Like the Ajanta caves, Ellora caves too are rich in art and sculpture. They were carved between the seventh and eleventh centuries. The caves were accidentally rediscovered in the 19th century. The Ellora caves lie 30 kms nothrwest of Aurangabad.
All together there are 34 caves in Ellora. There are Buddhist Jain and HIndu caves. They might have carved them under royal patronage.
These caves are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill. They are the finest example of cave - temple architecture. The Ellora caves are also a symbol of religious unity and tolerance. Because, there are three religions represented in these caves. The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist. The 17 in the centre dedicated to Hinduism. Finally, the 5 caves to the north are Jain. The Buddhist caves are rich in sculpture. Most of the caves are Viharas or Monastery halls. They were used by the monks for study, meditation and worship.
Cave 16 contains the Kailasa temple. It is considered the best expression of architectural power. It is generally considered the masterpiece of Ellora. People who visit Ellora are really amused by this spectacular sight. It remains a wonder that is very difficult to be digested.
The beauty of the Kailasa temple is that the entire structure is carved out of a monolith (A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock). It has been estimated that it would have taken minimum one century to complete this project. Kailasa dwelling place of Lord Shiva. It is represented here with all beauty and grandeur. it is the world’s largest monolith. It is very big in size. It is one of the best art works of the ancient period.
The third group of caves is Jain caves. They are about a mile away from the Kailasa temple. Among the Jain caves, Cave 32 appears to be the most beautiful. It is a shrine (temple) with fine carvings of a lotus flower on the roof. There is also a peculiar depiction of a ‘yakshi’ on a lion under a mango - tree. We also find the images of Tirthankaras in the other caves. There is a figure of Mahavira. It is in a seated position.