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Kailasa Temple

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2010

Kailasa Temple

Introduction

Ajanta and nearby Ellora are two of the most amazing archaeological sites in India. Although handcrafted caves are scattered throughout India’s western state of Maharashtra, the complexes at Ajanta and Ellora – roughly 300 kilometres northeast of Mumbai (Bombay) – are the most elaborate and varied examples known. The caves aren’t natural caves, but man-made temples cut into a massive granite hillside. They were built by generations of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks, who lived, worked, and worshipped in the caves, slowly carving out elaborate statues, pillars, and meditation rooms.

Temple

Although all of the caves at Ellora are stunning architectural feats, the Hindu Kailasa Temple is the jewel in the crown. Carved to represent Mt. Kailasa,
the home of the god Shiva in the Himalayas, it is the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved top-down from a single rock.  It contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world.


Mount Kailash.
Within the courtyard is the massive multi-level temple, its pyramidal form replicating the real Mount Kailasa, the Himalayan peak said to be the home of the Hindu god Siva.

The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project.

The rear wall of its excavated courtyard 276 feet (84 m) 154 feet (47 m) is 100 ft  (33 m) high. The temple proper is 164 feet (50 m) deep, 109 feet (33 m) wide, and 98 feet (30 m) high.

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India

It consists of a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Virtually every surface is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the puranas (sacred Sanskrit poems). The temple is connected to the gallery wall by a bridge.

Described as Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple is considered
the pinnacle of Indian rock-cut architecture

The gigantic, 8th century Kailasa Temple at Ellora, Cave 16,
was chiselled from solid stone. Click for
bigger image

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Dramatic sculptures fill the courtyard and the main temple, which is in the center.
It must have been quite a spectacular sight when it was covered with white plaster and elaborately painted.

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
© Courtney Milne

Unlike other caves at Ajanta and Ellora, Kailasa temple has a huge courtyard that is open to the sky, surrounded by a wall of galleries several stories high.

The Kailasa temple is an illustration of one of those rare occasions when men’s minds, hearts, and hands work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal.

Caves

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta (more properly Ajujnthi), a village in the erstwhile dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad in India and now in Buldhana district in the state of Maharashtra
(N. lat. 20 deg. 32′ by E. long. 75 deg. 48′) is celebrated for its cave hermitages and halls.
Located 99-km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Ajanta encompasses 29 rock-cut rooms created between 200 BC and AD 650 using rudimentary hand tools. Most are viharas (living quarters), while four are chaityas (temples).

The Ajanta caves were discovered in the 19th century by a group of British officers on a tiger hunt.

Ajanta began as a religious enclave for Buddhist monks and scholars more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed that, originally, itinerant monks sought shelter in natural grottos during monsoons and began decorating them with religious motifs to help pass the rainy season. They used earlier wooden structures as models for their work.  As the grottos were developed and expanded, they became permanent monasteries, housing perhaps 200 residents.

The artisans responsible for Ajanta did not just hack holes in the cliff, though. They carefully excavated, carving stairs, benches, screens, columns, sculptures, and other furnishings and decorations as they went, so that these elements remained attached to the resulting floors, ceilings and walls.

They also painted patterns and pictures, employing pigments derived from natural, water soluble substances. Their achievements would seem incredible if executed under ideal circumstances, yet they worked only by the light of oil lamps and what little sunshine penetrated cave entrances.

The seventh century abandonment of these masterpieces is a mystery. Perhaps the Buddhists suffered religious persecution. Or perhaps the isolation of the caves made it difficult for the monks to collect sufficient alms for survival.

Some sources suggest that remnants of the Ajanta colony relocated to Ellora, a site closer to an important caravan route. There, another series of handcrafted caves chronologically begins where the Ajanta caves end.

Ellora Caves

Near Ellora , village in E central Maharashtra state, India, extending more than 1.6 km on a hill, are 34 rock and cave temples (5th–13th century).

Located about 30 Kilometres from Aurangabad, Ellora caves are known for the genius of their sculptors. It is generally believed that these caves were constructed by the sculptors who moved on from Ajanta. This cave complex is multicultural, as the caves here provide a mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions. The Buddhist caves came first, about 200 BC – 600 AD followed by the Hindu 500 – 900 AD and Jain 800 – 1000 AD.

Cave 30: Chota (small) Kailasa Temple, Ellora

Of the 34 caves chiselled into the sloping side of the low hill at Ellora, 12 (dating from AD 600 to 800) are Buddhist (one chaitya, the rest viharas), 17 are Hindu (AD 600 to 900), and 5 are Jain (AD 800 to 1100).

As the dates indicate, some caves were fashioned simultaneously – maybe as a form of religious competition. At the time, Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism regaining ground, so representatives of both were eager to impress potential followers.

Although Ellora has more caves than Ajanta, the rooms generally are smaller and simpler (with exception of Kailasa Temple).

Visiting Ajanta and Ellora

One of India’s greatest architectural treasures, the Kailasa temple attracts thousands of tourists annually.
Today, both Ajanta and Ellora are maintained by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation. The sites are open daily from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with guides available for hire. Visitors pay a small admission fee to enter the Ajanta site and extra to attendants for lighting cave details. Entry is free to all caves at Ellora except the Kailasa Temple.

A good base from which to visit Ajanta and Ellora is Aurangabad, serviced daily by Indian Airlines and East West Airlines flights from Mumbai (Bombay). The city has a variety of accommodations, ranging from a youth hostel to five-star hotels.

At least a three-night stay in Aurangabad is advised, because Ajanta
(100 kilometres northeast by road) requires a full-day excursion and Ellora
(30 kilometres northwest) a half-day.

Cover N/A Cave Temple of Ellora
by James Burgess
The book contains cave by cave discussion of cave temples at Ellora which are reowned worldwide for their architectural planning and beauty.


Cover N/A The Ellora monoliths : Rashtrakuta architecture in the Deccanby K. V. Soundara Rajan

Cover N/A Unfolding a Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora (Suny Series in Buddhist Studies)
by Geri Hockfield Malandra
Describes the 12 Buddhist caves at Ellora, India, and places them in the context of Buddhist art and iconography. The cave temples, dating from the early 7th to the early 8th centuries, are interpreted as three-dimensional versions of traditional mandalas, through which the devotees walked during their worship. The chapters describe the caves in chronological order, then interpret them as a peripheral center of art and devotion. Photographs and diagrams occupy nearly 200 pages.


Cover N/A Ellora (Monumental Legacy)
by M. K. DhavalikarThis item will be published in November 2002, however you may order it now.

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0195654587; (November 2002)


Great Architecture of the World
by John Julius Norwich (Editor), Nikolaus Norwich, Nikolaus Pevsner

Cover N/A Looking at Architecture
G. E. Kidder SmithNew York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8109-3556-2. LC 90-30728. NA200.S57 1990.
Kailasa Temple discussion, p38. photo, p38, 39.

Great Architecture of the World
John Julius Norwich, editor.London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. photo, p26.  An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations.
Book Description
A unique and sumptuously produced overview of architecture through the ages, with extraordinary one-of-a-kind cutaway drawings. Here is a brilliantly accessible chronicle of the greatest monuments created by mankind, told by fourteen of the most distinguished architectural historians and beautifully illustrated with more than 800 original diagrams, annotated drawings, and photographs-both a browser’s delight and a superb reference tool.


Cover N/A The Art and Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain
by Benjamin RowlandPhoto of interior, Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, p311.

The Sacred Earth
Courtney MilneKailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Page 23
These two stunning collections of photographs should carry a warning: incurable wanderlust may result from examining either one. Although different in format ( The Sacred Earth is in color, while Planet Peru is black and white) and subject matter (Milne traveled the Earth to photograph places he feels to be special, whereas Bridges concentrates solely on aerial photos of Peru), both author/photographers present a sweeping panoply of landscapes that, through the ages, have instilled wonder in the beholder. The authors have a deep sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural splendors of the Earth; both use the word sacred in its broadest sense, meaning the feeling of transcendence experienced by those fortunate enough to have shared the same vistas. Bridges’s book is a vertical exploration of Peru, consisting of starkly dramatic black-and-white photos that capture the eerie, timeless beauty of such places as Machu Picchu and the dead city of Pacatnamu. Milne’s book is simply splendid. Glorious color, sensitive prose, and marvelous images fill every page. The reader cannot help but be moved by the simple grandeur and majesty of these 140 sacred places, and there is more to come; this ambitious work is the first volume in a projected series. Either titles would enhance any general collection; to have both would be ideal.Judith F. Bradley, Acad. of the Holy Cross Lib., Kensington, Md.

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The temples were built under the late Chandela kings between 950 and 1050 AD in a truly inspired burst of creativity.

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