Kailasa Temple Was Carved Out of One Rock from the Top Down!

Kailasa Temple Was Carved Out of One Rock from the Top Down!


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The Kailasa Temple is number 16 out of 32 cave temples and monasteries collectively known as the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India. However, it is considered to be one of the greatest and most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, and the engineering that went into carving the temple out of one single piece of volcanic rock from the top down!

The Kailasa Temple Mystery: How Was It Built?

The great Kailasa temple (also known as the Kailash or Kailasanatha Temple) mystery revolves around how the temple was built. It is most notable for its vertical excavation; the carvers began at the top of the rock then carved their way downward. This was a traditional excavation method in India that was overseen by a master architect. Amazingly, the temple stands 60 feet (18.29 meters) tall and 200 feet (60.69 meters) wide.

Picture of the hall on one side of the main structure of Kailash Temple. ( CC0)

It’s possible that the temple is based on the Virupaksha temple at Pakkadakal as well as the Kailasa temple at Kanchi, but it is not an exact replica. The entrance to the temple courtyard has a “gopuram,” which is a monumental gatehouse tower. Just past this, deities line the walls, to the left are followers of Lord Shiva, and to the right are followers of Lord Vishnu. It is possible that the temple gets its name from an important sculpture sitting in the main temple. This sculpture depicts Ravana shaking the Kailasa mountain, and it is considered to be one the finest pieces of Indian art.

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Sculpture of Ravana shaking the Kailasa mountain. (Ekta Abhishek Bansal/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Moving past the entrance, a two-storeyed gateway leads to a U-shaped courtyard, which is edged by a columned arcade nearly three storeys high. The arcade houses huge sculpted panels as well as sculptures of various deities. Originally flying bridges made from stone connected the arcades to the central temple structure, sadly these have all fallen.

Within the courtyard, there is the main shrine dedicated to Shiva. This shrine was carved with niches, plasters, windows, columns, inner and outer rooms, gathering halls, images of deities, and a stone lingam (an abstract representation of Shiva) at the center. Similarly, the base of the temple was carved to look like elephants were holding the whole structure up. This shows how extremely intricate the temple is - especially considering it was all once one big rock!

Who Built It and How Long Did It Take?

Although it is there is no record, the Kailasa temple in India is commonly attributed to Rachtrakuta king Krishna I (ca. 756-773 AD). Originally, it was suggested that the temple was built in a mere 19 years. However, based on the multitude of distinct architectural and sculptural styles present in the temple, combined with its enormous size, some scholars believe that it was built over centuries. M. K. Dhavalikar concludes that a major portion of the temple was completed during the reign of Krishna I, but many other parts of the temple’s complex could be dated to later rulers.

Shikhara, Kailasah temple. (S anket901/CC BY SA 4.0 )

There is a Medieval Marathi legend that refers to the Kailash temple, this is found in Katha-Kalpataru by Krishna Yajnavalki (c. 1470-1535 AD). According to this legend, a local king fell gravely ill. His queen prayed to Shiva to cure her husband. She vowed to construct a temple in the name of Shiva if her prayers were answered. She also promised that she would fast until she could see the top of the temple.

Shiva Kailasa Temple Cave 16 Hindu Cave Ellora Caves India. (Hiroki Ogawa/ CC BY 3.0 )

Shortly after, her husband was cured and preparations for the construction of the temple were started immediately. After multiple architects explained that a full temple would take months or years to build the king and queen grew frustrated.

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Soon, another architect came along claiming that he could build a temple, and the top would be visible within a week, which would allow the queen to break her fast. Thus, he started building the temple from the top down by carving into the solid rock.

Unfortunately, no one knows how long it took to carve Kailasa temple, or even how such a masterpiece was accomplished given the time period and resources available. Only one thing is certain, that it will remain a great mystery and a marvel of engineering.

Front view of the temple. (Chinmaya Panda/ CC BY SA 3.0 )


A Testament To Ingenuity, Kailasa Temple Is Carved From A Single Rock

Some of the most awe-inspiring structures around the world are not wonders of modern technology in architecture and engineering. These structures are the product of ancient building practices that are so remarkable we struggle today to understand how they were even dreamed of, let alone erected.

Consider the pyramids in Egypt, or the Parthenon in Greece, all centuries old and built without a single crane, or forklift, or any of the other articles used in modern construction. Another of these marvels is the Kailasa Temple in Aurangabad, India, built over the course of approximately 20 years, between 757 and 783 AD.


Who Built It and How Long Did It Take?

Although it is there is no record, the Kailasa temple in India is commonly attributed to Rachtrakuta king Krishna I (ca. 756-773 AD). Originally, it was suggested that the temple was built in a mere 19 years. However, based on the multitude of distinct architectural and sculptural styles present in the temple, combined with its enormous size, some scholars believe that it was built over centuries. M. K. Dhavalikar concludes that a major portion of the temple was completed during the reign of Krishna I, but many other parts of the temple’s complex could be dated to later rulers.

Shikhara, Kailasah temple. (S anket901/CC BY SA 4.0 )

There is a Medieval Marathi legend that refers to the Kailash temple, this is found in Katha-Kalpataru by Krishna Yajnavalki (c. 1470-1535 AD). According to this legend, a local king fell gravely ill. His queen prayed to Shiva to cure her husband. She vowed to construct a temple in the name of Shiva if her prayers were answered. She also promised that she would fast until she could see the top of the temple.

Shiva Kailasa Temple Cave 16 Hindu Cave Ellora Caves India. (Hiroki Ogawa/ CC BY 3.0 )

Shortly after, her husband was cured and preparations for the construction of the temple were started immediately. After multiple architects explained that a full temple would take months or years to build the king and queen grew frustrated.

Soon, another architect came along claiming that he could build a temple, and the top would be visible within a week, which would allow the queen to break her fast. Thus, he started building the temple from the top down by carving into the solid rock.

Unfortunately, no one knows how long it took to carve Kailasa temple, or even how such a masterpiece was accomplished given the time period and resources available. Only one thing is certain, that it will remain a great mystery and a marvel of engineering.


Kailasa Temple

This astonishing megalithic complex and the Ellora Caves has always intrigued and baffled me.
Here we are told that over dozens of years it was built by several rulers with presumably thousands of stone carvers and labor.
I've seen large amounts of work done by large amounts of people, and its possible to accomplish big constructions.
However, carving this wonder of the world raises some questions.

Like Giza, Im wondering if they used sonic drills and tools? We have them today.
Did it really take many years, or was it done much quicker?

Im of the mind that most gods and goddesses are based on extraterrestrial worship, both of positive and negative beings, but highly religious people and mainstream academics scoff at this with extreme vehemence, and sometimes violence. Why is that?
By many accounts in the Vedas, ancient people and extraterrestrials lived, interacted, married, and engaged in trade, but this is full-on forbidden history to be discounted at all costs.

To me, this is a sacred place of worship, meditation, and consciousness-based technology.
The interior temple has many columns and an ceiling that evoke a sense of spiritual and intensified earth energy. (Telluric).
The stone is probably piezoelectric in nature.

There are countless ancient constructions in India that––mostly––defy mainstream explanation. I encourage forum members to expand this thread.



ELEPHANT SYMBOLISM
Elephants hold significant meaning in many cultures and symbols of these majestic creatures have been depicted in mythology and religion for thousands of years. There are many meanings and interpretations behind elephant symbols, which are particularly significant in Indian and Asian faiths, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

Strength & Power: In the most general, universal meaning, the elephant symbolizes strength and power. This meaning refers to both the body and the mind. The elephant is also seen as a sort of spirit guide to help us along a journey that requires patience.

Wisdom & Loyalty: Elephant symbolism also represents sensitivity, wisdom, stability, loyalty, intelligence, peace, reliability and determination, which are all seen in the animal's nature when observed in the wild. Elephants are gentle giants, who show great care toward their herd, offspring and elders. This symbolizes responsibility, determination and loyalty.

In Indian culture, elephants are a symbol of mental strength, earthiness and responsibility. Hindus have worshiped elephants for centuries, and the large animals enjoy tremendous popularity and a charismatic status in other parts of South Asia. In Hinduism, the elephant is a sacred animal and is considered the representation or the living incarnation of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity riding a mouse and one of the most important gods.

Hindus revere elephants not only because of their depiction of their god but also because of unique characteristics that represent the attributes of a perfect disciple. Each part of the deity Ganesh represents a symbolic function. The large ears mean he is a patient listener who does not use his mouth for naught. His small eyes are believed to behold the future, recognize truth and see not from the physical but through the spirit. The long narrow trunk allows him to smell what is good and evil, while the big belly symbolizes its ability to digest all the good and evil in life.

In Indian mythology, white elephants are associated with rain and are identified with rain-bearing clouds. In Indian society, elephants are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. Ganesh is the god of success and the destroyer of obstacles and evils. He is also a part of the five major Hindu deities together with Vishnu, Shiva, Druga and Brahma.

https://mymodernmet.com/kailasa-temple-ellora-caves/
"Formed from a single block of excavated stone, Kailasa temple is considered one of the most impressive cave temples in India. The enormous structure is one of 34 cave temples and monasteries that are collectively known as the Ellora Caves. Located in the western region of Maharashtra, the caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and include monuments dating between 600 and 1000 CE. While there are many impressive structures on-site, it's the megalithic Kailasa temple that is perhaps the most well known.

Renowned both for its size and impressive ornamentation, it's not entirely clear who had Kailasa temple built. While there are no written records, scholars generally attribute it to Rachtrakuta king Krishna I, who ruled from about 756 to 773 CE. This attribution is based on several epigraphs that connect the temple to “Krishnaraja,” though nothing written directly about the ruler contains information about the temple.

While scholars have yet to discover its true origins, a medieval legend paints a romantic picture behind the mammoth temple. According to a story written in Katha-Kalpataru by Krishna Yajnavalki, when a king was severely ill, his queen prayed to the god Shiva that her husband would be cured. In return for his health, the queen vowed to construct a temple in Shiva's name and fast until the shikhara, or peak, of the temple was completed.

The king quickly got better and construction began on the temple, but to the couple's horror, they realized it would take years for the shikhara to emerge. Luckily, a clever engineer came along and explained that by starting from the top of the mountain, he could make the temple's shikhara appear within a week. This was much to the relief of the queen, who could quickly finish her fast and thus, the temple was constructed from the top down.

Though this is a legend and not fact, the truth is that Kailasa was built from the top. This unusual decision called for 200,000 tons of volcanic rock to be excavated from the rock. Standing at about three stories tall, a horseshoe-shaped courtyard has a gopuram—tower—at its entrance. Given the vast space and the ornate decorations of the temple, it's believed that the work may have started with Krishna I, but could have carried on for centuries, with different rulers adding their own flair.

Enormous stone carvings depict different Hindu deities with particular attention to Shiva. As one walks past the gopuram, panels on the left have followers of Shiva, while panels on the left show devotees of Vishnu. At the base of the temple, a herd of carved elements appears to carry the load of the temple on their backs. It's thanks to these masterful sculptures, as well as the incredible engineering of the temple, that Kailasa is considered an outstanding example of Indian art and architecture."


This Ancient Hindu Temple Was Carved Out Of A Single Rock, And No One Knows How

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In Brief: The temple was carved out of a mountain, by vertical excavations meaning the builders started from the top to the bottom. Around 400,000 tons of rock were removed from the mountain. The temple is considered one of the largest monolithic temples ever carved out of a single rock.

There’s a temple in India that’ll give you goosebumps. Not because it’s haunted or scary, but because its design and construction are beyond anything we thought humans were capable of.

The Temple itself was carved into the mountain, 164 feet deep, 109 feet wide, and 98 feet high. This means that the Kailasa Temple is ONE of the BIGGEST MONOLITHIC structures on the planet, carved out of a single rock.

Carved. Not Built.

This magnificent temple, located in Ellora, Maharashtra, India, the temple itself is known as The Kailasa Temple. Some refer to it as the Kailasanatha temple.

The temple is dedicated to Hindu worship and was commissioned by King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in ancient India.

Rightfully, the Kailasa Temple is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples ever built in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment.

The Kailasanatha temple is part of 32 cave temples and monasteries which are collectively referred to as the Ellora Caves. The Kailasa Temple occupies cave 16.

Their construction is generally acknowledged as having started during the eighth century.

And while many scholars are convinced that the construction is attributed to the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I, based on the multiple distinct architectural and sculptural layouts, combined with its massive size, and peculiar design, some scholars argue that its construction spanned the reigns of multiple kings.

Vertical Excavation—Carving a Mountain

The temple looks totally bada**. In fact, this is one of my favorite temples in India. It looks impressive, it looks different, and it looks majestic.

The most notable feature of the Kailasa Temple is ‘Vertical Excavation.’

When the temple was built, its carvers started at the top of the mountain and excavated downward. As explained by Rajan, K.V. Soundara, in the book Rockcut Temple Styles, traditional methods were precisely followed by the master architect of the project, and could not have been achieved if its builders excavated the temple out of the front.

This fact makes the Kailasa unique and different from other temples.

Ground Plan of the Kailasa Temple. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

An ancient legend speaks of the construction of the Kailasa Temple. According to Katha-Kalpataru by Krishna Yajnavalki (c. 1470-1535 CE), the local king had suffered from a terrible disease. His wife, the queen, decides to pray to the God Shiva, to cure her husband.

The queen promised to build a temple if her wish was granted and promised to observe a fast until she could see the shikhara (top) of this temple.

Eventually, the king was cured, and the queen requested for the temple to be built immediately.

However, each and every architect who was introduced to the project explained that it would take months to build a temple complete with a shikhara (top).

Then, one architect called Kokasa explained to the King and Queen that they would see the shikhara of a temple within a week’s time.

Eventually, Kokasa started but using a different technique. Instead of carving from the side, he went for the top, and excavated the mountaintop vertically, from the top. Eventually, within a week, he finished the shikhara allowing the queen to conclude her fast.

One of the most notorious elements of the Kailsaaa temple depicts Ravana shaking the Kailasa mountain. The sculpture is recognized as one of the finest pieces of Hindu art, and it is possible that the temple came to be known as Kailasa after it.

Some authors argue that the temple was completed in eighteen years’ time.

More than 400,000 tons of rock were removed from the mountain.

It is estimated that around 60 tons of rock were removed each day during the temple’s initial construction phase.

It is believed that the builders worked for more than twelve hours a day, hauling around 5 tons of rock (average) out from the mountain each hour.

And while we do know how the temple was planned and most likely how it was completed, we still don’t exactly know how the designers, architects, and builders managed to achieve all of this with relatively limited technology available to them at that time.

As I’ve written in previous articles, it seems very plausible that whoever built these fascinating caves thousands of years ago surely had more than just ordinary hammers, chisels, and picks.


Kailasa Temple

The Kailasa temple is one of the oldest monolithic Hindu temples in Ellora, India. The building was carved out of a single rock and is considered one of the most beautiful cave temples due to its sculptural treatment, size and architectural design. It is one of the temples and monasteries of Cave 34 which collectively form the Ellora Caves. The construction of the Kailasa temple is linked to King Krishna I, King Rashtrakuta of the 10th century X who reigned between 8 and 756 CE. Its architecture shows traces of the Pallava and Chalukya styles. The temple houses several carefully carved panels depicting scenes from Ramayan and the adventures of Krishna. Monolithic pillars stand in the courtyard, framing the entrance on both sides.


Ellora’s Kailasa Temple: Built from the Top

For most architects today, this would be a dream project, for the Kailasa temple at Ellora is considered one of the most spectacular rock-cut monuments in the world. Carved from a single, gigantic rock face, the temple’s sheer size and sculptural treatment are breathtaking. But there is another reason this temple is a world-class wonder – it was carved vertically into the tough basalt of the Sahyadri Hills with little more than hammers and chisels, more than 1,200 years ago.

The Kailasa Temple is one of 100-odd rock-cut cave temples and monasteries at Ellora (Verul to the locals), around 30 km north-west of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Collectively called the ‘Ellora Caves’ – one of the largest religious cave complexes in the world – all the caves are sculpted into a basalt cliff-face and spread across a 2-km area. However, only 34 of them are accessible to the public. These shrines and monastic complexes, which boast beautiful figures and motifs intricately carved into stone, comprise 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu temples and 5 Jain temples built between 600 CE and 1000 CE.

Since ancient times, caves and monastic complexes have always been built along trade routes as this allowed monks, ascetics and mendicants to travel long distances along with traders, while they also acted as rest stops for traders and merchants. In return, these cave complexes were patronised and funded by wealthy merchants. Ellora was located on an ancient South Asian trade route, which made it an important commercial centre in the Deccan region, and the caves here received even royal patronage.

While all the caves at Ellora are worth visiting, the Kailasa temple – simply designated as Cave No 16 – is by far the most magnificent and imposing. Built by the kings of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which ruled parts of South India between the 8th and 10th century CE, the Kailasa temple is the largest of the rock-cut, monolithic Hindu temples at Ellora. It represents Mount Kailasa or Kailash, the Himalayan abode of Lord Shiva.

To build the temple top-down, three massive trenches were first dug vertically into the basalt. Since there were no jack hammers in those times, an army of men with hammers and chisels hacked and hauled away 2,00,000 tonnes of rock. It was only after this stage that artisans set to work, slowly descending as they sculpted the individual structures in the temple complex, which include the main temple, the shikhara (the tower built over the sanctum), free-standing pillars, large statues and individual shrines. As the artisans went lower and lower, they also added the mind-boggling sculptural details on the exterior and interior surfaces of these structures,

But why build vertically, from the top down? Why not build it horizontally, starting with the façade, which is how most monuments are built? The closest we come to an explanation is a legend in the 10th century Katha Kalpa Taru, which refers to an 8th century queen of the Rashtrakuta ruler, Elu. According to the legend, the king took ill and his queen prayed for a cure. If her wish was granted, she promised to abstain from eating till a magnificent temple was built for Lord Shiva and she saw its shikhara (top).

Her prayer was granted and the king invited the best architects in the land to submit their plans to construct a grand temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The architects came up with blueprints for elaborate temples and the king was impressed. But there was just one hitch – it would take months to execute any of these plans and that would mean his queen would starve before the temple was completed!

Finally, an architect named Kokasa from Paithan came up with an ingenious plan – he suggested that the temple be carved from top to bottom. They could, therefore, start by sculpting the shikhara and the queen, on seeing the top of the tower, could break her fast within a few days.

Most of the temple’s construction is attributed to 8th century Rashtrakuta King Krishna I. The Rashtrakutas came to power in the Deccan by overthrowing the Chalukyas of Badami in 753 CE and establishing their capital in Gulbarga in Karnataka. The Kailasa temple has features of Dravidian architecture or South Indian temple-style architecture as there were Chalukyan and Pallava artisans involved in its construction.

The Kailasa temple appears to have been built in stages. Scholars believe that Krishna I (r. 757-773 CE) built the major portions of the temple – the central temple, the Nandi shrine and the gateway. But it is possible that construction had begun under his predecessor, his uncle and founder of the Rashtrakutas, Dantidurga (r. 735-757 CE) as Cave No 15 or the Dashavatara Cave nearby bears an inscription from him. Besides, its reliefs feature the same style as those in the Kailasa temple. Some parts of the temple complex have been dated to later rulers.

The vertical excavation is evident as soon as you set eyes on the monument. A two-storey gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. Most of the deities left of the entrance are Shaivaite, while the deities to the right are Vaishnavaites. Facing the entrance is a panel of Gajalakshmi seated on a full-bloomed lotus in the midst of a lotus pond, while the elephants above pour water by a ritual adoration.

The main mandapa (hall) is supported by 16 pillars. In front of it, and connected by a bridge, is a mandapa for Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi, the bull. On each side stands a pillar or dwajastambams, 45 feet tall. Trishuls (tridents) were once placed on these pillars. There are five detached shrines in the temple complex, three of them dedicated to river goddesses Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

Through intricate sculptures and carvings, every section of the complex tells stories from mythology, depicting different Puranic episodes. There are also panels comprising seven rows each, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One of the most elaborate sculptures is that of Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa.

Other notable sculptures are that of Shiva and Parvati playing dice a Varaha-raising Prithvi Narasimha tearing the body of his enemy Durga-trampling demon Mahishasur, etc. On some parts of the roof, there are remnants of paintings that originally adorned the entire temple.

The Kailasa temple at Ellora is considered a high point in rock-cut architecture in the subcontinent. Stand beneath the curtains of stone that cascade from the cliff above and imagine scores of artisans chiselling away at the rock, with every tap of the hammer giving shape to the marvel that meets your gaze in a magnificent fusion of man and nature.

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Kailasa Temple was Carved from a Single Massive Rock - Nobody Knows How ‘The Builders’ Made It

I know how they built it. they carved it from a singe massive rock.

Harvard would like to know your location.

This, but decades of slave labor.

If I am remembering this correctly it was built from the top down, while this may not be immediately obvious to some. This would be incredible to achieve. You would have to be so presise to know and build it all without having built it from the ground up. Knowing where all the open space inside will be and what not. Its a huge feat that even today I think would be pretty difficult with the technology of today.

It’s a work of art in the end. Hope to see it in person one day.

What do you mean? The answer is in the title. They carved it. Lots and lots of workers over many years.
Give some credit to our ancestors.
If you didn't know the building history of Mount Rushmore I suppose you would think it was aliens too?

even the rushmore family had advantages. dynamite for one.

Obviously nature just rewarded America for being the land of the free. /s

the "experts" are going to have to come to theyre senses and just admit it. we are looking not just here but in almost every megalithic site some sort of high technology was used. i did a bicycle tour in southern Mexico and parts of Guatemala then took an agonizing bus trip to peru. and a number of sites. the one thing i noticed was a lack in some of the rock works of any tool marks. none. brian forester points this out. the only way in my mind for some of these structures to be built was with some sort of 3 d laser cutting tech. it wasnt the locals who did it it was done for them. and also i have thought they werent temples for worship. but centers of study. any society capable of this level of skill probably isnt going to be very superstitious. the notion of them being like a church or something just places them at our level of understanding.

What's more likely. Dedicated people working really damn hard to build this, or aliens with insane technology coming to earth and carving a rock for some reason?

Why do you underestimate our ancestors?

This was built in the eight century, not in the lost mists of time, but well within the time of written history. Hell, we have whole libraries of texts that are older compared to the builders of this temple than they are to us. And while we don't know exactly who started this temle in the eight century, we have detailed knowledge of kings who comissioned the extensive expansions and upgrades it has gone though since then, using exactly the same techniques.

The origin myth of this temple involves craftsmen working amazingly quickly so that the fasting queen could take food again. After that every king who has added to the temple has bragged about it in text. You don't think they would have added that they totally had help from powerful beings who didn't mind carving rock for them? Not something to mention to impress the neighbors? No?

Jeesus, dude! Read some actual history! Get some context! It is actually interesting!


Contents

The earliest caves used by humans were natural caves that they occupied or used for a variety of purposes, such as shrines and shelters. Evidence suggests that the caves were first occupied and slightly altered during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, up to about 6000 BC. These changes are not classified as architecture. Early examples included decorating overhanging rock with rock-cut designs. [9] The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are located on the edge of the Deccan Plateau, where dramatic erosion has left massive sandstone outcrops. Researchers have found primitive tools and decorative rock paintings made by humans in the area's many caves and grottos, the earliest paintings dating to circa 8,000 BCE. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

During the time of the Buddha (c. 563/480 or c. 483/400 BCE), Buddhist monks were also in the habit of using natural caves, such as the Saptaparni Cave, southwest from Rajgir, Bihar. [15] [16] Many believe it to be the site in which Buddha spent some time before his death, [17] and where the first Buddhist council was held after the Buddha died (paranirvana). [15] [18] [19] The Buddha himself had also used the Indrasala Cave for meditation, starting a tradition of using caves, natural or man-made, as religious retreats, that would last for over a millennium. [20]

In the 3rd century BCE Indian rock-cut architecture began to develop, starting with the already highly sophisticated and state-sponsored Barabar caves in Bihar, personally dedicated by Ashoka circa 250 BCE. [22] These artificial caves exhibit an amazing level of technical proficiency, the extremely hard granite rock being cut in geometrical fashion and polished to a mirror-like finish. [20]

There is another cave with the structure and polishing qualities of the Barabar caves, but without any inscription. This is the Sitamarhi Cave, 20 km from Rajgir, 10 km south-west of Hisua, also dated of the Maurya empire. It is smaller than the Barabar caves, measuring only 4.91x3.43m, with a ceiling height of 2.01m. The entrance is also trapezoidal, as for the Barabar caves. [23]

Finally, the Jain Son Bhandar Caves in Rajgir, generally dated to the 2nd–4th centuries CE, nevertheless share a broad structure reminiscent of the caves of Barabar and some small areas of irregular polish, which leads some authors to suggest that they may actually be contemporary to, and even earlier than, the Barabar caves, and would conveniently create a precedent and an evolutionary step to the Barabar Caves. [23]

To the southeast of Bihar, the Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, partly natural and partly artificial caves were built near the city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India. The caves are situated on two adjacent hills, Udayagiri and Khandagiri, mentioned as Kumari Parvat in the Hathigumpha inscription. They have a number of finely and ornately carved caves built during 2nd century BCE. [24] It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. [25] Udayagiri means "Sunrise Hill" and has 18 caves while Khandagiri has 15 caves. [26]

Entrance of the Gopika cave, Barabar Caves, 3rd century BCE.

Polished interior of Sudama, in the Barabar Caves, 3rd century BCE.

Visvakarma cave entrance, Barabar Caves, 3rd century BCE.

After the Barabar Caves, huge efforts were made at building religious caves in Western India until the 6th century CE. However, the polishing of cave walls was abandoned, never to be revived. Such grandiose caves as Karla Caves (1st century CE) or the Ajanta Caves (5th century CE) do not have any polishing either. This may be due to the fact that Mauryan caves were dedicated and sponsored by the Mauryan Imperial government, allowing for huge resources and efforts to be spent, whereas later caves where essentially the result of donations by commoners, who could not afford as high a level of spending. [27]

First wave of construction (2nd century BCE–4th century CE) Edit

Probably owing to the 2nd century BCE fall of the Mauryan Empire and the subsequent persecutions of Buddhism under Pushyamitra Sunga, it is thought that many Buddhists relocated to the Deccan under the protection of the Andhra dynasty, thus shifting the cave-building effort to western India: an enormous effort at creating religious caves (usually Buddhist or Jain) continued there until the 2nd century CE, culminating with the Karla Caves or the Pandavleni Caves. [20] These caves generally followed an apsidal plan with a stupa in the back for the chaityas, and a rectangular plan with surrounding cells for the viharas. [20]

When Buddhist missionaries arrived, they naturally gravitated to caves for use as temples and abodes, in accord with their religious ideas of asceticism and the monastic life. The Western Ghats topography, with its flat-topped basalt hills, deep ravines, and sharp cliffs, was suited to their cultural inclinations. The earliest of the Kanheri Caves were excavated in the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C., as were those at Ajanta, which were occupied continuously by Buddhist monks from 200 BCE to 650 AD. [28] [29] As the Buddhist ideology encouraged involvement in trade, monasteries often became stopovers for inland traders and provided lodging houses along trade routes. As mercantile and royal endowments grew, cave interiors became more elaborate, with interior walls decorated in paintings, reliefs, and intricate carvings. Numerous donors provided the funds for the building of these caves and left donatory inscriptions, including laity, members of the clergy, government officials, and even foreigners such as Yavanas (Greeks) representing about 8% of all inscriptions. [30] Facades were added to the exteriors while the interiors became designated for specific uses, such as monasteries (viharas) and worship halls (chaityas). Over the centuries, simple caves began to resemble free-standing buildings, needing to be formally designed and requiring highly skilled artisans and craftsmen to complete. These artisans had not forgotten their timber roots and imitated the nuances of a wooden structure and the wood grain in working with stone. [31]

Early examples of rock-cut architecture are the Buddhist and Jain cave basadi, temples and monasteries, many with gavakshas (chandrashalas). The ascetic nature of these religions inclined their followers to live in natural caves and grottos in the hillsides, away from the cities, and these became enhanced and embellished over time. Although many temples, monasteries, and stupas had been destroyed, by contrast, cave temples are very well preserved as they are both less visible and therefore less vulnerable to vandalism as well as made of more durable material than wood and masonry. There are around 1200 cave temples still in existence, most of which are Buddhist. The residences of monks were called Viharas and the cave shrines, called Chaityas, were for congregational worship. [31] The earliest rock-cut garbhagriha, similar to free-standing ones later, had an inner circular chamber with pillars to create a circumambulatory path (pradakshina) around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for the congregation of the devotees.



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