Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ellora Caves...The History of Religion in India

India is one of the most amazing countries in the world.  Any travel expert will agree with that.  The more I learn about the country, it's people, it's places and it's religions, the more fascinated I am.  My latest discovery is Ellora Caves.

Ellora Caves are not your garden variety caverns.  They are monasteries and temples and multi level buildings carved out of basalt cliffs in the Maharashtra region not far from Aurangabad.  What does that mean?  Well, it's a few hundred miles from Mumbai...inland.

There's no end to the pictures, mainly because there's almost no end to the caves.  There are 34 of these, and they aren't little one room carved buildings.  They were used as housing and places of worship.  These places have enough apartments and courtyards to hold the population of a small city.  
The caves were carved over a period roughly from 600 to 1000 AD.  They range from the not completed to the wildly complicated and ornate.  Each one is different.  Each one makes it's own statement.

The most famous area is this, Cave 10, where you will find the Great Buddha Hall.  This is the must see part of the complex.

But the caves are not just monuments to Buddhism.  This is the most interesting part.  During these times, there were three different religions carving temples in the area.  They overlapped, which means that they actually coexisted.  This is very rare in the rest of this part of the world, but not in India.  Buddhism, Brahminism and Jainism, all have monuments and temples carved in these hills.  You can see it in the designs.

The Jain Caves are the last of the buildings to be carved and are the last period represented in the cliff.  They are the biggest and most open.  They are more designed for function than are some of the ones from the other two periods.

Cave 16 is the best of the examples of the Brahminism Period, according to the experts.  It is highly ornate and representative of the Krisna Era.

The different periods are amazing.  The Hindu paintings just add more depth to an already greatly varied area.  The tolerance that India is well known for is certainly evidenced here.  There is so much to see, that you probably can't see it all.  If that doesn't beat all, there is another set of caves nearby called Ajanta.

So, my usual advice, get out of the city and see something amazing.  There are many tours that will take you to see Ellora Caves, and the trip will be well worth it.  Ancient civilizations did some amazing things.  The most famous are the pyramids, but there are so many amazing ancient ruins in the world to see, that you shouldn't limit yourself to the top tourist attractions.  History is amazing, and it's truly astounding in a place like Ellora Caves, so don't miss it.

It's a must see.  Enjoy!

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