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The pinnacle of ancient Indian rock cut architecture

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View Indian Caves and Temples Tour 2011 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Ellora Caves are considerably younger than Ajanta, a mere 1500 years old (babies in rock-carving terms) and contain not just Buddhist monuments, but also Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples and monasteries. I thought Ajanta was awesome yesterday – I wasn't prepared for the sheer grandeur and beauty of these caves. There are 34 caves in total, and although we didn't visit them all, we certainly left the best for last. In many of the caves we were only accompanied by bats and squirrels although we make friends with a large group of colourfully-dressed women from Rajasthan a little later on. By the penultimate temple we were both getting a little caved out, but when we first saw façade of Cave number 16, we knew we were in for a special treat. Despite having taken 189 trips abroad, to 132 countries, I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this in all my life.

It's amazing to think these carvings were carried out without the use of any mechanical help. The temple is built to represent Mount Kailasha, Shiva's Himalayan abode, and it is in fact the world's largest monolithic sculpture. Imagine a rock face, cut three trenches into it at the top, then build a temple complex from top to bottom, carving downwards in the hard rock with nothing more than a hammer and chisel. The detail, the engineering feat, the sheer scale of the project, the intricacy of it all - carved from one single piece of rock, belies belief. 7000 labourers took 150 years to complete this masterpiece, which covers twice the size of Parthenon in Greece and is half again as high. 200,000 tonnes of rock was removed from the complex, which has a courtyard around a central temple which was once painted white – again to represent the snow-capped Mount Kailasha (which is actually a real mountain in Tibet).


Aurangabad is famous for its traditional Himroo woven silk and cotton materials, and we visited a workshop to see how the cloth is being made. The style was developed during the 14th century, and has been the city's chief revenue maker until fairly recently when beer and bikes took over!


The name Daulatabad means 'city of fortune' and is said to be one of the world's best preserved forts of medieval times, dating back to the 12th century. The fort is surrounded by a 5-kilometre sturdy wall with a 40ft deep moat.

In 1328, the sultan Mohammed Tughlaq decided to shift his kingdom's capital here from Delhi, he even marched the entire population of Delhi 1100 kilometres south to populate it! Ironically, Daulatabad soon proved untenable as a capital for strategic reasons, and Tughlaq forced its weary inhabitants to walk all the way back to Delhi, which by then had been reduced to a ghost town.

It is certainly a formidable fort, with a series of defences including multiple doorways at odd angles with spike-studded doors to prevent elephant charges. More steps (I wish I'd counted all the steps we have climbed in the last few days as I am sure we are getting on for 500 now!) lead to the moat, which you cross on a rickety wooden bridge. You can then continue up the 200 metre high outcrop on the top of which the main fort sits, but we chose to return to ground level. Again we were the centre off attention for the locals, with numerous groups wanting their photo taken with us. One with each person in the group of course. After a dozen or more of such photos, my camera-smile was beginning to wear a little thin.


Posted by Grete Howard 05:18 Archived in India

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