Ellora Caves are a complex of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples. These rock caves were carved out of the vertical face of Charanandri hills . They have been built between the 6th and 10th centuries AD near the ancient Indian village of Ellora.
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and the most visited ancient monument in Maharashtra State. The Ellora Caves were built at time when Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism was beginning to reassert itself.
The Chalukya and Rashtrakuta kings, oversaw most of the work at Ellora – including the magnificent Kailasa Temple built in the 700s.
The last period of building activity took place in the 10th century, when the local rulers switched allegiance from Shaivism (Hinduism devoted to Shiva) to the Digambara sect of Jainism.
The coexistence of structures from three different religions shows the religious tolerance of India.
There are 34 caves in all: 12 Buddhist caves (500-750 AD), 17 Hindu caves (600-870 AD) and 5 Jain caves (800-1000 AD). The caves are roughly numbered starting with the oldest Buddhist caves at the south end.
The Buddhist Caves
The 12 Buddhist caves also called Vishvakarma caves (1 to 12), are the earliest of the Ellora Caves, dating from 500 to 750 AD. All except Cave 10 are viharas (monasteries), which were used for study, meditation, communal rituals, eating and sleeping.
The caves become steadily larger and more elaborately decorated as they progress to the north, which scholars have explained by the growing need to compete with Hinduism for patronage.