Mauryan Indian Art Ellora and Elephanta Caves

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  • Important cave site located in Aurangabad District is Ellora.
  • It is located a hundred kilometres from Ajanta and has thirty-two Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jain caves.
  • A unique art-historical site in the country as it has monasteries associated with the three religions dating from the fifth century CE onwards to the eleventh century CE.
  • Also unique in terms of stylistic eclecticism, i.e.. , confluence of many styles at one place.
  • The caves of Ellora and Aurangabad show the ongoing differences between the two religions — Buddhism and Brahmanical.
  • There are twelve Buddhist caves having many images belonging to Vajrayana Buddhism like Tara, Mahamayuri, Akshobhya, Avalokiteshvara, Maitrya, Amitabha, etc.
  • Buddhist caves are big in size and are of single, double and triple storeys.
  • Ajanta also has excavated double-storeyed caves but at Ellora, the triple storey is a unique achievement.
  • All the caves were plastered and painted but nothing visible is left.
  • The shrine Buddha images are big in size; they are generally guarded by the images of Padmapani and Vajrapani.
Shrine of Buddha
  • Cave No. 12, which is a triple-storey excavation, has images of Tara, Avalokiteshvara, Manushi Buddhas and the images of Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghsiddhi, Vajrasatva and Vajraraja.
  • The only double-storey cave of the Brahmanical faith is Cave No. 14.
  • Pillar designs grow from the Buddhist caves and when they reach the Jain caves belonging to the ninth century CE, they become very ornate and the decorative forms gain heavy protrusion.
  • The Brahmanical cave Nos. 13 – 28 have many sculptures.
  • Many caves are dedicated to Shaivism, but the images of both Shiva and Vishnu and their various Among the Shaivite themes, Ravana shaking Mount Kailash, Andhakasurvadha, and Kalyanasundara are profusely depicted whereas among the Vaishnavite themes, the different avatars of Vishnu are depicted.
  • The sculptures at Ellora are monumental, and have protruding volume that create deep recession in the picture space.
  • Various guilds at Ellora came from different places like Vidarbha, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and carved the sculptures. The most diverse site in India in terms of the sculptural styles.
  • Cave No. 16 is known as Kailash leni.
  • A rock-cut temple has been carved out of a single rock, a unique achievement of the artisans, which will be discussed in the next chapter.
  • Among the important Shaivite caves are Cave No. 29 and Cave No. 21.
  • The plan of Cave No. 29 is almost like that of the main cave at Elephanta.
  • The sculptural quality of Cave Nos. 29, 21,17, 14 and 16 is amazing for its monumentality and vigorous movements in the picture space.

Elephanta Caves and Other Sites

  • Located near Mumbai, were originally a Buddhist site which was later dominated by the Shaivite faith.
Elephanta Caves and Other Sites
  • It is contemporary with Ellora, and its sculptures show slenderness in the body, with stark light and dark effects.
  • The other noteworthy cave site is Bagh located near Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The tradition of rock-cut caves continued in the Deccan and they are found not only in Maharashtra but also in Karnataka, mainly at Badami and Aiholi, executed under the patronage of the Chalukyas; in Andhra Pradesh in the area of Vijayawada; and in Tamil Nadu, mainly at Mahabalipuram, under the patronage of the Pallavas. The post-sixth-century development of art history in the country depended more on political patronage than the collective public patronage of the early historic periods.
  • Mention may also be made of the terracotta figurines that are found at many places all over the country.
  • Show a parallel tradition with the religious lithic sculptures as well as the independent local tradition.
  • Many terracotta figures of various sizes are found which show their popularity.
  • They are toys, religious figurines as well as figurines made for healing purposes as part of the belief systems.