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18 December 2016 / leggypeggy

The incredible Ellora Caves, especially cave 16

Kailasha Temple, Ellora Caves

Kailasha Temple carved from a single piece of basalt

Inside Kailasha Temple

Ground level at Kailasha Temple. Note the overhang of rock

Shrines at Kailasha Temple

Two shrines at Kailasha, still carved from that single piece of rock

As we approached Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra, Anand and Deepti reminded us that one of the highlights of our stay would be a visit to the nearby Ellora Caves.

The Ellora Caves? They sounded familiar, but I had to admit I didn’t know much about them. I’d looked them up briefly when we first received the trip itinerary, but the scope of these amazing caves didn’t sink in then.

But this collection of remarkable caves is gobsmackingly impressive. The UN thinks so too because the caves, which showcase monuments, temples, reliefs and sculptures from three religions, are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kailasha Temple at Ellora Caves

Near the entrance, more carved from that single piece of rock

So let me tell you about them.

The caves were excavated out of vertical basalt cliffs in the Charanandri hills. No one is completely sure which caves were carved first (or in what order), but the work occurred between 600–1000 AD (the Early Middle Ages).

There are more than 100 caves, but only 34 of them are open to the public. They are beside one another and are numbered 1 to 34 from right to left, as you look at them.

The caves open to the public are grouped by religion. Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist, caves 13 to 29 are Hindu, and caves 30 to 34 are Jain. We visited them all (it took us most of the day), and were surprised to learn that most people visit only one or two. I think they are grouped simply because they were built at (or around) the same time. No idea where all the other caves are.

Shoes off at Kailasha Temple

Shoes off at some parts of the temple

The biggest, most popular and most impressive is cave 16, which has been carved out of a single piece of rock. Known as the Kailasha Temple, it is the biggest single monolithic rock excavation in the world.

I have to admit that I was gobsmacked a few years back when we saw the excavated churches at Lalibela in northern Ethiopia (more about them one day), but nothing prepared me for the sheer size and detail of cave 16 at Ellora.

It is huge, exquisite and breathtaking.

I am not alone. Kailasha Temple is considered to be one of the most remarkable cave temples in India (probably the world) because of its size, architecture and having been entirely carved out of a single hill of rock.

We spent at least an hour (maybe it was two) wandering around the courtyards, assembly hall, shrines and many galleries that make up cave 16.

We were not alone. There were heaps of other tourists (the vast majority were from India), including several school groups. I think it’s great that Indian children are actually getting out and seeing the important monuments in their own country.

Confession: I admit that I would have followed along behind any one of the school groups but the teachers were speaking a language I didn’t know.

That didn’t keep me from being photographed with many groups, and probably a lot of sly pics taken without my knowledge. Indians love have foreigners in their pictures. Deepti says that some people will make up elaborate stories about how they met/entertained the foreigners in the pictures. I wonder how many dinners and overnights I had with people I don’t know! 🙂

But I digress. Given that the Kailasha Temple is so magnificent (and because I took 100 photos of it), I’m going to devote this entire post to it. We’ll drop by the other caves in another post.

A gallery at Kailasha Temple

A gallery at the temple. Good grief, it’s bigger than my house

The Kailasha Temple is dedicated to Shiva, one of Hinduism’s major deities, and is modelled like other Hindu temples. It is a freestanding, multi-storeyed complex that covers an area almost twice as large at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m guessing it covers close to two acres.

It is estimated that the carvers removed three million cubic feet of stone to create and shape the temple, or about 200,000 tonnes of basalt rock.

Walking around Kailasha Temple,

Walking around Kailasha Temple,

It’s designed so that you can/should walk around it.

That gave us of plenty of chance to look at the shrines dedicated to deities such as Vishnu, Ganesha, Annapurna, Durga, Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Indra, Agni, Vayu, Surya, Usha and many more.

I have to admit that my head gets lost when in comes to Hindu deities. There are thousands of them, and people can choose which ones they want to worship. My pick would probably be Ganesha. He is the god of travel. He has an elephant face, is very fat and loves to eat. My kind of deity.

No one is sure when the Kailasha Temple was built, but it is often attributed to the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, who reigned in the 700s. It’s estimated that it took 100 years to complete. At one time, it was painted and plastered, and some signs of that still remain. It’s hard to imagine how impressive it would have been fully decorated.

Kailasha Temple once painted and plastered

Remnants of the paint and plastering job at Kailasha Temple

In researching for this, I read a blog that said Kailasha Temple was blocky, crude, and just a little boring. I was pleased to read on and find that on closer inspection, the blogger decided it was a Wonder of the World. I’d have to agree.

Kailasha Temple, carved from a single rock

Three levels of the temple all carved from a single (and very large) rock. See how small the people are

93 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. ralietravels / Dec 18 2016 11:52 pm

    I have been loving your posts from India. Much, especially this one, is all new to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. weggieboy / Dec 18 2016 11:59 pm

    “Incredible” barely covers it! I always enjoy your travel blogs, Peggy, but this one is one of the most amazing ones yet. I’d never heard of this site before.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 12:00 am

      I had only just heard of it because I got the itinerary. Totally amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. beetleypete / Dec 19 2016 1:18 am

    I have never heard of these, Peggy, so many thanks for the wonderful tour of the cave temple. twice the size of the Parthenon is very large indeed!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 10:20 am

      Thanks Pete. It’s amazing how something so little known is so incredibly magnificent.

      Like

  4. lexklein / Dec 19 2016 2:18 am

    Staggering! Thanks for sharing this place I knew nothing about.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Curt Mekemson / Dec 19 2016 3:05 am

    Impressive Peggy. I’ve been enjoying your insights into India. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 10:27 am

      Thanks Curt. We have to thank Anand and Deepti for choosing such great places to see.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. WordWabbit / Dec 19 2016 3:40 am

    Hi Peggy, I will be visiting these caves in March. I was wondering how best to see them. I tend to move at a slower pace than most people just because I like to take things in. Are you allowed to stop and sit and just gawk for a while?

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 7:05 pm

      You can tour the caves as quickly or as slowly as you like. We spent most of the day there. The Jain caves are a bit far away, but a bus does a run to that end of the complex every 15 minutes. I’m a straggler too, and felt I had plenty of time. Should mention that the caves are closed on Tuesday. Best to check if that’s still right before you go. Also good caves at Ajanta.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WordWabbit / Dec 20 2016 12:24 am

        Ah, great tip about them being closed on Tuesday. I will check into that!

        Would you feel safe going out there by yourself? Or, would you recommend joining a tour or hiring a tour guide? I’ve been hearing so much conflicting information about safety issues for women. I’m going to India to attend a friend’s wedding, but I’ll be on my own most of the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Dec 20 2016 8:17 am

        I think it would be very safe to visit the caves on your own. Just be prepared for everyone—and I mean everyone—to want to have their picture taken with you. I must have been photographed with people at least 10 times that day. No idea how many sneaky snaps were taken. Read more about the caves before you go and you shouldn’t need a guide. There are guides available on site, but I seem to recall that they wanted way-y-y-y too much money. What other towns/cities will you be in and how long are you in India?

        Like

  7. Touch Of Cinnamon / Dec 19 2016 3:54 am

    Great photos, I really enjoy reading your posts about travel. You’re so lucky to go to so many wonderful places.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 3:11 pm

      Thanks so much. We feel very lucky to be able to travel widely.

      Like

  8. Michael Andrew Just / Dec 19 2016 4:10 am

    Thanks for showing and reporting on these amazing caves!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Elouise / Dec 19 2016 8:02 am

    Almost unbelievable! I can’t imagine the level of skill and dedication it took to carve out these caves. It makes me wonder where on this earth are artisans doing anything this impressive? It looks and feels like a lost world. Never to be repeated. Great post, Peggy!
    Elouise

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 10:37 am

      I agree. It is almost unbelievable. Incredible that it was even thought of.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Alison and Don / Dec 19 2016 8:14 am

    I am gobsmacked! I’m always gobsmacked by the sheer size, and ornate detail and beauty human beings have managed to carve from solid rock. It reminds me of Petra, and Abu Simbel, among others. This whole complex sounds amazing.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 10:40 am

      Yes, reminiscent of Petra and Abu Simbel, but so much bigger and more detailed. Even the pics still leave me gobsmacked.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Brenda / Dec 19 2016 8:30 am

    Imagine all that work. And even conceiving of it in the first place. It makes my hands hurt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 10:40 am

      Yes, who thinks up this stuff? Pity we don’t know more about its background.

      Like

  12. Phyllis Gaetz / Dec 19 2016 10:10 am

    Thoroughly enjoyed this piece Peggy. Amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Vicki / Dec 19 2016 10:18 am

    Absolutely extraordinary!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. adventuredawgs / Dec 19 2016 1:03 pm

    For such an amazing place, it’s hard to believe that it isn’t better known. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only person that had never heard of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 2:22 pm

      I think lots of people have never heard of the Ellora Caves. Same is true for the Ajanta Caves about 100 kilometres away.

      Liked by 1 person

      • adventuredawgs / Dec 20 2016 4:00 am

        You’re right. That’s a new one. Are they as amazing as the Ellora Caves?

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Dec 20 2016 9:16 am

        I know them only from the pics and they look amazing too. The Ajanta Caves are Buddhist and farther away from Aurangabad (almost 100 kilometres) than the Ellora Caves. We have urged Anand and Deepti to add an extra day or two in the Aurangabad area so that their travellers can visit both sets of caves.

        Like

  15. dave ply / Dec 19 2016 1:12 pm

    Impressive looking place – amazing what folks will do in the name of religion. I wonder if the stonemasons for the different sects had a little competition going on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 2:24 pm

      The three religions were building at different times, so there wouldn’t have been competition, but it was nice to see there wasn’t destruction of another’s work either.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sheryl / Dec 19 2016 1:41 pm

    Wow, the caves look amazing. And, I enjoyed reading about how people like to include foreigners in photos and making up stories about them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 2:31 pm

      I must be in hundreds of pictures with people I don’t know. About half the people ask if they can take your picture, but the rest make do with what we call ‘sneaky snaps’.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. IreneDesign2011 / Dec 19 2016 5:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences, Peggy 🙂
    Really an amazing and beautiful place, as I never heard about before.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. calmkate / Dec 19 2016 7:31 pm

    Stunning, thank you! Love all your photos but especially that last one. Had heard of these caves but had NO idea they were so spectacular.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Bun Karyudo / Dec 19 2016 8:43 pm

    Funnily enough, from glancing at the first couple of photographs before reading the post, I initially thought this was Lalibela (which I’ve only ever seen on TV documentaries), so I was interested to read you compare the scale of the two. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never even heard of Ellora Caves before your post despite the place being so spectacular and a UNESCO World Heritage site to boot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 19 2016 9:42 pm

      Oh, don’t be embarrassed about never having heard of these caves. I only knew about them because they were noted on the itinerary. Poor John, the avid reader, had known about them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bun Karyudo / Dec 20 2016 12:04 am

        Well, they’ve been added to my bucket list. When unrolled, this list now stretches off the table, down the hall, through the front door and down eight flights of steps.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Dec 20 2016 8:26 am

        My list looks like that too!

        Like

  20. spearfruit / Dec 20 2016 4:01 am

    Peggy, very impressive caves – I am amazed at the details.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. fareasttravelogue / Dec 20 2016 5:52 am

    i hope someday to see this place…interesting

    Liked by 2 people

  22. jerseydreaming / Dec 20 2016 6:46 am

    Wow! Now that’s somewhere I’d really like to visit.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. kkessler833 / Dec 20 2016 7:16 am

    Yes! Wow!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Curious to the Max / Dec 22 2016 1:39 pm

    Oh my goodness. I JUST saw a Public Broadcast on this site. Your post made it all the more memorable and interesting. Your pictures and commentary are fabulous. I think PBS should hire you to make TV specials.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder / Dec 23 2016 8:57 am

    The caves produce a sensation of awe at the first sight and then every time you visit them!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 24 2016 11:07 pm

      I agree. The awe never subsides. They are always amazing.

      Like

  26. mliae / Dec 23 2016 10:32 pm

    Oh wow…those are amazing! *placed promptly on the ‘to-see’ list 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  27. chattykerry / Dec 24 2016 4:10 am

    What an amazing place!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. czz56 / Dec 24 2016 6:41 am

    Buon Natale

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Please Another Make up by lellaj1005 / Dec 25 2016 12:35 am

    Merry christmas

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Nancy J / Dec 27 2016 5:16 am

    Wow! The photos (and the caves) are amazing. Thank you for sharing the history. It is fascinating that the caves belong to different religious sects. I enjoyed reading this entry very much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2016 6:58 am

      You are most welcome. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Like

  31. In My Cluttered Attic / Dec 27 2016 7:21 am

    Happy Holidays, Peggy. A very interesting post. I had never heard of these caves—yeah, I know, I must be living in a closet. Fascinating history.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Oz's Travels / Dec 28 2016 8:48 pm

    Wow, adding the Ellora Caves to my bucket list. A belated Merry Christmas to you and your family, all the best for 2017, looking forward to your adventures next year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 29 2016 5:26 pm

      Thanks so much. Hope you had a great Christmas and have a wonderful 2017. Ellora is well worth adding to your bucket list.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. voulaah / Dec 29 2016 1:41 am

    wow that is so incredible dear Peggy, thank you so much for sharing great post
    happy new year
    Kisses

    Liked by 1 person

  34. stephleo / Dec 31 2016 2:46 am

    You are so cool! You go to the greatest places and I love following your adventures because I feel that I am traveling with you in a small way! I always learn something. I have never even heard of these caves! And you are right – “gobsmackingly impressive!” Thanks for sharing your adventures and continuing to enlighten me : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 31 2016 7:37 am

      Thanks so much. I guess my former lives as a teacher and a newspaper reporter compel me to make a post informative. I throw in entertaining when I can! 🙂

      I get such a kick out of your blogs too, and am delighted that you’re finally in that new house of your own. Woo hoo!

      Liked by 1 person

      • stephleo / Dec 31 2016 8:39 am

        Glad to be in the house too! Been a long road… – Didn’t know you were a former teacher – me too!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Dec 31 2016 9:51 pm

        Teachers unite!

        Like

  35. sepultura13 / Jan 2 2017 4:12 pm

    Wow – this is an amazing place! Definitely on my “must-see” list when I begin traveling…2020 might be the year to finally venture overseas!
    Lovely photos…perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 2 2017 10:59 pm

      Look forward to hearing your travel stories. Glad you have enjoyed mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. milliethom / Jan 4 2017 12:25 am

    A wonderful post, Peggy. The caves are amazing and, as you say, how incredible that they were all carved out of the same lump of basalt. The Kailasha cave must have been an awe-inspiring sight when it was fully decorated: colour as well as grandeur of size and scale! As for the many Hindu gods, I get lost with the names, and am pushed to remember half a dozen of them.
    I’ve still got lots of your Indian posts to read, which I hope to work through over the first weeks of the new year. I learn so much about places I’d never heard of from your travel posts e.g. the Ellora Caves. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 4 2017 9:46 am

      Thanks Millie. I still have lots more to post about India—some you’ll know and others will be completely new.

      Like

  37. Smiling Notes / Jan 8 2017 10:47 am

    These are stunning photos! My hometown is Mumbai, Maharashtra and it’s funny that even after all these years, I have never been to some of these incredibly beautiful and famous places in my own country. Thanks for sharing and taking us on this virtual tour 🙂
    -Shamira

    Liked by 1 person

    • Smiling Notes / Jan 8 2017 10:51 am

      Oh and I loved how you have described Lord Ganesha. He is my fav too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 8 2017 8:46 pm

      Hope you get to see these caves soon. Very worthwhile trip. And yes, Lord Ganesha has to be a favourite.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. girlandworld / Jan 9 2017 3:10 pm

    Oh Ellora caves are amazing I have been there and once u step in a sudden mystery surround you

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 9 2017 3:48 pm

      The caves are mysterious and magical. We loved them.

      Like

  39. artandkitchen / Feb 10 2017 12:57 am

    I’ve been 4 times in India since now, but I’ve never seen the Ellora caves! This is really a “to see” that I have to put in my list. Thanks a lot Peggy for your report!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 10 2017 10:46 pm

      You are most welcome. These caves are amazing and well worth a special visit.

      Like

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