Kailasa Temple / Kailasanath Temple / Cave 16
At a distance of 300 m from Ellora Caves Bus Stop, Kailasa Temple is the largest rock-cut ancient Hindu temple in Ellora, Maharashtra. It is the central attraction of Ellora Caves and is a sculpture made by cutting down of rocks by sculpturing it rather than building up the temple by an architectural design.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) is one of the 34 Cave temples and monasteries known collectively as the Ellora Caves. Its construction is generally attributed to the 8th century Rashtrakuta king Krishna I based on inscriptions in Kannada. The construction was a feat of human genius - it entailed removal of 250,000 tons of rock, took 100 years to complete and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens. A megalith carved out of one single rock, it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment.
The world famous Kailasanath Temple is a marvelous example of Rashtrakuta architecture. It represents Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. The temple has four parts- the central shrine, the entrance gate, the Nandi shrine and a group of five shrines surrounding the courtyard. A two-storeyed gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. The dimensions of the courtyard are 82 m x 46 m at the base. The courtyard is edged by a columned arcade three stories high containing enormous sculptures of different deities. Originally flying bridges of stone connected these galleries to central temple, which have collapsed.
Within the courtyard, there is a central shrine dedicated to Shiva, and an image of Nandi (the sacred bull). The central shrine housing the lingam features a flat-roofed mandapa supported by 16 pillars, and a Dravidian shikhara. It stands on a high plinth which is carved with sculptures of elephants and lions. The sanctum contains a huge monolithic linga over a huge yonipitha and the ceiling is decorated with an enormous lotus. The temple has many sculptural designs depicting events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. There is a scene in a relief of Ravana trying to shake Mount Kailasha and Shiva pressing Ravana into the cavern of the mountain with his feet. The tower of the temple is in linear tiers and is crowned by a dome. The whole tower is 28.5 m high.
Like all Shiva temples, Nandi sits on a porch in front of the central temple. The Nandi mandapa and main Shiva temple are about 7 m high, and built on two storeys. The lower story of the Nandi Mandapa is a solid structure, decorated with elaborate illustrative carvings. The base of the temple has been carved to suggest that elephants are holding the structure aloft. A rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandapa to the porch of the temple.
There are five detached shrines in the temple premises; these are dedicated to Ganesha, Rudra, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. There are two Dhwajasthambhas in the courtyard.
Timings: 6 AM - 6 PM on all days except on Tuesdays.