Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ellora - Kailasanatha Temple

Kailasanatha Temple (also known as Kailash or Kailashnath Temple) is the most spectacular of the 34 monasteries and temples that were carved in the wall of a high basalt cliff at Ellora. It is the largest monolithic structure in the world, twice as big as Parthenon! It was built in the 8th century by the king Krishna I (from Rashtrakuta dynasty) and it was designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.

The most amazing thing about Kailasanatha Temple is that it was carved out of a single rock. It combines immensity of effort with grace and superb craftsmanship. Apparently, what also makes it unique is that the carvers started at the top of the original rock, and excavated downward, exhuming the temple out of the existing rock. It is believed that it took around 200 years to excavate it, during which 200,000 tones of rock were removed from the site.

The main temple is located in the U-shaped courtyard. It is two-story high and has several rooms, gathering halls and an enormous lingam at its heart - all carved from stone, of course. It is heavily decorated with images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures), as well as other figures. Most of the deities at the left of the entrance are Shaivaite (followers of Lord Shiva) while on the right hand side the deities are Vaishnavaites (followers of Lord Vishnu). At the base of the temple there are statues of elephants, meant to suggest that the temple is aloft.

The courtyard is edged by a columned arcade three stories high. The arcades are punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves containing enormous sculptures of a variety of deities. Originally, stone bridges connected these galleries to the main temple, but these have fallen.

Kailasanatha Temple, front view:

View to the main Shiva Temple from a side gallery:

Shiva Temple:

One of many pillars:

The whole structure is heavily decorated:

Elephants at the base of the temple:

Second floor of Shiva Temple:

Inside the main part of Shiva temple:

The outer walls of Shiva Temple are heavily decorated: