Ellora cave

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CAVES OF Ellora

Introduction.The last great cave temples of India are Ellora Caves group of 34 monasteries and temples made at the ancient trade route between the nearby Paihan and the important city of Ujjain. Not that many know that in total in this area there are more than 100 rock cut caves but these 34 are located closer together (their entrances are spread along the cliff face for a bit more than 2 km), have common interesting history and magnificent architecture and art.It was built by rashtrakuta dynasty and yadav. These "royal" caves were hewn in the vertical basalt cliff of the Charandri hill (Sahyadari Hills) sometimes around 630 1000 AD. Some sources state that some caves are older from 550 AD. Cave temples hewn in rock were considered to be the best possibility to go away from the reality of the material world and meditate close to the heart of the mountain. It represent indian rock cut architecture.

Shrines.The first group of shrines were created by Buddhists of Mahayana branch. These are caves numbered from 1 to 12 and were built in 630 700 AD (some sources state that in 400 800 AD).Next group was created when the influence of Buddhism vaned and Hinduism gradually became the mainstream religion. In fact some of Ellora Hinduist shrines are older than some Buddhist caves. Local rulers were more supportive to Shaivism a trend of Hinduism devoted to Shiva thus also Ellora got exquisite shrines devoted to Shiva. These caves are numbered 13 29 and built in 550 780 AD (other sources state that in 600 900 AD).Last group of shrines was created in times when local rulers were more inclined towards Jain religion, Digambara branch. Jain caves form a distinct group, numbered from 30 to 34, created sometimes around 800 1000 AD.

Buddhist cave.Cave 1 - vihara with eight small cells. Possibly served as a granary for other viharas, comparatively simple design with little adornment. Cave 2 large vihara with enormous central chamber supported by 12 square pillars. Adorned with numerous sculptures of seated Buddha's. Cave 3 and Cave 4 similar to Cave 2.Cave 5 (Maharwada) the largest vihara. Named after local Mahar people they used this enormous chamber as a hideaway during the monsoon. Central hall is 36 meters long, contains sculpture of seated Buddha. Cave 6 created after 600 AD. Among other values contains two beautiful sculptures of star goddess Tara and goddess of learning Mahamayuri with peacock. Cave 10 (Vishvakarma, "Carpenters Cave", Sutar-ka-Jhopda,) the most famous local Buddhist cave, chaitya griha. Built around 700 AD. Cave has a beautiful multi-storeyed entrance with two pillared side porticos. They have chambers possibly intended to be sanctuaries but not completed. Behind the entrance there is enormous chaitya (shrine). Columns in the main hall have ghata-pallava (vase and foliage) capitals. Main hall has central nave and two side aisles separated by 28 octagonal columns. Vaulted roof of chaitya has the characteristic ribs resembling wooden architecture and used in many other cave temples. In the rear end there is 3.3 m high Buddha statue seated in preaching pose. Behind Buddha on the rear wall there is carved large Bodhi tree. Initially cave had a high screen hall, now ruined. Cave 11 (Do Tal two storey's) vihara, one of latest Buddhist structures here, with three storey's. Third, basement storey was discovered in 1876. It has been converted to Hinduist shrine as witnessed by images of Durga and Ganesh. Buddha shrine has been left intact. Cave 12 (Tin Tal three storey's) vihara, one of latest Buddhist structures here, with three storey. Upper hall contains five large sculptures of bodhisattvas, hall is flanked by seven Buddha's.

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cave no 12

Hindu temples.

Cave 14 contains exquisite stone carvings - friezes. Initially was shaped as a Buddhist vihara but during the work converted to Hindu shrine. Entrance guarded by river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna. Cave 15 (Dasavatara - Cavern of the ten avatars) built in the middle of the 8th century, two floors. Upper floor contains some of the most exquisite carvings. Initially started as a Buddhist vihara it was shaped like open court with free-standing monolithic mandapa with two-storeyed cave temple at the rear. Cave contains exquisite sculptural groups depicting scenes of Hindu religious motifs of Vishnus ten avatars. Also contains famous Hindu artworks Shiva as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer. Cave 16 (Kailash Temple) one of the highest achievements of ancient architecture worldwide, designed to resemble Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva. Created sometimes around 760 860 AD, started during the reign of Rashtrakuta kind Krishna I (ruled in 757 773). Although technically sculpted out of single rock, Kaliash Temple is free standing structure with many stories, two times larger in area than, f.e. Parthenon in Athens. It is the largest monolithic human built structure of the world, up to 36,6 metres high. Length of structure 84,1 m, width 47 mw. It is assumed that construction of this temple took 100 years starting from around 760 AD. Initally Kailasanatha was covered with thick, white colored plaster, thus resembling the sacred icy Kailash mountain in Tibet. Temple starts with high entrance gate or gopuram. It serves as a screen between the sacred temple and the outer world. Behind the gopuram there opens a courtyard with three storey's high columned galleries. In the middle of this courtyard stand several buildings also hewn out of the same monolithic cliff. Earlier there were flying bridges connecting galleries with the structures in the centre but these have collapsed now. First after the gopuram comes a 7 metres high shrine to bull Nandi with two monolithic towers - Dhvajastambhas flanking it. Next behind the Nandi image there is the largest structure inside the temple large mandapa hall of the temple and the main shrine of Kailash Temple, called Nandi Mandapa. Temple over the shrine rises up to 29,3 m high and stands on 16 pillars. Initially temple was colored in bright colors, today nearly all color is gone. Only few paintings remain on the ceiling of mandapa. On existing remnants it is seen that the painting has been done three times at least. The giant mandapa is held by numerous life-sized elephants also carved out of the original rock! This artistic method originates from Pitalkhora Buddhist caves, the 2nd century BC and later has been repeated in many artworks. Adjoining the mandapa comes the last structure inside the courtyard Shiva temple. It is formed like a pyramid, resembling South Indian temples. Both Nandi Mandap and Shiva temple are housing lingams. Southern Indian influences in the architecture of Shiva temple could be explained by presence of Southern Indian artists the state governed by the Rashtrakuta dynasty included also part of Southern India. Shiva temple has many similarities to South Indian Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal which was made several decades earlier. Cave 21 (Rameshvara) possibly the oldest Hindu cave in Ellora, from the late 500s. Contains some of the most beautiful carvings. At the far end of entrance verandah two beautiful figurines of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna. Cave 22 (Nilkantha) contains beautiful stone carvings. Cave 25 (Kumbharvadam). Contains beautiful sculpture of Surya Sun god driving his chariot towards the dawn. Cave 27 (Gopilena) Beautiful waterfall between cave 28 and Dumar Lena adds unexpected charm to these unique monuments. Cave 29 (Dhumar Lena) created in the late 6th century.cross-shaped planning. Contains enormous, beautiful sculpted panels with depictions of Shiva, other exquisite carvings.

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Jain temples.

Cave 30 (Chhota Kailash) smaller version of Kailash Temple with beautiful pillars. Cave 32 (Indra Sabha Indras Assembly Hall). Extremely ornate, two floors. In the centre there stands monolithic shrine. Ceiling is adorned with enormous carving of lotus. Contains remnants of valuable mural which in its artistic technique shows the beginning of medieval period in Indian painting. Sculpture of naked Gomateshwara who stands meditating in a forest without noticing how the vines have grown and twisted around his legs and scorpions and snakes crawl around him. Cave 33 contains remnants of valuable mural which in its artistic technique shows the beginning of medieval period in Indian painting. Cave 34 small and can be accessed only through the opening in Cave 33.

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