Verul Leni, better known as Ellora Caves are one of the finest specimens of rock cut architecture in India. Located near the Indian City of Aurangabad, Ellora Caves are a set of 34 caves excavated out of the Charanandri hills. This UNESCO world heritage site has a mix of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain caves. Built between 5th and 10th century, Ellora caves are located on an ancient trade route and hence unlike the Ajanta Caves were never lost and have always been frequented over the years.
Ellora Caves are located on the Aurangabad-Chalisgaon road at a distance of 30 km from Aurangabad, in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Aurangabad is the nearest Airport to Ellora which In turn is connected to Delhi and Mumbai.
Regular Bus service is available from Aurangabad Bus Station to Ellora. The best option is to take the luxury Bus from government run MTDC at 8am. Autos are also available.
Ellora Caves are open for visitors from 9am-5pm on all days except Tuesdays. It is better to avoid holidays as Ellora Caves can get really crowded on such days.
Aurangabad being a big city has a wide range of Hotels available to suit all budget ranges. For stay at Ellora Caves, Hotel Kailas is a decent bet with a tariff range of Rs 1500-3000. Contact no is 02437 244 446.
The Ellora Caves were hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation called Deccan Trap and consist of 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves
The most magnificent cave at Ellora is # 16 called the Kailasa Cave. Built to resemble Mount Kailash, the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva, Cave 16 is a free standing Temple complex and the largest single monolithic excavation in the world. Kailasa was built by Krishna I (757–773) of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Kaliasa is twice the size of Parthenon in Athens and was built by 7,000 laborers over 150 years.
The temple complex which was built on the lines of the Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal, comprises a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Surfaces of the structure are all embellished by verses from the Puranas, ancient Sanskrit Poems.
Cave 10 also called Dashavatara is another splendid specimen of rock cut sculpture. It has an open court with a free-standing monolithic “mandapa” at the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear. A must see relief in Dashavatara is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, by Lord Narasimha the Man-Lion avatar of Vishnu.
The most impressive Buddhist cave is Cave # 10, also called Vishwakarma Cave. Also called "Sutar ka jhopda" or Carpenter's hut, this Cave features a 15-foot statue of Buddha seated in a preaching pose. There is a carving of a Bodhi Tree as well at the back. The entry to the Cave is multi storeyed and there is a magnificent Hall at the center with carved ceiling that look like wooden beams.
The Jain Caves all belong to Digambara Sect and were built between 9th and 1th centuries. The highlights to watch out are Chhota Kailash (cave 30), the Indra Sabha (cave 32) and the Jagannath Sabha (cave 33). Indra Sabha has an image of Ambika, the yakshini of Neminath seated on a Lion with fruits! It also has a very fine carving of a lotus on the ceiling.
Ellora Caves were located on an ancient trade route connecting the western ports on the Arabian sea like Sopara, , Kalyan, and the inland cities like Paithan, Ter and Bhokardan.Over the years, many famous travellers have visited Ellora caves. Arab geographer Al-Mas‘udi came here in the 10th century A.D. In 1352 A.D Sultan Hasan Gangu Bahmani had visited the Caves. Some of the other famous traveler who wrote about Ellora caves after visiting are Firishta, Thevenot (1633-67), Niccolao Manucci (1653-1708), Charles Warre Malet (1794) and Seely (1824).
November is a great time to be at Ellora. In fact an Ajanta & Ellora festival is organized at Soneri Mahal in Aurangabad during the last week of November every year. It is a cultural extravaganza where singers and dancers perform from all over India.
The Kailasa Temple in Cave 16 was originally covered with White Plaster to resemble the snow clad Mount Kailash!
For my travelogue on other heritage sites, please visit Great Holiday Ideas.