Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage site from Aurangabad district, comprising more than 100 rock-cut caves. Out of which, only 34 are open to the public. The complex has caves from Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain faith. It is famous for the exceptional monolithic shrine of Kailash Mandir.
One of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Maharashtra, Ellora dates back to about 1,500 years ago, and is the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 caves are actually Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious monuments carved in the rock. They were given the status of World heritage Site in 1983.
Created between the 6th and 10th century, the 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves carved in proximity at Ellora are proof of the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.
All the Buddhist caves were carved in the period 6th – 7th centuries CE. These structures consist mostly of ‘viharas’ or monasteries. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Gautama Buddha and ‘bodhisattvas’.
Of these, Cave 5 is one of the most important and unique caves in India and can be dated to mid-6th century CE. It consists of a long hall with two benches running for over 18 meters in the centre. This cave was most probably used for group recitation of various Buddhist sutras. Further, Cave 10 is popularly known as Vishvakarma’s (the architect of gods) cave because of its intricate carvings. There is a huge Buddha image placed in front of the ‘stupa’ covering the base and the drum part of the stupa.One of the unique features of this cave is its rock-cut balcony.
The other two important caves are 11 and 12, known as Don Taal and Teen Taal respectively. Both are three-storied and serve as prime examples of esoteric monastic Buddhist architecture.
These caves were excavated during the rule of the Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta rulers. Of these, Caves 14, 15, 16, 21 and 29 are not to be missed caves. Cave 14 consists of the sculptural panels of numerous Hindu deities. Cave 15 can be reached after climbing a few steps. This cave has numerous noteworthy sculptures carved on the interior walls which still have some traces of plaster left suggesting the paintings on the sculptures. Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa is the unrivalled centre piece of Ellora. It looks like a multi-storied temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock. The courtyard has two life size statues of elephants and two tall victory pillars. There are columned galleries decorated with huge sculpted panels of a variety of deities in the side walls. There are a few beautiful traces of paintings in the porch of the hall on the upper storey.
The Rameshwar cave i.e. Cave 21 is famous for some of the most beautiful sculptures at Ellora. On either side of the cave are images of Ganga and Yamuna. Locally known as Sita ki Nahani the Cave 29 is also unique in plan and elevation. Resembling the great cave at Elephanta in plan this cave also has some of the impressive sculptures at the site.
These caves are clustered in five excavations and numbered 30 to 34. Apart from these, there are six more Jaina caves on the opposite face of this hill. All of these caves belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism. One caves worth a visit includes Cave 32 or Indra Sabha. The lower storey of this cave lies unfinished, while the upper storey is one of the largest and most elaborate caves with beautiful pillars, large sculptural panels and paintings on its ceiling.
Of all the caves at Ellora, the Jaina caves have the largest number of paintings still extant on ceilings and side walls.
Distance from Mumbai: 350 kms
Aurangabad District, Maharashtra, India.
The Ellora caves complex is one of the most beautiful heritage sites in the world. These caves were carved between the 6th to 10th centuries CE. The caves are numbered from south to north and not based on the actual chronology of the caves. Out of the 34 accessible caves, 12 belong to Buddhism, 17 to Hinduism and 5 to Jainism.
lifesize statues of elephants and two tall victory pillars. There are columned galleries decorated with huge sculpted panels of a variety of deity Buddhist Caves: Almost all Buddhist caves belong to the 6th and 7th centuries CE. One can see significant artwork in caves number 5, 10, and 12. Cave 10 is a Chaitya (Prayer Hall), and Caves 11 and 12 are the only known multistoried elaborated Buddhist Monasteries in India. They house numerous esoteric Buddhist deities.
Hindu Caves:- Caves number 13 to 29 are Hindu caves from the 7th to 9th century CE. Caves number 15, 16, 21 and 29 are considered as most beautiful amongst the Hindu caves at Ellora. Cave 15 is a multistoried Shaiva monastery resembling caves 11 and 12. This cave has numerous noteworthy sculptures carved on the interior walls and some of the images still have traces of plaster left indicating the paintings on the sculptures. Cave 16 is known as the Kailasa Mandir, the unrivalled centrepiece of Ellora. It looks like a constructed multistoried temple, but it is a monolithic structure carved out of one single rock. The courtyard has two lifees on the side walls. Even this temple has a few traces of painting and inscriptions. Cave 29 is an elaborate cave temple resembling the cave at Elephanta near Mumbai.
Jaina Caves:- These caves are clustered in five excavations and numbered 30 to 34. Apart from these, there are six more Jaina caves on the opposite face of this hill. All of these caves belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism. Cave number 32, known as Indrasabha is very elaborate, and one should not miss this. Its lower storey lies unfinished, while the upper storey is the largest and most elaborate cave with beautiful pillars, large sculptural panels and paintings on its ceiling.
The Ellora caves are 29 KM the Northwest of Aurangabad city. The closest village is Khuldabad and the famous fort of Daulatabad.
The region of Aurangabad has a hot and dry climate. The summers are more extreme than winters and monsoon, with a temperature up to 40.5 degrees Celsius.
Winters are mild, and the average temperature varies from 28-30 degrees Celsius.
Monsoon season has extreme seasonal variations, and the annual rainfall in Aurangabad is around 726 mm.
Things to do
The complete tour of Ellora caves requires 4-5 hours. Apart from the Ellora caves, one can visit the Ganesh Lena cave complex. Waterfalls and streams on the site create a scenic environment at the site. A visit to the information centre is recommended.
Nearest tourist places
- Grishneshwar temple, Ellora (5.3 KM)
- Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad Caves (29.2 KM)
- Daulatabad fort (13.2 KM)
- Khuldabad village and tomb of Aurangzeb (5 KM)
- Aurangabad caves (30.9 KM)
Special food speciality and hotel
Non-veg: Naan Khaliya
Vegetarian: Hurda, Daal Batti, Vaangi Bharata (a special preparation of Brinjal/Eggplant), Shev Bhaji
Agricultural Produce: Bananas from Jalgaon.
Accommodation facilities nearby & Hotel/ Hospital/Post Office/Police station
Ellora site has all basic tourist facilities. Several hotels are available in and around Aurangabad for accommodation.
Visiting Rule and Time, Best month to visit
Ellora Caves' visiting hours are 9.00 AM to 5.00 P.M. (Tuesday Closed)
No eatables are allowed at the site.
The best season to visit these caves is from June to March as the weather during these months.
Language spoken in area
English, Hindi, Marathi