The architecture of the ancient world continues to inspire generation after generation of people. Whether it is the Pyramids of Egypt, the magnificent examples of Roman construction, or the opulence of Oriental Temples, we continue to marvel at the vividness of design and construction these structures represent. One such example is the Kailasa Temple in Ellora, India. The temple is said to be built off a single rock, chiseled out from a mountain using only hand tools.
Let us explore this man-made marvel.
The Legend Of Kailasa
The Kailasa is a part of the Ellora Caves in Maharastra, India. Known for its impressive size and exquisite artwork, Marathi legend has it that the temple was built by an architect known as Kokasa for the Rashtrakuta queen Manikeshwara. It is estimated that the construction must have required the removal of over 200000 tons of rock over a period of 20 years. The temple was constructed as homage to Mount Kailash which, according to Hindu Mythology, is the abode of the god Shiva.
Every inch of the temple is decorated with brilliant artwork in the form of carvings, pillars and sculptures, chiseled out of the same rock that forms the architectural foundation of the temple. Depicted in the carvings are myriad stories from Hindu Mythology. A statue of Nandi, the sacred bull, and a Shiva Linga, the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva, can also be found in the temple.
A fascinating feature of the temple is that there are carvings of elephants which are done in such a way that they give the appearance that the entire temple is being supported by them on their backs. These are also carved out of the same rock as the temple itself. Multiple carved panels are also present in the temple. These represent multiple stories from the two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, such as a depiction of the demon king Ravana trying to lift Mount Kailash. The different avatars of Lord Vishnu are also reproduced among the carvings.
How Was The Kailasa Constructed?
The most striking feature of this temple’s construction is the fact that it was excavated in a top-to-bottom fashion: the construction works initially began at the top of the rock and proceeded downwards. This was supposedly done so that the queen Manikeshwara could view the top of the temple first, and so break a fast she was holding for the well being of her husband. The temple construction had to be meticulously planned. Every single design, every carving, the placement of various architectural features had to be planned ahead, since the entire structure was carved out of a single rock and there would be very little scope for change later on. The temple is a massive megalith that stretches over 145 feet in width, 195 feet in length and 90 feet in height. Rough estimates suggest that the temple covers an area almost twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
Mere reading cannot give a measure of the immensity that is the Kailasa temple. Carved from a single rock, this marvel of ancient engineering can claim its place as one of the stunning discoveries of the world. It is truly amazing to gaze at this brilliance of human creation, to wonder how the ancients dared embark upon so audacious a task as to carve a mountain to create a temple. But the construction of this remarkable edifice is yet another example of the wonders waiting to be discovered on this unique planet of ours.
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