The Hindu Caves of Ellora

The Hindu caves of Ellora were established during a time period where the religion was enjoying prosperity and a renewed strength. The style and creativity is completely different from the Buddhist caves, as the Hindu temples were carved starting from the top to the bottom. It took several generations of planning and organization to make them a reality. In this article, you will learn more about the Hindu Caves of Ellora.

There are 17 Hindu caves that are numbered from 13 to 29. They were carved between 600 and 870 AD, and are found in the middle of the cave complex , grouped around both sides of the infamous Kailasa Temple. The earlier caves showed solemn Buddhas, where the wall of the Hindu caves was covered in bas-reliefs that showed lively interpretations of the Hindu scriptures. All caves were dedicated to the god Shiva even though some of the images are of Vishnu and his various incarnations.

Highlights of the Hindu Ellora caves include:

Cave 14 , Dating back to the early 600s, Cave 14 was once a Buddhist structure. Carved friezes decorate the long walls of the cave. The entrance to the site is guarded by the river goddess Ganga and Yamuna. When inside, you will find seven large-breasted fertility goddesses (the Sapta Matrikas) with babies in their laps.

Cave 15 , The Hindus took over this former Buddhist cave and transformed the upper floor into a haven of lovely sculptures. Five of Vishnu’s ten incarnations or avatars are shown on panels situated along the right wall.

Cave 16 , As one of the most significant of the Hindu caves, you will find a glorious temple that has been carved out of solid rock. The temple is meant to represent Mount Kailash, which is considered the home of Lord Shiva. Because of this, the cave is often referred to as the Kailasa Temple. At first, the temple was covered in a thick coat of white plaster, which gave off the appearance that it was a snow-covered mountain. The Kailash Temple is hailed as an impressive example of architecture.

As you travel down the hillside north of Kailash, there are other Hindu caves that you will come across, but the three that you need to put on your list of stops is Cave 21, Cave 25 and Cave 29.

Cave 21 , Also known as the Ramesvara, Cave 21 dates back to the late 500s and is believed to be the oldest out of all the Hindu caves at Ellora. Inside, fine sculptures are kept. You will see a pair of river goddesses and two door guardians.

Cave 25 , The feature that is quite popular at Cave 25 is a sculpture of the sun god Surya who is seen driving his chariot towards the dawn. The trail close to the cave will lead to a seasonal waterfall that winds back to Cave 29.

Cave 29 , Called Dhumar Lena, Cave 29 takes on an interesting shape of a cross and dates back to the late 500s. The three staircases of the structure are guarded by a pair of lions. Inside, the walls show large friezes. Look to the left of the entrance and take in the scene of Shiva slaying the Andhaka demon. There are a lot of interesting features and sculptures to take in, such as the dwarf that taunts the demon.