goddess of Learning – Mahamayuri on the right
  • Cave 11:Dho Tal (Two floors cave)
  • Cave 12: Tin Tal (Three floors cave)
  • Cave 13 to 29: Belongs to Hinduism
  • Cave 14: Seven beautiful women with babies on their laps (Sapta Matrikas)
  • Cave 16: THE KAILASA TEMPLE (A separate para below!)
  • Cave 21: The oldest cave (Rameshwara) with sculptures of adorable couples, river goddesses, and two-door guardians.
  • Cave 25: Sun god sculpture (He is riding toward dawn!)
  • Cave 29:Dhumar Lena (Admire the playful, angry, and other unknown shades of Lord Shiva)
  • Cave 30-34: Belongs to the Jainism
  • Cave 32: Indhra Sabha (a miniature of Kailash Temple), Naked Gomateshwara, lotus flower ceiling, and vines clasping and spreading all over the meditating Jain god.

Kailasa Temple – The World’s Largest Man-Made Monolithic Temple

The largest Monolith Temple in the World – Kailasa Temple, 16th Cave in Ellora

By removing a whopping 200,000 tonnes (400,000 according to many) of rock, ancient sculptors of modern India had written their supremacy all over the Kailash Temple which is much more complicated and challenging than the Stonehenge and Pyramids of Egypt. While there is countless fiction related to this temple that it has been built in a single week which is humanly impossible, there are alien and humanoid theories too. To our greater surprise, there is the sculpture of Ravana and his “Pushpak Vimana” (modern-day Jet Pack). Its design is close to today’s technological flying machines. How would have they managed to think of sculpting such a structure when the world was still proud of its wheels? Millions of ciphered Sanskrit texts, everyday scenes, scenes from Mahabaratha and Ramayana, and tiny but detailed carvings, lifesize elephants, a Nandi facing Lord Shiva are all made from constant mindful chiselling that had happened over a period of 20 years according to historians and expert architects of the world.

Could You Believe A Single Mountain Turning into a Beautiful Temple Complex?

The dedicated workmanship in the western Indian provinces of Maharashtra hundreds of decades before was believed to be backed up and constructed by Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Empire. The Chandranandri hills carved from the top to bottom with the basic set of tools is impossible to build even in today’s world. Have you heard of the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu? Witness their prowess in the South-eastern gallery of this temple.

Aurangzeb managed to destroy countless temples during the Mughal Era failed when his 1000 plus workers couldn’t deconstruct the Kailasa Temple. They could only disfigure some figures and statues. After years of trying, Aurangzeb gave up. Like he has surrendered to the mighty Lord Shiva.

Is Lord Shiva an alien? Is Ravana a humanoid? Were “Outsiders” helping human beings during the construction? We really don’t know. We’ll leave those things for you, travellers to study and analyze in-depth. Many have experienced mental clarity and improved physical health after visiting this temple and some other chaityas, stupas, and monasteries of these caves.

The Linchpin Site of Ellora Caves – Come Explore the Divine Beauty

Inhale the positive vibrations in Ajanta and Ellora and shop handicrafts, ornaments, sculptures, and paintings before you fly or ride back home.

Get ready to experience ethereal happenings!

“The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery.” – Francis Bacon

Explore the surreptious cavernous corridors of Ajanta and Ellora Caves with Indian Panorama.



  1. Digal

    I must tell you that you are wrong.

  2. Kazijora

    I congratulate, I think this is the magnificent thought

  3. Tamirat

    It was very interesting to read, thanks!

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