Curious about the Kailasa temple (Ellora Cave 16)? Read on!
There are monuments and works of art that simply blows your mind. With their genius, their scale, and tremendous amount of work behind them. The Kailasa temple is definitely one of such monuments. I was so mesmerized by the splendour of the Ellora Cave 16 that all the other caves seemed irrelevant. They were not, but it’s hard to impress someone who’s just seen the marvel of an unrivalled rock-cut temple.
It’s by far the most remarkable cave temple in India and one of the most impressive monolithic structure in the world. I know, I often describe different monuments in India in this excitable manner, but it’s hard to overestimate the grandeur and magnificence of the Kailasa temple – with its impressive size, the abundance of sculptures and elaborate stone carvings, this cave temple in Ellora is nothing sort of astounding.
But let’s talk about its history and workmanship in more detail. Here I’ve put together a list of the most remarkable facts about the Kailasa temple.
Table of Contents
- 1 It’s the biggest monolithic construction in the world
- 2 It was finished in a remarkably short period of time
- 3 It was excavated using an innovative approach
- 4 The size of the temple is truly intimidating
- 5 A vast array of sculptures and architectural elements can be found in the temple
- 6 The structure was inspired by the mount Kailash
- 7 It stands strong in spite of attempts of destruction
- 8 Pictures of the Kailasa Temple (Ellora Cave 16)
It’s the biggest monolithic construction in the world
The Kailasa temple dates back to the 8th century. The construction work started during the reign of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. What is absolutely extraordinary about this temple is that it was carved out of a single basaltic rock of a volcanic origin, including all the sculptures, pillars and up to the tiniest architectural element. It’s the largest monolithic monument not only in India, but on the whole planet. No wonder it’s one of the most visited places in the state of Maharashtra: both Indian and foreign tourists flock to the Ellora Caves in huge numbers to see the wonder of the Kailasa temple.
It was finished in a remarkably short period of time
It took merely 18 years to complete the structure, although a number of minor details were added later. But according to the modern archaeologists and scientists’ calculations, it should have taken at least four to five times longer to carve out the temple of this size and intricacy. More than 200 thousand tonnes of basaltic rock was scooped out of a cliff, and that’s only mere excavation, not counting the elaborate sculptures and paintings the Kailasa temple is full of. In terms of modern technologies though, it would have taken only 200 days to excavate the place if work continued for 24 hours a day. But those were different times with no technological advantages.
It was excavated using an innovative approach
As mentioned above, the Kailasa Temple was excavated from the top of a cliff, and the works slowly moved downwards, taking out huge masses of rock carved out by means of metal rod drills. It took a very precise planning and its accurate execution to build the temple as there was no opportunity to correct a mistake in case something happened to go wrong. One couldn’t add an extra boulder or a pile of rocks.
The size of the temple is truly intimidating
The Kailasa temple boasts a truly intimidating size, considering the way it was made. About 44 m wide, 60 m long and 32m high, the temple takes up the area twice as big as the ancient Greek Parthenon in Athens.
A vast array of sculptures and architectural elements can be found in the temple
The abundance of intricate sculptures is one of the factors that make the Kailas a temple so unique. Sculpture is by far the most prominent form of the Indian art, and intricate carvings of the Ellora caves are a potent proof of this statement. In the Kailasa temple, you’ll find numerous elephant sculptures, victory pillars, and the sculpture of Nandi the bull (Lord Shiva’s gatekeeper and vehicle), lions and various scenes from the Hindu epic tales Ramayana and Mahabharata. As the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, there are plenty of his avatars in the Cave 16, including Shiva the dancer, Shiva the ascetic, and so on.
The structure was inspired by the mount Kailash
Architecturally, the temple bears resemblance to the Mount Kailash, the legendary abode of Lord Shiva, and the Nandi’s presence makes it undeniable (according to the myths, he’s the gate-guardian near the sacred mountain. The temple used to be covered with white plaster to depict the snow covering the mount Kailash’s top.
It stands strong in spite of attempts of destruction
Sadly enough, the magnificent structure has seen the attempts of destruction. The 6th Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who hardly built anything during his 50-year-long reign but destroyed plenty of Hindu temples, tried to demolish the structure. However, his plans couldn’t be carried out considering the solid base of the Kailasa temple. Some minor damage was done here and there, but the main structure kept standing strong no matter what, and finally the king gave up his attempts. They even go as far as assuming that he was frightened by the divine powers of this sacred place.
Pictures of the Kailasa Temple (Ellora Cave 16)
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