A breezy 30-km ride and the din of the city is behind you. The concrete jungle gives
way to the real one. For a while, the scenes flying past your window are all tinged
with green. Then, the monotony of the green canopy makes way for the memorable.
You get your first glimpse of the majestic Ellora Caves. Standing tall, they seem
to beckon you with their centuries-old secrets.
Built under the patronage of the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the oldest of
the 34 caves dates back to the 6th Century AD. What adds to their legacy is that
much of the principles used in their construction still hold true for our times.
A rich pedigree
Rock-cut architecture is an ancient technique that involves creating a structure
by ''carving'' inside a natural rock. Although practiced across the world, it was
perfected along the Western Ghats of India. The Ellora Caves are enduring icon of
India''s rich rock-cut architecture. A World Heritage Site, the Caves display dazzling
technical mastery and inimitable craftsmanship.
Set in stone
If you were to start building your home today, you would choose concrete for its
strength and durability. The makers of Ellora chose to go with rocks – the strongest
and the most durable building material available then. Religious sanctuaries were
made of timbre and would require constant maintenance. By choosing to excavate rock
they eliminated any need for maintenance and ensured that the structures would stand
strong for life. A great many rock-cut structures in India have withstood the test
of time and are still in good condition.
The gems among the rocks
Living in small apartments doesn''t mean you can''t design it aesthetically. The same
goes for the architects of Ellora. Working with a seemingly unaesthetic material
like rock didn''t hold them back. By blending architecture with sculpture and painting,
they created a breathtaking vision in rock-cut architecture. Depending on which
caves you visit, you will come across different architectural motifs. The building
of such structures involved sculpting on a mass level. Each coordinated chisel shaped
up idols, prayer halls called Chaityas, and intricate frescoes showcasing scenes
from the Buddhist folk tales called Jatakas.
Location, location, location
Where you build your home is as important as how you build it. The architects of
Ellora couldn''t have picked a better location. Set on the slopes of a hill, the
caves are built to face the west so that they receive sunlight from dusk till dawn.
Lying at the intersection of two major trade routes, the caves became a sanctuary
for travellers and also served the interests of the Buddhist monks who lived there.
Room for everyone
The caves at Ellora exemplify the idea of cosmopolitanism. Three major religious
sects have a presence here. The earliest caves belong to the Buddhists. Caves from
the Hindu and Jain sects followed soon. It''s interesting to note that even as caves
from new religious sects were built, the older caves from other religious sects
were left untouched.
Whether a studio apartment or a bungalow, every home has a centerpiece. The centerpiece
of the Ellora caves is the famed Kailasa temple. The largest monolithic structure
in the world, the Kailasa Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is built to resemble
the Lord''s home, Mount Kailash. Finished over a period of a century, this multi-storied
temple is carved out of a single stone and draws out visitors with its illustrious
sculptures of multiple deities.
The Elloras aren''t just timeless in their beauty. Every single swing of the chisel
was purposeful and precise. The principles behind its construction are indeed as
timeless as its beauty.
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