Even if I walked into the Ajanta caves the previous day the remarkable workmanship that I found in the Ellora caves surpassed any imagination. Built later than the Ajanta caves, between 600-1000 AD, the Ellora is a collection of caves lined along 2km of cliff that belong to three religious, Buddhism, Hindu and Jain.
While the Buddhist caves occupies the right side of the mountain they are also from the period of Buddhist decline in India, 7th to 8th century. Some of them are impressive like the one that is built on two floors with chamber music on top that has a phenomenal acoustic. Others are built on three floors looking like a parking place from outside but extremely embellished inside.
The most spectacular cave is Kailash Monastery, located right in the middle of the complex, a dugout monastery where the builders had to remove 220000 tons of rocks but carefully leaving on site the rock needed for construction. Its dimension are impressive compared with any other monastery, its size being better grasped if watched from the top of the mountain. The monastery has in its middle a large temple, decorated with lions on its roof, that a representation of Kailash mountain, the holiest of the Himalaya peaks, revered in four religions, Buddhism, Shaivism, Jain and Bon.
Just a walk away from Ellora is Grishneshwar, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana.The temple is an important pilgrimage place in Shaivism, the tradition that revers Lord Shiva. Like all the pilgrimage temples, the place is holy and no electronics are allowed inside. So, no pictures… The knack of the temple is in order to enter the sacred area you have to take your shirt off. Inside the atmosphere is ecstatic and you could hear from afar the screams and chants address to the God. In the middle of the sacred area is a shiva-linga on which water is dripping from a top vessel. Bare chested pilgrims place their offer and touching with their heads the Linga, the symbol of Shiva, to be blessed by the holy dripping water. All is happening in the loud singing of the surrounding members, all bare-chested and dressed in white pants. An almost wall size mirror placed to show what is going on at the Shiva Linga presents a fabulous medieval tableau that you would expect to see only as an old painting hanging in a museum.