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.

rashtrakuta dynasties

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.

The centrepiece

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.

If you have any interesting articles, stories or tips you''d like to share with us, then do mail us on ultratech.social@adityabirla.com

    Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of UltraTech Cement.

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