The day before yesterday, we visited the Ellora Caves. I don’t recall mentioning exactly how hot it was there. Temperatures were exceptionally high and it was hot even for the locals. The days we spent at Ajanta and Ellora were around 98 degrees. It was a dry heat that had us scurrying from one shady spot to another.
The Kailasha is a great monolithic rock cut temple at Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. It is the largest monolithic temple in the world. It’s three times larger than the Parthenon and was excavated from top to bottom and was scooped out from the outside to the inside. The temple was started in 735AD and took more than 200 years to complete. I learned today that “monolithic” means “cut from one stone”. In other words, the Kailasha monumental temples are entirely carved from one massive stone. No stones were cut elsewhere and brought in. On the contrary, stone were carved away in order to create the prayer halls and other areas of worship.
The temple is a vast complex and is the abode of Shiva. At one point in history, many of the statues were literally defaced by Muslim invaders. Sadly, the invaders chopped off the noses -and sometimes hands)- from many of the precious ancient statues and carvings. They felt that if they hacked off noses, the statues would symbolize a dying religion since a nose-less face cannot breathe. Even given this damage, the entire complex is exquisite. I could have stayed there all day!
One of the highlights of visiting these ancient sites is meeting other people visiting and worshiping at the temples. I missed out on over half the tour because a huge family got a hold of me and wanted to take photos and have their photos taken. When I went to remove my hat, they would ask me to please keep my hat on. I guess they found my hat charming and exotic.
Soon we had more and more people crowding around for photos. We exchanged names. Usually, when we were talking, they were all smiles. As soon as we went to take photos, our new friends became serious, solemn, stood up straight. and tried to look as dignified as possible! As soon as the photo was taken, they would relax and become all smiles again.