Ellora Cave Temples
The Ellora Caves are a series of ancient temples and monasteries hewn into the side of the Charnadari Hill in the Deccan Plateau. India is a birth place of three world religions- Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma), Buddhism and Jainism. Historically speaking, the emergence of Ellora coincided with the decline of Buddhism and a Hindu renaissance in 7th to 9th century AD.
The Ellora caves fall into three distinct groups: Buddhist, Hindu and Jain. There are twelve Buddhist caves and the first nine Buddhist caves are variations of 'Viharas' (monasteries), filled with figures of Lord Buddha and scenes from Buddhist mythology. The Hindu caves are seventeen in number and represent the peak of Ellora's development. They contain impressive sculptures of deities from the Hindu pantheon. There are five Jain caves. They are simpler than the other caves but are just as inspiring, with elephants and lions coming to life in their depths. There is no doubt that the Ellora Caves bear witness to the spirit of tolerance among faiths.
The Ellora Caves are important because they follow the development of religious thought in India through the decline of Buddhism in the latter half of 8th century to the Hindu renaissance that followed the return of the Gupta dynasty and then the Jain resurgence between the 9th and 11th centuries. The Buddhist caves are monastery halls which the Buddhist monks used for study, solitary meditation, communal worship and their daily activities like eating and sleeping.
The Hindu caves present another world altogether. They are profusely sculptured with Shiva and Vishnu images. The Hindu caves' images begin with Shiva killing a demon, and moving in a clock-wise direction, they end with Vishnu as the man-lion Narsimha. These caves lie in the centre and are the most numerous.