History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2011: Q.4 (c)

Q. Assess Ellora as a unique art centre of the different cultural streams. [2011, 20m]

Ans :

Ellora Caves are 34 monasteries and temples, dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Brahminism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.It contains 17 Hindu caves, 12 Buddhist caves and 5 Jain caves, built in proximity. Even within the Hindu,, Buddhist and Jaina Caves, there are different sects represented in it. All these shows Ellora as a unique art Centre of the different cultural streams.

Brahmanical Caves

Ellora is known for the spectacular Kailashanath temple excavated under the patronage of Rashtrakutas. The Kailashanatha temple marks the highest point of rock cut temple architecture in the sub-continent. It has following characteristics:

  1. The temple is actually a complex, comprising a main shrine consisting of lower and upper stories, a Nandi pavilion, subsidiary shrines, wall, gateway and cloisters.
  2. The super structure of the temple corresponds to the dravida style practically all the surfaces of the temple complex are richly ornamented with bold, dramatic and exceptionally fine sculptures. Most of them are Shaiva but there are also representations of Vishnu. In fact, the sculptures to the left of the entrance are mostly Shaiva while those to the right are mostly Vaishnava.
  3. The sculptures on the wall include representations of Shiva, Shiva-Parvati, Ravan shaking mount Kailasa, Durga, Sapta-matrikas, Ganesha and the goddess Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

Buddhist Caves

The caves at Ellora represent the last phase of Buddhist cave architecture in western India. Their architecture and sculpture shows some continuities with earlier centuries (example: Ajanta, Bagh and Kanheri) but there are also some changes . These include an increase in the size of the side shrines and a double row of stone benches. Other distinctive features are the larger scale and richness of sculpture.

The sculptural program of the Buddhist caves at Ellora includes arrays of Budhhas and Boddhisatvas. A group of eight Boddhisatvas are sometimes arranged together in a Mandala formation.

Jaina Caves

In the final group of five Ellora caves (jaina group), the most interesting are the IndraSabha (Assembly hall of Indra, king of the gods) and JagannathSabha (Assembly hall of the lord of the universe).

  1. IndraSabha is a two storied shrine cut into the rock to a depth of over 200 feet and is approached through rock-hewn doorway leading into a square courtyard. To the right is an imposing statue of an elephant.
  2. The JagannathSabha is similar in plan to the IndraSabha but smaller. The shrine is small, antechamber with a well proportion torana(arches) and within it is a seated Mahavira. The walls are recessed for figured sculptures and the pillars are richly carved in the best Jaina traditions which include the images of 24 Jainatirthankas. At each end of the hall, ia a large shrine containing a statue of Mahavira. This temple is possibly earliest of the Jaina group. On the top of the hill, in which the Jaina caves are excavated is a rock-hewn statue of Parshwanath.
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