While it is easy to build a structure by placing bricks or stones atop each other, carving out a solid rock and giving it a shape of a temple is certainly one of the most challenging feats to undertake and that too in those olden times. Imagine this being accomplished with only hammers and chisels!
The rock-hewn caves of Ellora house one of India’s greatest monuments, the Kailasa Temple located In Ellora, Maharashtra, India. It is the 16th cave of the 34-cave complex. The diehard Shiva worshipper, King Krishna I, built this temple to represent Mt. Kailasa, the Himalayan abode of Lord Shiva. Work on the temple started in AD 760.
To get the work underway, the workers drilled three huge trenches into a sheer cliff face using their hand tools. With these, they cut the rock top down some 50 meters deep in a U-shape and removed an unbelievable 200,000 tonnes of rock. In the process, they also installed the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world. It is believed that all this was achieved by 7,000 laborers and took about 150 years to complete.
Carving the sheer cliff meant zero error in excavation, for any wrong cut just cannot be undone. This was just the beginning of giving shape to the temple. Once the work progressed, it even surpassed the Parthenon in Athens in area and height. The end result was a magnificent temple that has no parallels in the whole world.
A visit to the temple is an experience worth cherishing. Enter the temple and your attention is immediately drawn towards the immense monolithic pillars in the courtyard that flank the entrance.To construct something of this magnitude was an engineering marvel in itself, but to adorn it with sculptural decorations cut out from the same rock is something beyond imagination and awe-inspiring.
The temple is adorned with intricately carved panels that display scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as also the folklore of Krishna. The south-eastern gallery showcases 10 huge panels that depict the different incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Statues and reliefs of elephants make their presence felt at various places. The central temple hosts an image of Nandi, the Bull.
Once you have overcome the awe that this temple inspires, you can climb to the south of the complex to reach the top to gape at the massive scale of this magnificent temple complex and see the vast area around.