Unlike other caves at Ajanta and Ellora, Kailasa temple has a huge courtyard that is open to the sky, surrounded by a wall of galleries several stories high.
Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India© Courtney Milne
Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Dramatic sculptures fill the courtyard and the main temple, which is in the center.
It must have been quite a spectacular sight when it was covered with white plaster and elaborately painted.
The gigantic, 8th century Kailasa Temple at Ellora, Cave 16,
was chiselled from solid stone
Described as Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple is considered
the pinnacle of Indian rock-cut architecture
Although all of the caves at Ellora are stunning architectural feats, the Hindu Kailasa Temple is the jewel in the crown. Carved to represent Mt. Kailasa,
the home of the god Shiva in the Himalayas, 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.
Within the courtyard is the massive multi-level temple, its pyramidal form replicating the real Mount Kailasa, the Himalayan peak said to be the home of the Hindu god Siva.
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 laborers 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.