>Travel Pictures



February 2008

About 20 miles outside of Aurangabad are the Ellora caves - a collection of carved worship sites that had been created over a period of hundreds of years. One of the most amazing aspects - besides the sheer scale and artistry and beauty of the places - is the fact that they were created by competing religious orders, yet each respected the sanctity of the others: no defacement or destruction. Pretty cool tolerance, but then again, that is one of the things that India is famous for (regardless of how true or not that might be today!)

The earliest caves were Buddhist - the homegrown religion from India (that has now pretty much died out here!). They were created between the 5th and 7th century CE, while the Hindu rulers who took over carved a fantastic series of caves (and the mighty Kailasa temple, worthy of its own page) between the 700s and 900s, and when the local rulers switched to Jainism, a series of Jain caves were carved.

It is a very easy day trip from the city to get out there - and honestly, we had as good a time (or better) than we did in Ajanta. Given that the other site is a 2 hour drive, unless you are really into Buddhist art and southwest Asian history, you can probably give Ajanta a miss if you see Ellora (which, did I already mention, is really impressive?). Of course, given the fact that you are already made the effort to get to central India, maybe you might as well go anyways, right?

In any case - don't miss Ellora!

Buddhist caves

Alea and mom check out the carved entryway

While a two-toned Buddha keeps track of everyone.

We were able to wander at will among the huge halls and meditation rooms. There were not the crowds of people that we'd expected, and so it was a beautiful surprise to have a lot of quiet time as a family

Hindu Caves

Filled with fantastical creatures, the caves document the stories and myths that still fascinate India today. As we wandered, awe-struck through the hallways, we tried to make up stories that fit. We had lots of fun imagining the conversations the heroes would have with each other. They always seemed to include carrots as a major plot line, however.

All of the intricate designs took our breath away, even though we didn't know all the details of what they meant.

And giant sandstone lions guard the treasures inside the rooms.

Enormous statues greet visitors to the caves designed during the Hindu periods. This gigantic room doesn't compare to the Kailasa, but gives an idea of the scale on which these monuments were built.

I'm not quite sure what's going on here, but it looks like this topless goddess is about to sacrifice a cow - maybe only the gods are allowed to mistreat cattle like this!

I like the way all these men seemed to be looking at one thing (well, ok, 2 things), but apparently this is actually a very famous carving of Shiva and Parvati fending off Ravana who is attempting to lift Mt. Kailasa.

The kids had a great time reliving the mythology that they know best - Star Wars! - playing with bamboo 'lightsabers' or exploring the 'Pit of Cricken'

Jain Temples

The Jain caves, the 'newest' at the site, are located about a kilometer away from the others.

While nowhere near as extensive as the Buddhist or Hindu, they have the reputation of being the most intricately carved.

The fanciful figures incorporate Buddhist and Hindu motifs, but with a greater emphasis on detail rather than grandiose size.

Interesting to have the gods and goddesses guarding a Buddha...

These two figures, seated under trees, face each other across the upstairs 'courtyard' of the main temple. Notice how the man on the left is riding an elephant and the woman is sitting on a lion (under a mango tree, full of fruit). Alea's favorite part of that statue was the 'missing shin' and how the foot is separated from the rest of the leg - she though that was pretty cool.
By this time of the day, the kids were pretty happy to explore in the dark caves; anything to keep out of the sun. They did both notice how this was the first set of caves to have nude men in it.
What really made us wonder, however, were the otherly-colored parts of several statues. Were they designed in such a way (which would have been difficult, considering these are solid chinks of rock) or perhaps have these been rubbed by many hands over the centuries, altering their natural hue? Ahh, the questions that great cultures raise in our minds...

To the Kailasa Temple
On to Ajanta
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