Kailasa Temple situated in caves at Ellora, was carved to represent the Kailasa Mountain, which is believed to be the home of Lord Shiva, the god of destruction.
This temple is more of a marvel than a mystery, but coming to thing, it is the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved top-down from a single rock. It contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world.
The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project.
The rear wall of its excavated courtyard 276 feet (84 m) 154 feet (47 m) is 100 ft (33 m) high. The temple proper is 164 feet (50 m) deep, 109 feet (33 m) wide, and 98 feet (30 m) high.
It consists of a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Virtually every surface is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the puranas (sacred Sanskrit poems). The temple is connected to the gallery wall by a bridge.
More Info on Ajantha and Ellora.
Ajanta and nearby Ellora are two of the most amazing archaeological sites in India. Although handcrafted caves are scattered throughout India's western state of Maharashtra, the complexes at Ajanta and Ellora - roughly 300 kilometres northeast of Mumbai (Bombay) - are the most elaborate and varied examples known. The caves aren't natural caves, but man-made temples cut into a massive granite hillside. They were built by generations of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks, who lived, worked, and worshipped in the caves, slowly carving out elaborate statues, pillars, and meditation rooms.
Ajanta (more properly Ajujnthi), a village in the erstwhile dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad in India and now in Buldhana district in the state of Maharashtra
(N. lat. 20 deg. 32' by E. long. 75 deg. 48') is celebrated for its cave hermitages and halls.
Located 99-km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Ajanta encompasses 29 rock-cut rooms created between 200 BC and AD 650 using rudimentary hand tools. Most are viharas (living quarters), while four are chaityas (temples).
The Ajanta caves were discovered in the 19th century by a group of British officers on a tiger hunt.
Ajanta began as a religious enclave for Buddhist monks and scholars more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed that, originally, itinerant monks sought shelter in natural grottos during monsoons and began decorating them with religious motifs to help pass the rainy season. They used earlier wooden structures as models for their work. As the grottos were developed and expanded, they became permanent monasteries, housing perhaps 200 residents.
The artisans responsible for Ajanta did not just hack holes in the cliff, though. They carefully excavated, carving stairs, benches, screens, columns, sculptures, and other furnishings and decorations as they went, so that these elements remained attached to the resulting floors, ceilings and walls.
They also painted patterns and pictures, employing pigments derived from natural, water soluble substances. Their achievements would seem incredible if executed under ideal circumstances, yet they worked only by the light of oil lamps and what little sunshine penetrated cave entrances.
The seventh century abandonment of these masterpieces is a mystery. Perhaps the Buddhists suffered religious persecution. Or perhaps the isolation of the caves made it difficult for the monks to collect sufficient alms for survival.
Some sources suggest that remnants of the Ajanta colony relocated to Ellora, a site closer to an important caravan route. There, another series of handcrafted caves chronologically begins where the Ajanta caves end.
Near Ellora , village in E central Maharashtra state, India, extending more than 1.6 km on a hill, are 34 rock and cave temples (5th–13th century).
Located about 30 Kilometres from Aurangabad, Ellora caves are known for the genius of their sculptors. It is generally believed that these caves were constructed by the sculptors who moved on from Ajanta. This cave complex is multicultural, as the caves here provide a mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions. The Buddhist caves came first, about 200 BC - 600 AD followed by the Hindu 500 - 900 AD and Jain 800 - 1000 AD.
Of the 34 caves chiselled into the sloping side of the low hill at Ellora, 12 (dating from AD 600 to 800) are Buddhist (one chaitya, the rest viharas), 17 are Hindu (AD 600 to 900), and 5 are Jain (AD 800 to 1100).As the dates indicate, some caves were fashioned simultaneously - maybe as a form of religious competition. At the time, Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism regaining ground, so representatives of both were eager to impress potential followers.
Although Ellora has more caves than Ajanta, the rooms generally are smaller and simpler (with exception of Kailasa Temple).