The mystery of an ancient Indian temple carved out of solid rock
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Some of the most impressive structures around the world are not at all marvels of modern technology in architecture and engineering. These structures are the product of ancient building practices. They were erected with a craftsmanship that is so difficult for modern mankind to comprehend. How could something like this have even been dreamed of at that time, let alone built? The Kailas Temple is one of 32 temples and monasteries known as the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest structures in the world, carved entirely out of solid rock–a true architectural marvel.
It’s hard for modern man to even imagine building such sites as the pyramids in Egypt or the Parthenon in Greece without a crane, forklifts, and other delights of civilization. Nevertheless, they were erected not even centuries ago, but thousands of years ago. Another of these wonders is the Kailas Temple in Aurangabad, India, built in about 20 years, between 757 and 783 AD.
The temple of Kailas is still inspiring even 1200 years later
The construction of the great temple of Kailas (also known as the Kailas Temple or Kailasanatha) is shrouded in mystery. The sculptors started from the top of the rock and carved the entire building into it. This is simply incredible, considering the fact that this architectural work was built more than 1,300 years ago. The amazing structure is as tall as a modern five-story building and as wide as a soccer field.
If this temple had been built even in the 20th century, when the architect would have had at his disposal all the modern tools and achievements of engineering science – it would still be an extraordinary construction. The fact that all this splendor was carved by hand from a single stone, and the workers used nothing but a chisel is simply amazing!
It is impossible not to wonder how people in ancient times could not only carve such intricate figures and patterns, but also somehow remove more than 200,000 tons of volcanic rock every day. Experts estimate that about two million tons of rock were taken out.
The temple is built in the shape of the letter U. There is a “gopuram”, a monumental tower, at the entrance to the courtyard. A little farther along the walls are several deities. On the left are the followers of Shiva and on the right are the followers of Vishnu. Another interesting sculpture depicts Ravana, the Great King of Lanka, rocking Mount Kailas. The sculpture is considered one of the finest works of Indian art.
There is no historical record of who built the Kailas temple and when. Historians believe it was built by Krishna I. Some scholars claim that the temple was built in just 19 years. However, based on the many different architectural and sculptural styles present in the temple, combined with its size, many scholars are inclined to believe that it was built over several centuries.
There are a total of 32 temples in the Ellora Caves, numbered according to their age. Temples 1 to 12 on the south side are Buddhist caves. Temples 13 through 29 are Hindu caves, and on the north side are Jain temples. The temple of Kailas has number 16 and is dedicated to Shiva, one of the major gods of the Hindu religion.
History of the temple
The temple was the embodiment of King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty’s desire to pay homage to the god Shiva. According to the monarch, he helped his beloved wife recover from a serious illness. In gratitude, Krishna I ordered a temple to be erected and made an exact copy of Shiva’s mystical home in the Himalayas. Those charged with carrying out this royal command would start at the top of the cliff and work their way down. The ancient sculptors had only their hands, shovels and chisels at their disposal.
Exactly who built the temple is unknown, no documentary evidence has survived, attribute it to Krishna I.
The carved figures, elephants and lions are nothing short of miraculous! There are also many Sanskrit stories carved into the walls. Each is illustrated with intricate engravings. These texts have yet to be translated by archaeologists and historians. The Kailasa temple is truly unique. For all its grandeur, it is still not one of the wonders of the world, such as the Taj Mahal in India. But in 1983 it was designated a world heritage site.
Today mankind cherishes the beautiful temple, but once many centuries ago, a ruler came to power who did not appreciate this great wonder. The Mughal ruler Aurangzeb wanted to destroy the temple. But no matter how hard his men tried, they could not do much damage to it. Some evidence of these attempts has survived to this day. Fortunately, the temple with its many levels, images and sculptures has for the most part survived completely intact.
At the moment in India, as in most other places around the world, there is an upsurge of COVID-19. Therefore, there are some restrictions for anyone wishing to visit the Ellora Caves. In general, though, it is relatively safe. After all, visiting the temple and surrounding buildings means being outdoors. Nevertheless, appropriate public health measures for travelers and tourists are still in place. Fortunately, the Kailas temple will be here long after the coronavirus is history.
This majestic structure is a testament to humanity’s resolve, spiritual beliefs and dreams. No matter what religion one adheres to, when one sees the Kailas temple, one is in awe without exception. Those who built it over a period of 20 years or several centuries did so because they were inspired. Art and creativity are God’s blessings.
If you are interested in evidence of the greatness of ancient human civilizations, read our article about what mysteries of the ancient Greeks the unusual pyramid island of Dascalio has revealed to scientists.
A huge 8th century Hindu temple carved out of a single monolithic rock
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The megalithic temple of Kailasanatha, created from a single giant-sized stone, is considered the most mysterious and impressive cave cult site in India and the world. The enormous structure is one of 34 cave temples and monasteries that make up the ensemble better known as the Ellora Caves. The unique caves, which date from 600-1000 years ago, have become the country’s main attraction and are frequented not only by millions of tourists but also by groups of researchers trying to unravel the mystery of their creation.
The Kailasanatha temple was carved out of an entire piece of basalt rock (Ellora Caves complex, India.| Photo: bigpicture.ru
Ellora is a small village located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, near the city of Aurangabad, became known worldwide for its unique megalithic ensemble, consisting of 34 cave temples and monasteries. And it is not only the highly artistic value of the ancient sites that makes this place so important for the world’s cultural heritage. As it turned out “Ellora Caves” are a testimony to the peaceful coexistence of three different religions – Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
The sanctuary, carved out of solid rock and decorated with carvings, covers an area of 1980 m² (Kailasanatha, India. | Photo: weekend.rambler.ru.
Note: The Ellora Caves have 34 religious sites: 12 are Buddhist temples, 17 are Hindu and 5 are Jainist religious structures, which were carved into the basalt rock in the same chronological order.
The Kailasanatha Temple is part of the Ellora Caves complex and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Kailasanatha, India | Photo: mymodernmet.com.
In this complex, each of the cave temples or monasteries is striking in its scope and amazing forms, but the Kailasanatha (Kailash) temple is considered the most impressive. Known for its gigantic size, method of construction and impressive ornamentation, this masterpiece of world architecture raises many questions, because it is still not quite clear who built the unique Kailash temple.
Researchers do not have any documentary evidence and convincing versions about it. Most scholars attribute it to Rahtrakuta, King Krishna I, who ruled from about 756 to 773 AD.
Each of the carvings carries a message and glorifies one of the three gods (Kailasanatha, India).
Since nothing has been scientifically proven yet, a medieval legend has been passed down by word of mouth for centuries, which was written in the Katha Kalpataru (an ancient treatise of the Vedas) by Krishna Yajnavalka: “When the king was seriously ill, his queen prayed to the god Shiva to get her husband well. In return for his health, the queen vowed to build a temple in the name of Shiva and to fast until the shikhara (top of the temple) was completed. The king quickly recovered and construction of the temple began, but to the dismay of the couple, it turned out that it would take years for the shikhara to appear. Fortunately, a dodgy engineer came along and explained that by starting at the top of the mountain, he could make the dome of the temple within a week. This was of great help to the queen, who could finish her post quickly, and so the temple was built from top to bottom.” .
The unique temple of Kailasanath was created more than 100 years (Ellora Caves complex, India.| Photo: skurlatov.livejournal.com.
Although this is only a legend, it is a confirmed fact that the Kailasanatha temple was indeed built from above. Such an unusual solution required the manual removal of more than 200 tons of volcanic rock from the rock, because the final height of the structure reached 30 meters, with a total depth of the excavation is 50 m.
Among the pilgrims there is a belief that you have to approach the columns from left to right to see even the hidden characters, carved on each of the four sides (Kailasanatha, India). | Photo: pikabu.ru.
And not a single element of the structure itself or its decoration was brought in from outside – everything was carved from the same rock. Given the vast space, richly decorated facade and courtyard of the temple, it is believed that the work could begin with Krishna I and lasted at least 100 years, when other rulers added decorative elements at their discretion.
The main tower of the temple stands on monumental stone sculptures of elephants and lions, which were carved last (Kailasanatha, India)| Photo: skurlatov.livejournal.com.
Incredibly beautiful carvings on the basalt rock depict various Hindu deities, but special attention was paid to Shiva. If you walk past the gopuram (the tower above the gate), the bas-reliefs on one side depict followers of Shiva and the panels on the opposite side depict devotees of Vishnu. The completely carved walls of the temple amaze even highly skilled stone carvers, who have every modern tool in their arsenal.
Not only the stone carvings have survived, but also unique frescoes (Kailasanatha, India).| Photo: kailash.ru.
Even after more than a thousand years they would not have dared to build such a structure, especially the creation of the basement, because as the base are the backs of the monumental sculptures of elephants and lions. To calculate the load and carve three-meter sculptures at the base without damaging the entire superstructure, the architect must have been a genius.
The majestic temple of Kailasanath – one of the most beautiful and mysterious temples in the world (the complex “Ellora Caves”, India. | Photo: skurlatov.livejournal.com.
And that it was a man, there is no doubt even among those who like to attribute everything unusual and incomprehensible to higher forces or extraterrestrials. According to the editorial board of Novate.Ru researchers managed to find a cache in the temple, where there was a copper plate with the inscription: “Oh, Shiva! How could I do such a thing without magic?” This is the question that descendants have been asking themselves for more than a thousand years, and it has remained unsolved.
This great creation of human genius can be compared by its originality and beauty only with the Taj Mahal, which is also one of the most beautiful buildings on the planet. Despite its worldwide fame and incredible attendance, this fantastic mausoleum also hides many secrets and amazing facts, 8 of which you can learn about from the following review.