After spending the night in Aurangabad’s youth hostel (the only one we have stayed at in India so far), we took a bus the next morning to the World Heritage-listed Ellora cave temples, just 30 Km away from Aurangabad. In contrast to the Buddhist Ajanta caves, the excavated caves at Ellora represent both Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faith in chronological order, dating from 5th to 11th century A.D. There are 34 caves excavated out of the basaltic rock of the Deccan rock-cut architecture, 12 of which are Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 are Jain. The spectacular architectural, sculptural exuberance and the religious harmony (the coexistence of India’s three great religions at one site indicates a lengthy period of religious tolerance that still nowadays is found all along the country) makes it a unique monument of universal value. The masterpiece is the amazing Kailasa temple, which is dedicated to Shiva and is the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, excavated from the top of the rock down to the bottom by approximately 7000 workers over a period of 150 years. Just for you to have an idea of it’s grand scale: Kailasa covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1 and a half times as high!!!
If you are thinking to visit them, keep one thing in mind: try to get there as early as possible to avoid crowds of noisy school children, to avoid also the strong heat during the day and to actually be able to visit all the caves, ’cause it takes quite a while to walk from one to another.