Kailasa Temple Ellora

By Sanjeev Nayyar Sanjeev@esamskriti.com | 2018

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1. Kailasa Temple is a wonder of the world. This album is a humble tribute to the workers, artists and rulers of that time. This monolithic rock cut temple was excavated from top to bottom and scooped out all through from outside to inside. It was named Kailasa after the mountain abode of Siva. Wall on either side of entrance have manifestations of Siva & Vishnu.

2. Temple rests on a raised 7 metre high plinth & consists of the sanctum cell where Lord Siva is enshrined as a Linga. Above the shrine rises the imposing Dravidian style tower capped by a well-ribbed cupola. Cloisters on 3 sides of the temple, side halls, free standing pillars & elephants enhance the aesthetic beauty of temple. Temple is richly carved with niches, plasters & windows.

3. Every sculpture has a meaning. 2 elephants & Pillars of Victory (kirti-sthambs) signify Rashtrakuta supremacy & power. Enormous animals supporting the super structure signify the importance given to animals in Indian tradition. The main temple is called Kailasa or RANG MAHAL. It has a Vadya & Nandi Mandapa, Yagna mantapa, pillared hall, small sanctum & 5 subsidiary shrines.

4. U see Pillars of Victory, left is Nandi Mandapa & entrance to temple hall. “The 3 sides of the hill were cut vertically, that is, three trenches were excavated on its three sides to obtain a huge rock island. Then the sculptors went about chiselling the rock from the top to the bottom to create a monolithic temple complex, 83 metres long, 46 m wide and 33 m deep.”

5. Nandi Mandapa. Left is temple entrance. Right is entrance to pillared hall/sanctum. Mandapa joins the two. Centre is Pillar of Victory. Extreme right of pic where you see area covered is Lankeshvara. Album starts with view from top, inside cave-external walls, sanctum and corridors. It has gigantic images of couples, deities, friezes of epics etc.

6. Close up of Nandi mandapa. Centre top is a damaged kalash on a stone platform. It has 4 images on all sides. Not sure what they represent. 3 layered panel has elephants on lowest level, women in various dancing postures & lions on last level (damaged). Centre in front and end of pic are pillars of victory. Post completion evidence of painting & plaster during 9-11 centuries.

7. You can walk around the temple by climbing up the hill. Closer view of entrance to pillared hall and external walls of hall/sanctum. Above the shrine is an imposing Vimana/tower in Dravidian style. “Because of the mountain facing the fest, the temple entrance is from the west unusual in view of the existing Hindu practice as sanctioned by the Vasthusastras.”

8. Top of entrance hall to sanctum. Note lotus in centre flanked by lions on both sides n sculptures on bottom of pic. “Kailasa’s immediate structural counterpart can be found in the famous Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal. Despite such superficial resemblances in plan, Kailasa displays a combination of Dravidian & Indo-Aryan architectural elements.” To see Pattadakal Temples https://www.esamskriti.com/a/Karnataka/Pattadakal-Temples.aspx

9. Roof of pillared hall. Loved this scene. Captions take from board, guide and book ‘Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad Caves – An Appreciation by T V Pathy. Errors if any are all mine. In case of correction mail esamskriti108@gmail.com giving photo number & revised caption.

10. Close up of lions–centre is small temple. “The entire edifice was boldly chiselled out of the solid rock. The excavation method adopted by the artists was to create an island of mountain in rectangular shape by cutting into the trenches vertically, from which was chiselled out the main body of the temples.” Caves open at 6 am and close at 6 pm.

11. Front view. Centre of pic image is Shiva. Note the rock behind. It is said this temple took 200 years to complete. Temple was planned & work begun during Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga (735 to 757 A.D.) and a major part of the work was under the reign of Krishna I (757 to 773 A.D.).

12. Top view shows cave excavated from hill. I walked around the open area that you see and where boy standing for a top view. What I missed doing is taking road to the top of hill (there are villages) to get an even better view and see unfinished caves. I stayed at Hotel Kailash minutes away from caves. Lovely rooms and cottages.

13.Vertical view of shrine. Bottom pic is a subsidiary shrine. “The celestials, the nymphs, the mithunas & a variety of florid designs provide a vertical dimension to the gigantic sculptural gallery.” “Ellora surpasses the Great Parthenon of Athens in its dimensions & challenges Borodbudur in its conception.”

14. Back view. Front is shrine. Left & right of pic are caves. Bottom of shrine are subsidiary shrines (Panchayatana). Beautifully well maintained garden in front of cave. Bus red colour takes you to the Jaina Caves – wonder why they do not have eco-friendly buses.

15. Top of shrine. Has cows on 4 sides. Base has elephants and lions. The credit for excavating main temple & vimana goes to Rashtrakuta king Krishna I (757-773).” Other scholars believe that Kailasa is modelled after Kailasanatha Temple Kanchipuram. To see temple pics https://www.esamskriti.com/a/Tamil-Nadu/Kanchi-Kailasanathar-Temple.aspx

16. Side view. Right is elephant. Gives you a sense of height from top of the hill – area excavated. The steep mountain sides are awe-inspiring. It left me wondering at the sheer human labour & engineering skill that would have gone into creating this huge temple. .

17. There a 5 subsidiary shrines (Panchayatana) of which u see four, fifth is on the other side. Kailasa is also called Rang Mahal since it has murals.

18. Vertical view. U see subsidiary shrine-balcony of pillared hall-pillar of victory-elephant and rock on side. At base of pillared hall balcony are elephants that u shall see later.

19. Close up of shrine top view. Ellora caves are locally known as ‘Verul Leni’. They are 30 kms from Aurangabad – takes less than an hour.

20. Different side view of roof of pillared hall.

21.Pillared hall-Nandi mandapa and entrance along with two kirti-stambhs or pillars of victory. To really enjoy Kailasa use a guide – do not treat it like a simple walk through. Suggested guides-Madhususan Patil 91 75881 97664, Ram Krishna also speaks in Tamil, Japanese, Telegu 91 75881 96674, Amol Basole for Foreigners/NRI tourist 91 94222 10571.

22. Front side view of temple entrance (north side), nandi mandapa, pillared hall and shrine. Entrance is a huge piece of rock.

23. Close up of nandi mandapa and entrance. Their walls have sculptures whose close up u shall see later. Note their size and think how they are excavated & designed.

24. Entrance top is Shiva. Note elephants at bottom. Kailasa has elephants all over – a symbol of strength.

25. As I walked around met with noted Odissi dancer Anandini and her Guru. Pic in area from where entrance to pillared hall. Left top are huge pillars of Lankesvara. Top right image is Markendey Murti.

26. We now enter the temple. It closes at 6 pm – took pic slightly after that. Sculptures on either side are avatars of Lord Siva and Vishnu.

27. Left side are forms of Lord Shiva. Left to right is Shiva, Brahma. Front left is Kartika, Agni, Vayu, Varun, Nagra and Nagran. Not sure if last Nagra and Nagran are part of picture.

28. Right side are forms of Lord Vishnu. Right to left Indra on elephant, Varaha avatar, Garud, Vaman avatar, Shiv Tandava, Narasimha avatar and Shiva Lalit. Not of all these are in picture though.

29. Facing the entrance is the panel of Gajalakshmi seated on a full-bloomed lotus in the midst of a lotus pond while the elephants above pour water by way of ritual adoration. The depiction of the Goddess of Wealth as we enter the temple is symbolic of the prosperous conditions prevalent during the times of the Rashtrakutas. On either side of entrance are Ganga and Yamuna.

30. Exactly behind Gajalakshmi is Gajasur Vadh (pic 31). In front of that is Shiva in Shanti Mudra that you see. He is sitting in padmasana–the lotus pose of yoga. Hence he is called Mahayogi. His eyes are closed and is deep into meditation. Surrounding him are divinities in the sky and attendants below. Caption details from indiatales.com

31. Gajasur Vadh (killing) ie Siva’s incarnation Kalbhairav is killing the elephant demon Gajasuravadhhamurti.

32. Side wall of Nandi Mandapa is dancing Siva. “The paintings belong to two different periods, the first one of the period of Rashtrakutas while the second exactly superimposing the original one belong to the period of Holkars when the entire structure was given a lime wash and painted with ochre coloured paintings during the period of Ahilya Bai Holkar.”

33. Other side of wall of is Ravana lifting the holy mountain Kailasha – abode of Shiva and Parvati. This is a very popular theme in Ellora.

34. As you enter start with left side panel wall. U see Mahisasuramardini. This is Deviroop killing the Asura who is in the form of a Mahisha (i.e. male buffalo) so she is known as Mahishasuramardini. Mahisa is a male buffalo, asura is demon, mardhini means slay. Next to this is Krishna lifting Govardhana.

35. Adjoining wall right is Vishnu riding on his vehicle Garuda, next is Shiva Parvati in centre of pic.

36. Angle view. Front is Pillar of Victory or Kirti-sthambas (45 feet), right elephant, behind Nandi mandapa and entrance. Note walls of nandi mandapa.

37. Close up of pillar of victory. Lower level are Kirtimukhas (to ward away evil). Above that miniature images by way of decoration.

38. Left is Dwarpal or doorkeeper. Right is elephant. Inside hall where person in red is standing are images of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. The shrine symbolises the Rashtrakutas successful expedition into the Gangetic region.

39. Centre is Ganga, left of pic is Saraswati and right is Jamuna, three holy rivers symbolising their confluence at Triveni near Prayag. Ganga stands on a crocodile (symbol of purity), Saraswati on a lotus (symbolises knowledge) and Jamuna on a tortoise (symbolises devotion).

40. Another pic of noted Odissi dancer Anandini. There is a lot of grace in her movements.

41. Side view. Left side panel has story of the epic Mahabharata, it has steps that take you to the sanctum. Note elephants in pic.

42. Shows Kurukshetra Yudh or battle part of Mahabharata.

43. Lower portion has scenes from Krishna’s life. Line 6 Devaki taken to Gokul by Vasudev. Krishna sleeps in bed. When Krishna was 3 months old, Putana entered Gokul to breast feed him with poison. But baby Krishna took life out of the demon. Making butter in Gokul. Cows of Gokul. Line 7 is Makhan chor Kanhaiya, Krishna sleeping, Bakasur came to kill Krishna but Krishna kills him.

44. Adjacent to Mahabharata panel are these animals. Right to left is Chinese dragon, elephant, Chinese dragon, Egyptian style beard, damaged animal and elephant.

45. At one end of cave is a covered open area from where took this pic. It gives you a sense of how long the cave is, height shows extent of excavation and top of hill.

46. Base of temple has elephants on three sides. Their supporting the super structure signify the importance given to animals in Indian tradition.

47. In most cases elephant trunks do not exist. Centre of pic is a couple.

48. Back side of temple. Temple has a hall on three sides. Area below hall has small carvings. Start to caption for pic 49 “Ravana the 10 headed king of Lanka with his arms spread like the spokes of a wheel applies his majestic strength to being a seismic vibration to Kailasa. The shaking of the mountain is beautifully brought out in the agitated figure of Parvati who clings to Siva for protection.”

49. “Shiva elegantly poised against the wall of the stage symbolically presses his toe & traps the demon underneath the mountain. This theme was rendered with a psychological realism that admirably enact the varied mood & responses. This composition represents the cosmic balance of 2 forces, 1 centrifugal (demonic energy), other centripetal (Siva’s divine energy) poised against each other but in reality collaborating to arouse Siva’s power into its creative aspect”.

50. Ramayana.Top 1 Rama goes in exile for 14 yrs. 2 Ravana’s sister nose cut by Lakshman. 3 Abduction of Sita by Ravana. 4 Hanuman searches for Sita. 5 Bali and Sugriva fight. 6. Ashok Vattika garden. 7 Ram Sethu bridge over sea being made. 8 Ram Ravana yudh fight. Line 4 another caption-Hanuman seated on a raised throne made out of his coiled tail in order to humble Ravana`s pride.

51. View of monolith temple side view. Opposite the Ramayan panel is an elevated place whose pillars are carved with graceful Yakshi figures. On side walls are relieved in the round the figure of Saptamatrikas flanked by Siva & Ganesha. Pics did not come ok due to little light so not showing.

52. Wall of pillared hall has Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu. U can see some reminisces of painting. The last painting was done by Ahilyabai Holkar of Maheshwar (1767 to 1795).

53. Enroute steps to pillared hall is a panel on both sides. One side has Brahma another Nataraj. Caption contd pic 49 “The whole panel is replete with an allegorical version of the Hindu thought of destruction, sustenance & creation. There is a great epiphamy of cosmic being in rock. In its visual form also the balancing of positive & negative aspects is so ingeniously brought wrought in.”

54. Entrance to Nandi Mandapa. Top row has elephants at lowest level, next ladies and lastly lion. Entrance has a well decorated panel. On either side are two pillars on top of which are image of person supporting the roof.

55. Walk thru the nandi mandapa to entrance top area. Lower panel has exotic images and above that looks like ‘kalash’.

56. Odissi dancer Anandini inviting us to visit the temple sanctum. Note the same axial alignment between the Nadi madanapa and entrance to temple.

57. Front view entrance to pillared hall. Lower panel has Kalash on either side. In centre and corners are ornamental decoration. Close to entrance notice 2 huge sculptures on left and right on its sidewalls, they are Umamahesvara and Annapurna (the goddess of food).

58. Ceiling is double pettaled lotus with traces of paintings with mythical animal in each corner. Do see door jambs that are exquisitely carved with a series of love scenes. On either sides of the door are shown Siva as Gangadhara, Siva defending Markendeya and Lingodbhavamurtti. Second you will see. Third not showing since common theme in Ellora. First missed.

59.Main hall (Sabhamandapa) has 16 pillars carved in 4 rows. They are carved with floral and animal designs. Pillared porches on north & south of the hall provide a balance to the temple.

60. On the ceiling of the main hall is carved in full relief the figure of dancing Siva, noted for the rhythm and dynamic energy. “One has only to marvel the pains taken to execute the sculpture, as the artist has to lie down on his back over scaffolding while preventing the dust and stone particles from his eye, illumined just with an oil lamp!”

61. Exquisitely carved pillars.

62. Samundra mantham that you see is also at Bangkok Airport. During churning of the ocean by Devas & Asuras the first to manifest was a poison called Halahala. Since none were willing to deal with the poison they approached Shivji who swallowed the poison. His devoted spouse saw him taking the poison, & at once caught his throat to stop poison from going down. This was the reason for his throat turning blue & since then he was called Neelkantha. To read more

63. Painting inside sanctum is of Nataraja. “Nataraj comes from Sanskrit word that translates to ‘Lord of Dancers’ or ‘King of Actors’. Like to thank guide Madhushudan Patil for helping with captions. Suggested guides-M Patil 91 75881 97664, Ram Krishna also speaks in Tamil, Japanese, Telegu 91 75881 96674, Amol Basole for Foreign/NRI tourist 91 94222 10571.

64. Close to sanctum entrance is lady. Sadly face no longer there. Yet notice what is worn round the waist, the ankle and footwear.

65. “The sanctum contains a huge monolithic linga over a huge yonipitha, the ceiling is decorated with an enormous lotus. The devotee is conjured by the mystique in which the linga the iconic representation of Lord Siva is placed in the sanctum.”

66. Kamdeva n Rati (god of love & desire & his consort Rati). “Kamadeva’s very depiction has an attractive aspect to it as he carries a bow made of sugarcane and the bow string lined with buzzing honeybees. Rati is Kamadeva’s consort and goddess of love and passion. She is a beautiful maiden who enchants her companion and together they form the perfect love couple.”

67. Exited pillared hall to see wall around sanctum. Left is Ganesha with Odissi dancer Anandini. Right what you cannot see is Lankeshwara.

68. Present images on three sides of sanctum. It is different forms of Siva – need to reconfirm.

69. Centre is Vishnu. The exterior of the main & subsidiary shrines are carved with a variety of mythological sculptures, ganas and amorous figures.

70. It took Odissi dancer Anandini over two hours to get dressed for photo shoot with her Guru at the world famous Kailasa Temple Ellora.

71. It is different forms of Siva – need to reconfirm.

72. Markendey Murti.

73. Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

74. Southern panel. Relief showing Ravana cutting the wings of Jatayu bird. When Ravana was on his way to Lanka on his flying chariot after abducting Sita, he encountered Jatayu. This noble souled bird could not bear to hear poor Sita`s cry for help and got into a fight with the mighty Ravana. Ravana cut off Jatayu`s wings and he collapsed.

75. Andhakasur Murti in a big hall known as ‘Lankesvara’. ANDHAKASUR ie Siva killing the demon Andhaka who had a boon that when his blood dropped on earth immediately an Andhaka would take birth. So Shiva wants to kill the asura but blood continued dropping. “Shiva stands in the centre of this wall-relief, surrounded by Yogeswari & Sapta Matrikas with trident on this right shoulder”. In one hand Shiva has a bowl full of blood. To avoid it falling Chamunda came & drank all the blood. Now asuras afraid so they surrender & become his followers.

76.Inside Lankeshwara Cave. Less light so few pics. Pillars are exquisitely designed & he parapet wall running all round is divided into compartments & several panels of amorous couples are carved on the exterior. Other sculptures of importance are Surya and Chandra.

77. We now share a view pics of images inside the huge corridors. Note the mini reliefs at the base of the platform on right of pic.

78. Shiva Parvati playing dice.

79. Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

80. View of corridor. It has sculptures of Kuber, Rama & Lakshman praying to Shiva before starting work on Ram Sethu, Hari Hara, Rudra Tandava, Tripurasur vaad, Shiv Bhairav and many more.

81. Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda.

82. U see Varaha the third avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a Boar. Varaha’s depicted in art either as either purely animal or as being anthropomorphic, having a boar’s head on a man’s body. The avatar symbolises the resurrection of the Earth from a pralaya (deluge) and the establishment of a new kalpa (cosmic cycle).

83. As I walked around the cave top saw this unfinished cave number 16-B.

84. U see Odissi dancer Anandini. We take your leave with flowers. Do visit Ellora Caves – worth every minute. Keep two days for comfortably enjoying them. Om Namah Shivay.

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