The Kailasa temple (also written Kailāsa,Kailash and Kailasanatha temple) is a famous rock cut monument, one of the 34 monasteries and temples known collectively as the Ellora Caves, extending over more than 2 km, that were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff in the complex located atEllora, Maharashtra, India. Of these, the Kailasa (cave 16) is a remarkable example ofDravidian architecture on account of its striking proportion, elaborate workmanship, architectural content, and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture.The temple was commissioned and completed between dated 757-783 CE, when Krishna I ruled the Rashtrakuta dynasty. It is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the home of Lord Shiva. It is a megalith carved out of one single rock. It was built in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I.
Ground plan of the temple
The Kailasa Temple is notable for itsvertical excavation—carvers started at the top of the original rock, and excavated downward. The traditional methods were rigidly followed by the master architect which could not have been achieved by excavating from the front.
It is estimated that about 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out over hundreds of years to construct this monolithic structure. From the chisel marks on walls of this temple, archeologists could conclude that three types of chisels were used to carve this temple.
All the carvings are at more than one level. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. 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 flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple structures, but these have fallen.
Within the courtyard are two structures. As is traditional in Shiva temples, an image of the sacred bull Nandi fronts the central temple housing the lingam. In Cave 16, the Nandi Mandapa and main Shiva temple are each about 7 metres high, and built on two storeys. The lower stories of the Nandi Mandapa are both solid structures, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft.
A rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandapa to the porch of the temple. The temple itself is a tall pyramidic structure reminiscent of aSouth Indian temple. The shrine – complete with pillars, windows, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, and an enormous stone lingam at its heart – is carved with niches, plasters, windows as well as images of deities, mithunas (erotic male and female figures) and 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).
There are two Dhwajasthambha (pillars with flagstaff) in the courtyard. The grand sculpture of Ravana attempting to lift Mount Kailasa, with his full might is a landmark in Indian art.