A Much-awaited Trip
The UNESCO world heritage site of Ellora is a weekend escape or long-weekend getaway from Pune. The splendid rock-cut caves had been on our wish list for quite some time. Along came the opportunity to pay a visit to this famous location.
Of the 34 rock-cut caves at Ellora, 17 are Hindu caves (cave numbers 13 to 29), 12 are Buddhist caves (cave numbers 1-12), and 5 are Jain caves (cave numbers 30-34).
The awe-inspiring monolithic Kailasanatha temple and the Dashavatar cave are among the numerous splendid masterpieces dedicated to Hinduism. The first part of this blog series describes these marvels.
On our journey of discovery, in addition to the Hindu caves, the caves dedicated to Buddhism and Jainism left an indelible impression on our minds.
The Buddhist Caves: Masterpieces in Stone
The “Do Tal” and “Teen Tal” are multi-level caves. As we explored each level, we came face-to-face with impressive sculptures of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Carpenter’s Cave or Sutar Jhopadi (cave 10) is the pièce de résistance of the Buddhist group of caves. A high vaulted ceiling, magnificent carvings that resemble wooden beams and a majestic Buddha statue are the highlights of this masterpiece. In the chaitya griha, we were treated to a beautiful rendition of the Buddham Saranam Gacchami chant by a guide (it was intended for some VIP guests, and, as luck would have it, we were present at that time! 🙂 ). The soothing chant rippled through the silent hall and magnified the intensity of our wonder and amazement. A fantastic experience! In a trance, we proceeded to the other caves. Junior was intrigued by the goddess in one of the sculptures in Cave 6. Mahamayuri, the Buddhist deity of learning, is flanked by a peacock. Outside, a small waterfall flowed down the rocky hillside near the southern end of the Buddhist caves. It lent a special, almost magical, effect to the scene.
The Jain Caves: Ornate Art in Stone
After visiting the Hindu and Buddhist caves, we were quite tired (having walked for several hours and having explored almost every nook of every cave). I even wondered aloud about the option of visiting the remaining caves the next day. Junior, to my surprise, admonished me for even considering that thought! He was enthusiastic about continuing our exploration and seemed determined to visit the last group. And so it was decided. We took an autorickshaw to the Jain group of caves, located at the northern end of the complex.
Although the Jain caves are relatively smaller, the ornate and detailed art in these caves is a delight to the eyes. Fragments of colored art are still visible, leaving the grandeur of the original work to our imagination. The intricate designs and beautiful sculptures of Gomatesvara and the Tirthankaras capture the visitor’s attention. It was a fitting finale to a wonderful day of exploration.