Ques 5. Ellora is a unique art centre of the different cultural and architectural streams. Discuss.

Introduction

Ellora is considered to have one of the most spectacular instances of juxtaposition of cultures belonging to different streams. Situated in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, this site offers an art center catering to the religious sentiments of Brahmanas, Buddhists and Jainas.

It represents the epitome of Indian rock cut architecture. The monuments [34 caves] are excavated out of the vertical face of the Khuldabad escarpment to face westwards. They extend in a north-south line, and are numbered in a continuous sequence.

Buddhist monuments (Caves 1-12) occupy the southernmost part of the site, while Hindu monuments (Caves 13-29) are located in the middle; towards the north are a small number of Jain excavations (Caves 30-34) and demonstrate the religious harmony preva­lent during this period of Indian history.

Main Body

Architectural

In the context of the development of Indian temple architecture, Ellora caves play a significant role for the reason that here one finds a culmination of centuries long evolution of Indian cave temple architecture.

  1. Kailasanatha temple [Cave 16] acts as an encyclopedia of Indian cave architecture as it successfully synthesizes the long tradition of cave carving in western India, Malwa, Deccan and south India.
  2. Craftsmen from various regions of India appear to have worked here leading to the creation of a pan Indian cave architecture.
  3. Ellora successfully combines the Penetrative and Deductive approaches of cave carving in India.
    • Penetrative method is the conventional approach seen in Western India, like at Ajanta where the carver penetrates into the rock surface and creates space.
    • On the other hand, Deductive method has been practiced in Eastern India at the monuments of Udaygiri [Odisha], and at Mahabalipuram [Tamil Nadu]. Here the carver imagines the exterior form of the cave and systematically removes the rock to achieve that form.

This amalgamation of different traditions which took almost 700 years to come about can be seen at Ellora itself which makes it a unique monument in India.

Cultural

Ellora during the reign of Rashtrakutas became the center of arts with patronage received from kings and various guilds, merchants and traders who followed different sects and religions. From 6th century onwards, the artists began to excavate a series of Buddhist caves at the southern end.

  1. The copper plate inscription dated 742 AD donated by the Rashtrakuta ruler Dantidurga defines the position of Ellora as a place of religious and political importance. Here in the inscription, Dantidurga emphasizes the religious importance of Ellora and present a picture of the significance of Ellora as a sacred center and its evolution into a center of political importance during Rashtrakuta period,
  2. The Kailasha temple also features sculptures depicting the gods, goddesses and mythologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaktism as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu Epics
  3. The donations of Maratha ruler Ahalyabai Holkar at Ellora through renovations of Grishneshwara temple and the adjacent kund further highlight the religious significance of Ellora especially to the Saiva sect of Hinduism.
  4. The caves at Ellora also represent the last large scale Buddhist cave architecture before its decline in 12th- 13th century.
  5. A Shiva Temple in Dravida style is richly ornamented with bold, dramatic and exceptionally fine sculpture of Shiva and Vishnu as well.
  6. At the north end of Ellora are the five Jain caves belonging to the Digambara sect, which along with the later-era Hindu caves, were built at a similar time and both share architectural and devotional ideas such as a pillared veranda, symmetric mandapa and puja (worship).

Conclusion

The caves at Ellora are truly an encyclopedia of cave temple architecture as we can trace the development and innovations of Indian cave temple architecture, starting from the 5th to the 12th century here itself.

Ellora also represents a unique amalgamation of cultures of different sects having different ideologies as Ellora provides them a single place to experience the richness of arts and architecture of the culture opposite to them. In a way, Ellora also represent the tolerant state policy for all religious group.

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