BENGALURU: One of the most prominent heritage sites in the modern age, the World Heritage site of Ellora attracts history lovers and archaeologists alike. Its exquisite carvings and sculptures tell the tale of unrivaled craftsmanship and the most detailed sculpting on basalt rocks ever seen in the world. The Hindu group of temples at Ellora are the most interesting ones as Cave numbers 13-29 depict a variety of carvings from the middle of sixth to the eighth century.
Not every cave is complete or elaborate and the centrepiece in this lot is Cave number 16. Most people just visit this cave which is the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvathi and is aptly called as the Kailasa Temple.
After the simplicity of the Buddhist caves which are mostly monasteries, one feels amazed at the complexity of the Hindu temples and the Kailasa Temple is one such architectural wonder which takes your breath away. One has to spend a few hours in Cave 16 to understand how the Rashtrakutas from Karnataka have tried to recreate Shiva’s abode (Mount Kailash) from a single mountain rock at such a great height. With the help of a guide, one can understand how this temple was constructed and how the carvings of different gods and celestial beings have been etched at the different levels.
The Kailasa temple, a multi-storied complex, has an entrance gateway with a typical temple gopura that opens to a huge courtyard with columned galleries stretching as high as three floors. Each of these galleries has elaborate and massive sculpted panels and alcoves with a variety of Hindu gods and goddesses.
The courtyard has two Dhwajsthambas which is reminiscent of many Hoysala temple structures in Karnataka. Many images are still there, some are missing, some have been destroyed and whatever remains today can be seen in all its beauty. It is said that it took more than 100 years to build this temple with many generations involved in its construction. One can only imagine the work behind the sheer artistry of these elaborate works.
As we enter the temple courtyard, we see the usual Nandi Bull which is so common in all Shiva temples while the main central temple, the Nandi Mantapa, houses the lingam. This temple, standing on 16 pillars, is so huge that one wonders how the artists of yore managed to build such a structure and make the carvings in the absence of any technology.
The Shiva Temple and the Nandi Mantapa are still connected by a living rock bridge which one can see even today. As is common in most cave temples of India, one can also see a variety of erotic male and female figures etched on pillars and columns here and there. As one moves from the left to the right side of the entrance, we can see sculptures and carvings of both Vaishnavite and Shaivite gods and goddesses.
According to our tour guide who was a history professor, the elaborate sculpture depicting the lifting of the Mount Kailash with Shiva and Parvati seated on it by Ravana is considered
a masterpiece in both Indian art and architecture. To pay homage to such rare works of art, one should not only spend more time but also try to ascertain who created them back in those days and how they managed to pull it off.