An architectural masterpiece going back to the 8th century

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Carved out of a single block of rock, the Kailasanâtha temple, or Kailasha temple, is considered to be one of the most impressive ancient temples carved out of the rock. About 400,000 tons of rock would have been cleared for its construction.

A SACRED PLACE CARVED OUT OF THE ROCK

This sublime monument measuring 84 m long and 47 m wide pays homage to the gods Shiva and Vishnu, and attracts many tourists every year. It is an integral part of the religious complex known as “Ellora”, a group of caves and temples dug into the cliff, some of which are on several levels.

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Located in the west of Maharashtra, these caves are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are believed to have been built, or rather excavated, around the 8th century. They extend over more than two kilometres, transforming the place into a veritable maze straight out of a cliff.

Because of its imposing size, unique architecture and the beauty of its decorations, the Kailasa temple remains the best known monument of the complex. Literally torn from the rocks, the layout of the temple is both prodigious and extremely confusing.

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A BEWILDERING ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECE

However, it is difficult to know precisely who is at the origin of the Kailasa temple. In the absence of written records, scholars have long attributed its construction to King Krishna I of Rachtrakuta, who ruled between 756 and 773 CE.

Many legends and myths circulate about this architectural marvel, and even how it was built is still debated today. Indeed, according to archaeologists, more than 400,000 tons of rock would have been cleared for its construction, which means that the temple could not have been built in several years, but in several centuries.

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The temple is still considered one of the jewels of the monolithic style; its architectural complexity, from a time when men had limited knowledge of mathematics and architecture, is particularly impressive.

With its sculptures on more than one level, its immense U-shaped courtyard lined with columns, its perfectly mastered western orientation, and its complex balconies and staircases, it is one of the most visited monuments in India, and the interpretation of its rich iconography is still today the subject of in-depth study.

Kevin Williams
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