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Ellora Caves

The Ellora Caves figures right on the top of the list of must-see sites of tourists visiting India. The caves are located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Ellora Caves site stretches over two kilometers and is home to over 34 monasteries and temples that were excavated from a high basalt cliff. Ellora is a unique historical site as it features a continuous chain of monuments right from AD 600 to AD 1000. The caves bring to life, the ancient civilization of India in a way that’s truly gripping and is the best representation of the unique rock-cut architecture that Indians artisans and craftsmen excelled in many centuries ago.


Ellora is one of the largest rock-hewn Spartan temple complexes in the entire world. The Ellora, despite its ancient history, has the unique distinction of remaining a part of the culture and tradition of the populace right from the time it came into being. Unlike other similar complexes, the Ellora was never rediscovered.

Records in historical archives point out that rulers and prominent names in Indian history visited here from time immemorial. The earliest visit recorded is that of an Al Masudi, an Arab traveler and scholar from the 10th century A.D. The visit of Sultan Hasan Bah-Mani in 1352 A.D led to massive repairs to the caves.

The Holkars owned the caves during the 19th century A.D. They later auctioned for the right of worship and leased them for religious programmes and collected entrance fees. It was later in the control of the Nizams of Hyderabad. They were responsible for carrying out extensive repairs and maintenance of the caves under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India. The caves are now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) after the end of Princely States system.

Inside the Massive Ellora Caves Complex

The twelve caves of the Buddhist group are lined from south to north and are said to be the oldest and consist of several monasteries. The largest cave is numbered 10. The best cave inside the complex is said to be that of the Brahmin group followed by the Cavern of the Ten Avatars and the Kailasa Temple which is a colossal complex, probably constructed during the reign of Krishna.

The sanctuaries of the Jain group created by the Digambhara sect during AD 800 to AD 1000 are also a major point of attraction. The Jain caves is said to be the last set to be extracted. The sculptures and images here are clearly inspired by the art form already existing in the Ellora complex. Ellora is also renowned for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa which is Cave 16 in the complex.

Excavation of the Buddhists Caves happened somewhere between 5th and 7th centuries AD. Of the Buddhists caves, the one numbered five is the largest and highly impressive. Cave 10 has a superbly designed decorative frontage and popularly known as Chaitya Hall or Visvakarma. It houses an attractive and calm-faced image of Buddha. Cave 12 or Tin Tala was built entirely by human hands. It is hard to fathom that such a huge three-storey structure was created manually. The Tin-Tala was created during the Rashtra-kuta period somewhere in the eighth century.

The Brahmin caves inside the Ellora complex represent various forms of Lord Shiva. Cave Kailasa stands out of all of them with its remarkable proportion and intricate workmanship. The architectural creativity and designs on the sculptures reflect the highly innovative ways of the craftsmen of yore. Visitors cannot miss the shrine with lingam at the rear of the hall with Dravidian sikhara and the mandapa resting on sixteen large pillars. The high point of the Brahmin caves is the huge sculpture that shows Ravana, the demon-king attempting to lift the resting place of the Lord, the Mount Kailasa.

How to Reach Ellora Caves

By Road

Aurangabad is well connected to all major cities of Maharashtra by road. Ellora is 30km from Aurangabad. There are state-owned and private buses, cabs and cars plying on the route.

By Rail

The nearest railway station is Aurangabad.

By Flight

Aurangabad Airport is the nearest one and is situated about 30 km from Ellora.

Best Time to Visit

Weather is pleasant from October to February and during the monsoon season from June to September. Summer months are hot and humid and must be avoided.

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