1200 Years Old Ancient Hindu Temple Carved Entirely From a Single Rock

Kailasa temple is 1200 year old Ancient Hindu Temple Carved from a single rock in Ellora stands majestically 29 kilometers away from the City of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra, India and which is part of a set of 34 temples and monasteries renowned as the Ellora Caves. This temple is a remarkable example of Dravidian architecture in the 8th century due to its almost accurate proportions and intricate workmanship by a set of dedicated sculptors in a time when there must have been only hand tools available for construction and elephants for transporting heavy building material.

Kailasa temple carved from a single rock
Image courtesy: Hinduism Today Magazine(youtube)

Origins

It was sanctioned for construction by Krishna I, the king belonging to the Rashtrakuta dynasty which ruled over large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and tenth centuries. This temple is popularly known as the Kailash Temple and its main deity goes by the name of Kailashnath, which literally translates to the Lord of Kailash and this temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Kailasa temple built by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I
Image source: indianhistoryias.blogspot.com

Construction

This temple is estimated to have been built between 757 and 783 BCE and built with a view to resemble Mount Kailash, where Shiva is believed to reside as per Hinduism.  An estimated 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out over a really long period of 20 years to construct this monolithic structure.

Entrance at Kailasa temple
Image courtesy: Hinduism Today Magazine(youtube)

Archeologists have come to the conclusion that three types of chisels were used to carve this temple, as observed by them from the chisel marks on these stone walls. This temple is believed to have been constructed vertically from the top down due to foreseen difficulties in carving out from the front onwards by the main architect who has religiously followed the construction according to the ground plan as seen in the below picture.

Ground plan of the temple
Ground plan of the temple. Image source: wikipedia

External Architecture

Multi level carvings are seen over a two storied gateway which opens to reveal a U shaped courtyard edged by a columned arcade at least three stories high which consist of huge sculpted panels containing large sculptures of a variety of deities.

Top view of the temple
Image courtesy: Hinduism Today Magazine(youtube)

An image of the bull Nandi is seen in front of the main sanctum sanctorum which is the tradition as seen in all temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. This structure and the structure housing the main deity both measure 7 metres in height at an estimated two stories. The temple’s base has many elephants carved into them which is to bring out the effect that the entire temple is being held aloft by these elephants.

Elephants carved on temple's wall
Image source: www.britannica.com

Internal Architecture

The internal shrine of the temple consists of pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous stone lingam at its heart within the sanctum sanctorum and is carved with images of various deities, erotic male and female figures and many others.

Details of carving on temple’s wall
Image courtesy: Hinduism Today Magazine(youtube)

Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are believed to be followers of Lord Shiva while on the right hand side the deities are believed to be followers of Lord Vishnu, another main deity in Hinduism.

Statue of lord shiva at Kailasa temple
Image courtesy: Hinduism Today Magazine(youtube)

There are two Dhwajasthambhas (flagstaff pillars) within the courtyard. There are many sculptures depicting scenes from stories about the saga of Lord Shiva.

In today’s world where we are dependent upon technology for everything, it is unimaginable of an era nearly twelve centuries ago where our ancestors could build an entire structure out of hard rock using a few hand tools with their bare hands and that too with such extreme dedication and devotion.
[source: wikipedia]

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