Ellora Caves are a World Heritage Site and are famous for their architecture. The place is a complex of monasteries and Buddhist temples that have been cut out of a single mountain rock. These 34 caves are actually halls of worship that were built during the 5th century AD. It is a unique creation that unites three religions, that of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. You can see the element of tolerance that is even today a basic characteristic of India. The attraction of Ellora Caves is centered at the Kailasa Temple, which is a marvelous example of the Dravidian art.
The rock-cut caves of Ellora have a long history that goes back to the 6th century. The caves were built during the time period between the 6th and the 10th centuries. The work began around 550 AD. This was a time when Buddhism was in decline and Hinduism was a strong religion here. It was during the period of the Chalukya dynasty that Hinduism came to surface again. History says that the kings of the Rashtrakuta and the Chalukya oversaw the work at these caves and temples. The last of the structures seems to have been built in the 10th century.
The Ellora Caves are located around 26 km north of the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The caves are nestled amidst volcanic mountains. To be precise they happen to be positioned in the laps of the hills of Chamadari and in the thick forests. Mumbai is around 300 km from here, while Pune is around 250 km. It is near a small village called Verul.
The latitude and longitude are 20.0264 degrees N and 75.1792 degrees E.
The architectural splendor is what attracts tourists to this place. Stretching around 2 km and with 34 numerous monasteries and temples, this whole complex is a work of art and brings alive the civilization of the times in ancient India. It is the world's largest monolithic structure.
There are in all 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu caves and 5 Jain temples. Of these, the Hindu caves are the most attractive, due to the intricate design and layout of the structure. The most remarkable is Cave 16, which was constructed in the 8th century. The carvings here are monolithic and have four levels. The structure comprises windows, stairs and doorway. The huge structure of elephants and Nandi bull are mesmerising, to say the least. Various other figures are attractively made, with great skill and passion. The stone-carved pillar is a huge attraction among the tourists.
Cave 32 is very prominent among the Jain caves as it comprises fine lotus-flower carvings and intricately designed ornaments. All the caves belong to the Digambara sect and have fine delayed work of art.
The Buddhist caves comprise monasteries, living quarters, kitchens, sleeping quarters and many other rooms. There are large multi-storied buildings as well. A famous Buddhist cave is Cave 10, which has a huge Buddha statue of 15 feet, in a seated position. It is also called as the Vishwakarma Cave.
The architecture is done on one single rock mountain that has been cut down from above. The craftsmanship is exquisite, far surpassing today's standards. Without proper light in the caves, the intricate work that is done tells us about the dedication and passion with which the artisans worked.
When to visit
The Ellora Caves are best visited during the monsoons as you can see the water gushing from the mountain streams from the top of the caves. There is greenery everywhere, which makes the place very attractive.
Other than the monsoons, you can visit the place from November to March. Summers are hot, which makes it unpleasant to spend the whole day outdoors. Therefore, winters and monsoons are preferred. If you don't prefer rains then skip the months from June to October.
The Ellora Caves are closed on Mondays. On other days, the caves open from sunrise to sunset.
The entry fee per person for Indians is Rs. 10 and for foreigners it is Rs. 250. Children below 15 years can enter for free.
Where to stay
It will take a whole day to visit all the caves, which is why you'll need to spend at least one night here. Plenty of staying options can be found in the city of Aurangabad, which is 30 km from the caves. Here you can find hotels from luxury, budget, to cheap accommodation. In Ellora you have Hotel Kalidas and MTDC also as options.
How to reach
The biggest city near the caves is Aurangabad. You can reach Aurangabad by rail, road and air. The city is well connected to various major cities of the country.
By air: The nearest airport is in Aurangabad, around 15 km away. Various flights can connect you to the caves from Mumbai, Udaipur, Delhi and Jaipur.
By train: The nearest railway station is in Jalgaon and is 53 km from the Ellora caves. There are various major trains that stop on this route and the station.
By road: The city is connected to the national highway, which is why it is easy to reach Aurangabad and from there to Ellora Caves from various cities of the country.