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The Buddhist Caves of Ellora

Also known as the Vishvakarma caves, the Buddhists established their own caves at Ellora. As the earliest of the caves, they date back to 500 to 750 AD. With the exception of one cave, all of the caves served as monasteries, which provided a place to study, meditate, eat, sleep and perform communal rituals. In this article, you will learn more about the Buddhist Caves of Ellora.

The farther north you travel into the cave system, you will see that the caves became increasingly larger and more elaborate in the way they were decorated. Scholars believe this is because there was a need to keep up with Hinduism and keep their followers happy. Highlights of the Buddhist caves at Ellora include:

Cave 1 , Offering the sight of eight small monastic cells, Cave 1 was an uncomplicated monastery that has very little sculpture work to show. It is possible that it was used as a granary for the larger halls.

Cave 2 , For a more impressive sight, Cave 2 has a large central chamber that has 12 square pillars holding the structure up. Sculptures of seated Buddhas line the area. In the doorway, the sanctuary has more sculptures. You will also encounter a seated Buddha on a lion throne.

Caves 3 and 4 , Time has not been good to these caves, which are similar in design to Cave 2, but are in poor condition.

Cave 5 , Named the Maharwad Cave, number 5 was once used by the local Mahar tribespeople as a shelter during the monsoon. A grand assembly hall that measures 36 meters long is at the center of the site. It is thought to have served as a refectory. Two rows of carved benches may prove this theory correct. A seated Buddha shrine is another feature of this cave.

Cave 6 , Created in the 600s, Cave 6 is where you will find two of the finest sculptures at Ellora , one of the goddess Tara and the other is of Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning.

Cave 10 , Cave 10 is the only one of its kind that wasn’t used as a monastery. Dating back to the early 700s, it had wooden beams on the ceiling that were surrounded by stone. Because of this, the cave was called the Carpenter’s Cave. A seated Buddha is found at the far end of the cave , situated in front of a large stone stupa.

Cave 11 , While Cave 11 is known as the Dho Tal (or ‘Two Floors’), it wasn’t until 1876 that the basement level was discovered. This meant that the cave actually had a total of three floors. On the upper floor, you will find a long assembly hall lined with columns. A Buddha shrine and images of Durga and Ganesh are some of the features of the floor. This meant that the cave was converted into a Hindu temple after it was abandoned by the Buddhists.

Cave 12 , The upper hall of Cave 12 (also known as Tin Tal or ‘Three Floors’) is quite a sight to see. On the walls of the shrine room, five large bodhisattvas are seen. Seven Buddhas provide additional eye candy , each one represents each of his previous incarnations.