18th Century Temple Carved Out Of One Giant Rock
18TH CENTURY TEMPLE CARVED OUT OF ONE GIANT ROCK
Consisting of a single block of excavated stone, Kailasa Temple is considered one of the most impressive cave temples in India. The massive structure is one of 34 cave temples and monasteries collectively known as the Ellora Caves. The caves in the western region of Maharashtra are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contain monuments dating from between 600 and 1000 AD. Although there are many impressive structures in the area, the Megalithic Temple of Kailasa is perhaps the most famous.
The Kailasa Temple is known for both its size and its impressive decoration. However, it is not entirely clear who built the Kailasa Temple. Although there is no written evidence for it, scholars generally attribute it to the Rahtrakuta king Krishna I, who reigned from about 756 to 773 AD. This attribution is based on several epigraphs associating the temple with "Krishnaraja", although nothing written directly about the ruler contains any information about the temple.
Although scientists have yet to discover its true origin, a medieval legend paints a romantic picture behind the mammoth temple. According to a story written by Krishna Yajnavalki in Katha-Kalpatara, when the king was seriously ill, his queen prayed to Lord Shiva for her husband's healing. In exchange for his health, the queen vowed to build a temple in the name of Shiva and to fast until the shikhara, the apex of the temple, was completed.
The king recovered quickly and construction of the temple began, but to the couple's dismay they realized that the shikhara would take years to complete. Luckily, a wise engineer appeared and explained that if he started from the top of the mountain, he could make the shikhara of the temple appear within a week. This was a great relief to the queen, who was able to finish off her quickly, and so the temple was built from top to bottom.
Although this is legend and not fact, the truth is that Kailasa was built from above. This unusual solution required the extraction of 200,000 tons of volcanic rock from the rock. The horseshoe-shaped courtyard is about three stories high and has a gopuram – a tower – at the entrance. Given the vast space and ornate temple, it is believed that work may have begun with Krishna I but may have continued through the centuries as different rulers added their own talents.
The huge stone carving depicts various Hindu deities with a special focus on Shiva. Passing by the gopuram, the tablets on the left of Shiva's devotees and the tablets on the left of Vishnu's devotees can be seen. A herd of carved elements appears at the foot of the temple, carrying the burden of the temple on their backs. It is thanks to these intricate sculptures and incredible engineering that Kailasa Temple is considered an outstanding example of Indian art and architecture.