What astonishes visitors most deeply is that this spectacular temple complex was not made by piling ashlar but by carving directly into a rock mountain. Even though there are great stone buildings all over the world, especially in the Middle East and Europe, such a huge example, which was carved into a rock and is continuous to the ground, is never seen other than in India. Moreover its walls are entirely carved out with mythical scenes, Hindu gods, fanciful animals, and architectural elements, and its interior has formally carved columns and beams as if it were a stone masonry edifice.
It may not be officially declared as one of the best wonders of the world, but no one can deny the greatness of the Kailasa Temple in Ellora. Situated about 30 km from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the rock-cave temple of Ellora is the largest monolithic structure in the world. It is believed that the Kailash Temple at Ellora has striking similarities to the Virupaksha temple of northern Karnataka.
The Kailash Temple is the sixteenth cave, and it is one of the 32 cave temples and monasteries forming the magnanimous Ellora Caves. As per the historical records, it was built by the 8th century Rashtrakuta King Krishna I between the year 756 and 773 AD. Further, the non- Rashtrakuta style temples located close-by denotes the involvement of Pallava and Chalukya artists.
In all likelihood, it is believed that the architects of Virupaksha temple contributed in making the Kailash Temple. And given the architects already had the design and model ready, it would have taken lesser efforts to build a temple of such magnitude in the lifetime of one monarch.
The temple houses several intricately carved panels, depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the adventures of Krishna. Also worth admiring are the immense monolithic pillars that stand in the courtyard, flanking the entrance on both sides, and the southeastern gallery that has 10 giant and fabulous panels depicting the different avatars (incarnations of a deity) of Lord Vishnu.
After you’re done with the main enclosure, bypass the hordes of snack-munching day trippers to explore the temple’s many dank, bat urine–soaked corners with their numerous forgotten carvings. Afterwards, hike the sturdier path up to the south of the complex (past the scaffolding) that takes you to the top perimeter of the ‘cave’, from where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the entire temple complex.