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The Wonderous Caves of Ancient India

The Ellora and Ajanta Caves, situated in the state of Maharashtra, contain some of the earliest masterpieces of religious art in ancient India.

Of Ellora's thirty-four cave temples, dating from the 5th to 10th centuries AD, the Kailasa Temple is the most remarkable. It is themed around Hinduism, while other caves also depict themes from the Buddhist and Jain faiths.

The temple is an achievement of advanced engineering, art, and craftsmanship. It was carved out of a mountain from top to bottom. Archeologists have determined that over 400,000 tonnes of rock have been removed to create the temple, which would have taken centuries of human labor. It includes intricate carvings, stairways, multiple passageways, and tunnels.

The Ajanta Caves, located 100 km from the Ellora Caves, were carved out in two separate phases, with the earliest starting in the second century BCE. The early caves were simply carved with the object of worship being a Buddhist stupa (mound-like structure).

In the second phase, during the 5th-7th centuries AD, the object of worship shifted from the stupa to a sculpted representation of the Buddha. The frescos inside the caves depict the life of the Buddha and are some of the oldest paintings that survive in India.

The rock-cut sculptures of Ellora and the brilliant colored paintings at Ajanta illustrate the religious harmony that existed and the shared past of people that make up the country today.

Works cited:

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “Ajanta Caves.”, 2019,

Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad | Department of Justice | India.

Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Ellora Caves.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre,

“Ellora Caves | Ministry of Culture, Government of India.”,


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