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  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall balcony entrance adornments
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall balcony entrance adornments

    Gandharvas (celestial male musicians) flanked by apsarases (celestial nymphs) float on either side of the opening over the balcony entrance to the Chaitya Hall. These auspicious heavenly creatures represent good fortune for all who enter this site.

  • Thumbnail for Bhajan singing 3
    Bhajan singing 3

    As noted in Bhajan singing 1 and 2, the warmly dressed singers from the Rama Temple are singing songs of praise to Vaishnava deities. Women and men sing together in these groups.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Gandharvas accompanying Kamadeva and Rati
    Kailash Cave Temple, Gandharvas accompanying Kamadeva and Rati

    Next to an image of Kamadeva, god of desire, and his consort, Rati, is this panel containing apsarases and these gandharvas, heavenly creatures also associated with sensuality, music, and desire.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, gray Makara
    Ellora, Datta Temple, gray Makara

    On a pillar of the temple is this gray makara, a mythical aquatic beast associated with the Ganges gharial, a species of crocodile. The makara is associated with Kamadeva, god of desire, as well as the goddess Ganga and the Vedic god of the sea, Varuna.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, stylized peacock
    Ellora, Datta Temple, stylized peacock

    On a pillar of the temple is this stylized peacock. The peacock is sometimes associated with the god Brahma and his consort, Saraswati.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Hindu Caves, wedding of Shiva and Parvati, close-up
    Ellora Hindu Caves, wedding of Shiva and Parvati, close-up

    A closeup of the wedding ceremony of Shiva and Parvati. See also cbind0102.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Hindu Caves, mango detail
    Ellora Hindu Caves, mango detail

    Mango tree limbs, laden with fruit, are carved over doorways in the caves as auspicious symbols of fertility and good fortune.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Manu Stambha
    Kailash Cave Temple, Manu Stambha

    The Manu Stambha stands just inside the temple courtyard.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara

    Parshvanatha, a digambara monk, is always depicted resting against the coils of a snake and protected under the hoods of snakes. He is also shown over the wheel of a chariot, with elephants, lions, and devotees at his feet.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall entrance, far view
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall entrance, far view

    This Chaitya Hall or place of assembly for monks and pilgrims is adorned with figures of amorous couples across the top, gandharvas and apsaras over the balcony doorway, and bodhisattvas at door level. All of these figures are auspicious symbols, appropriately adorning a place of religious practice. A popular destination for school field trips, children learn about the early history of these sites.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Hindu Caves, viewed from a distance
    Ellora Hindu Caves, viewed from a distance

    Part of a series of caves carved into the basalt rock of these hillsides are the Hindu caves offering particularly beautiful images of such favorite scenes as the weddings of Shiva and Parvati, and Rama and Sita. Cave 29 known as "Sita ki nanahi" or "Sita ki kunda", the bathing place of Sita, draws honeymooning couples who take their pictures in front of the magnificent waterfall. During the monsoon season, this waterfall falls into a beautiful pool between two caves.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Kamadeva and Rati with sugarcane bow
    Kailash Cave Temple, Kamadeva and Rati with sugarcane bow

    The god of desire, Kamadeva, and his consort, Rati, are carved on the inside of the couryard wall for visitors just entering, or just leaving the temple complex. Between Kama and Rati is the god's weapon, a sugarcane bow, which is sheltering them with its bower of leaves.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, Ardhanarishvara
    Kailash Cave Temple, Ardhanarishvara

    Ardhanarishvara, the Lord who is Half Woman, has been carved into one of the many niches on the outside of the temple. The sculptors depicted many of the well-known stories of Hindu gods and goddesses on the walls of the temple. Pilgrims walking past these depictions are reminded of the tales and their teachings.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, school field trip
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, school field trip

    The Ellora Caves are a popular site for school field trips. Students learn the history of the early religious communities who lived in this area as they walk through the caves and observe the figures and symbols.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple
    Ellora, Datta Temple

    Datta, a combination of Vishnu, Brahma, and Siva, is a god most familiar in Maharashtra. While most Hindu temples display images of various gods and goddesses throughout, as does this temple, this Datta Temple places all three gods in its innermost shrine, reserved for the primary deity of the temple. The ancient sacred Sanskrit syllable, AUM, is placed above the doorway to the inner sanctum. The intense orange-yellow color dominating the temple assoicates with ascetic practices.

  • Thumbnail for Kailash Cave Temple, amorous couples series
    Kailash Cave Temple, amorous couples series

    This depiction of a series of amorous couples in different poses brings the fertility and good fortune they represent into the minds of all who see them.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, Linga and Naga
    Ellora, Datta Temple, Linga and Naga

    On a pillar of the temple, a lingam sits beneath the protective hood of a three-headed cobra, possible a naga.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, Linga between bull horns
    Ellora, Datta Temple, Linga between bull horns

    On a pillar of the temple, a lingam sits between the horns of a bull.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Datta Temple, ascetic figure
    Ellora, Datta Temple, ascetic figure

    This image of an ascetic in a modified lotus position sits in a niche in the upper outside wall of the temple.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, yaksha guardian
    Ellora, Jain Caves, yaksha guardian

    All tirthankaras are depicted with a yaksha (male earth spirit) and yakshini (female). This yaksha, probably Matanga who is associated with Mahavira, guards one side of a large balcony entrance to the cave's expansive second floor with a central Mahavira shrine. On the other side of the balcony entrance is his female counterpart, the yakshini, Siddhayika. The yaksha, a powerful earth deity, sits on the strong elephant who acts as his throne. This yaksha is framed by a canopy formed by the leaves of a lush tree.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha detail, close-up
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha detail, close-up

    Underneath the tirthankara, Parshvanatha, is another image of himself over a chakra. At the foot of the image are lions, elephants, and his protective yaksha and yakshini, all positioned in perfect symmetry.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara close-up
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara close-up

    The serenity of this tirthankara, Parshvanatha, is depicted here in the symmetrical smooth lines of the image and in his absolute quiet in the protection of the deadly cobra. Parshvanatha exemplifies the Jain practice of non-violence as a digambara monk at peace with even the most dangerous creatures.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha's elephant seat
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha's elephant seat

    The yaksha guardian, Matanga, sits on a grand elephant who has knelt to offer his back as a seat for the yaksha. The sculptor has placed a lotus bud in the trunk of the elephant to show his docile nature in the presence of this yaksha protector.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Hindu Caves, wedding of Shiva and Parvati
    Ellora Hindu Caves, wedding of Shiva and Parvati

    Shiva takes Parvati's hand to lead her around the sacred fire to solemnize their wedding. Attending the ceremony are dozens of celestial apsaras and gandharvas to dance and sing, as well as Brahma and Vishnu at Shiva's left. The couple standing next to Parvati may be her parents, Himalaya and Meena.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall, ribbed ceiling
    Ellora Buddhist Caves, Chaitya Hall, ribbed ceiling

    Cave #10 demonstrates an interesting transition from chaityas constructed with wood to these rock-cut cave structures. The craftsmen sculpted these stone riblike arcs on the ceiling of the cave to resemble the curved roof supports of a wooden chaitya.