Kailasa Temple

Kailasa Temple top view

The KAILASA (Sanskrit : KAILASANATHA) Temple is one of the largest rock-cut ancient Hindu temples located in ELLORA, Maharashtra, India.

It is a major attraction in MARATHWADA region of Maharashtra.  It was built in the 8th century by the RASHTRAKUTA King Krishna -1 as attested in Kannada inscriptions.
This is one of the 34 temples and monasteries known collectively as ELLORA CAVES.  These extend over more than 2km, and were dug side by side in a wall of a high basalt cliff in the complex located at Ellora.  The KAILASA (Cave – 16) is a remarkable example of Dravidian architecture on account of its striking proportion, elaborated workmanship, architectural content and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture.

Kailasa Temple, Ellora, India

The Temple was commissioned and completed between 757 – 783 CE, when Krishna -1 ruled the RASHTRAKUTA DYNASTY.  It is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the home of Lord Shiva.  It is a megalith carved out of a single rock.  
The KAILASA Temple is notable for its vertical excavation ——— carvers started at the top of the original rock, and excavated downwards.  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 hundreds of years to construct this monolithic structure.  From the chisel marks on the walls of this temple, archaeologists could conclude that three types of chisels were used to carve this temple.

Kailasa temple drawing

All the carvings are at more than one level.  A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard, which 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 three galleries to the central temple structures, but these have fallen.  Within the courtyard are two structures.  As in traditional 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 7metres high, and built on two storeys.  The lower storey 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.

Kailasa temple carvings

A rock bridge connects the NANDI MANDAPA to the porch of the temple.  The structure itself is —— a tall 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 on the left of the entrance are SHAIAITE (followers of Lord Shiva), while on the right side the Deities are VAISHNAVAITES (followers of Lord Vishnu).

Kailasa temple pillar architecture

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. ——- The Ellora complex is a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit, but with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the “spirit of tolerance” that was characteristic of ancient India.



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