The Real Ellora’s Cave
I have a real love affair going with India. It’s a colorful and vibrant country and one that’s top of my list to visit again. After visiting Ellora in India it seemed only right for me to target Ellora’s Cave to publish my books. Kismet, in fact.
The caves at Ellora and the neighboring Ajanta caves are world heritage sites and date back over five centuries. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved the monasteries, chapels and temples into escarpments. They were a well-known stopping point for traders, priests and pilgrims who were traveling to the western ports and are massive feats of architecture, carved by hand from rock cliffs.
At Ellora, the escarpment is gentle. The monks made elaborate courtyards for some of the caves. In contrast the isolated Ajanta caves are carved into cliffs with a sheer drop below. The caves at Ajanta pre-date those of Ellora and were abandoned and forgotten. A British hunting party rediscovered them in 1819, their isolation contributing to a fine state of preservation.
The show piece at Ellora is the Kailasa Temple. King Krishna built it in AD 760. Laborers cut three huge trenches into the cliff face then removed over 200,000 tonnes of rock to ‘release’ the shape. The Kailasa temple covers twice of the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1½ times as high. Dramatic carved panels decorate the temple. Panels depict scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the adventures of Krishna. One of the panels depicts the demon king Ravana showing off his strength by shaking Mt Kailasa. Shiva is unimpressed and crushes Ravana’s pride by simply flexing a toe.
The 30 caves at Ajanta are cut into a horseshoe-shaped cliff face overlooking the Waghora River. Many of the caves contain fresco-type paintings. The artists used animal glue and vegetable gum mixed with paint pigments to bind them to the dry rock surface.
The caves are identified by number. Cave 17 has the best-preserved and the most varied paintings. Carved dwarfs support the pillars while the images include a princess surrounded by attendants and applying make-up along with an amorous prince plying his lover with wine.
Both sites are full of atmosphere and it’s like stepping back in time. I found the paintings and carvings beautiful and striking. The amount of rock shifted to create them was mind-boggling and absolutely amazing.
If you’d like to armchair travel to India, check out Shelley Munro’s new release Wanderlust. It’s a tale of intrigue and murder and the characters visit many popular tourist sights in India, including the wonderful Ellora’s Cave.
Source: Some of the facts came from my diary and others came from the very helpful Lonely Planet guidebook on India.