The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ellora is located in the state of Maharashtra. Around 30km from Aurangabad, the cave temples at Ellora represent the pinnacle of Deccan rock-cut architecture and the renaissance of Hinduism under the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the subsequent decline of Indian Buddhism and a brief resurgence of Jainism.
Over five centuries, generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved monasteries, chapels and temples from a 2-km long rock escarpment, decorating them with a profusion of sculptures in remarkable design and detail. In all, there are some 34 caves. Twelve caves are Buddhist, seventeen are Hindu and five are Jain. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but also, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
The site’s principal attraction is the colossal Kailash Temple. Dedicated to Shiva, this Hindu shrine is one of the most audacious feats of architecture ever conceived. Built by King Krishna I of the Rashtrakut dynasty in 760 AD, it covers twice the area of the Pathenon in Athens, is 1.5 times higher and entailed the removal of an estimated 200,000 tonnes of rubble by some 7000 labourers over a 150-year period! The temple comprises a gargantuan courtyard and other resplendent features such as sculptural decoration and detailed galleries.
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