Kailasa temple, Ellora
Shiva temple from top of rock
|Primary deity||Kailashanatha (Shiva)|
|Architectural styles||Dravidian architecture (Rastrakuta style)|
|History and governance|
|Date built||756-774 CE|
The Kailasa (Sanskrit: Kailāsanātha) temple is one of the largest rock-cut ancient Hindu temples located in Ellora, Maharashtra, India and it is a megalith carved out of one single rock. It was built in the century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I as attested in Kannada inscriptions. This is one of the 34 temples and monasteries known collectively as the Ellora Caves. These extend over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff in the complex located at Ellora. The Kailasa (cave 16) is a remarkable example of Dravidian architecture account of its striking proportion, elaborate workmanship, architectural content, and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture. The temple was commissioned and completed between 757-783 CE, when Krishna I ruled the Rashtrakuta dynasty. It is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the home of Lord Shiva.
Method of Construction
The Kailasa Temple  is notable for its vertical excavation—carvers started at the top of the original rock, and excavated downward. The traditional methods were rigidly followed by the master architect which could not have been achieved by excavating from the front. It is estimated that about 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out over a period of 20 years to construct this monolithic structure. From the chisel marks on walls of this temple, archeologists could conclude that three types of chisels were used to carve this temple.
All the carvings are at more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The courtyard is edged by a columned arcade three storeys high. The arcades are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.
Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandapa and main Shiva temple are each about 7 metres high, and built on two storeys. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandapa are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.
A rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandapa to the porch of the temple. The structure itself is a tall pyramidic South Indian temple. The shrine – complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous stone lingam at its heart – is carved with niches, plasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Lord Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Lord Vishnu).
There are two Dhwajasthambha (pillars with flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.
- "Ellora UNESCO World Heritage Site". Retrieved 2006-12-19.
- Hermann Kulke, Dietmar, Rothermund. (2004). A history of India. pp 120
- Rajan, K.V. Soundara (1998). Rock-cut Temple Styles`. Mumbai, India: Somaily Publications. pp. 142–143. ISBN 81-7039-218-7.
- "Kailasanatha Temple - Ellora". TempleNet. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
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