Ellora Caves

Useful Information

Carpenter's cave (Buddhist Cave 10), Ellora Caves, India. Public Domain.
The Kailash temple, Ellora Caves, India. Public Domain.
Location: About 30 km north of Aurangabad, Northern Maharashtra. Near the ancient trade route between Ujjian in Madhya Pradesh and the west coast. One hour drive from Aurangabad, 45 min by air or eight hours by train from Bombay.
Open: All year Mon, Wed-Sun 9-17:30 or sunset, whichever is earlier.
Fee: Entry to Ellora is free except for the Kailasa Temple. Foreigner US$ 10, Indian Rs 10.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church SubterraneaMonolithic Church
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Carmel Berkson (1992): Ellora / Concept And Style, 390 pp hundreds of photos, HB DW VG.
This is a modern interpretation of the exotic cave carvings.
R Parimoo et al (1988): Ellora Caves, Sculpture and Architecture, 453pp, 174 plates HB
Many books on Ellora are just descriptive account but this volume tends to look further into the paintings. The religious significance was discussed by a panel of experts who's judgement now appears in print.
K V Soundara Rajan (1988): The Ellora Monoliths, Rashtrakuta Architecture in the Deccan xii + 222 pp 64 plates 6 figs HB DW
A good descriptive account that also looks at the significance of the paintings.
K V Soundara Rajan (1981): Cave Temples Of The Deccan, 349 pp 145 plates. HB
This work presents to the world of scholars, a conspectus of the major and minor creations of cave art in the Deccan, between the Natmada and north Pennar rivers and from the Arabian coast to the Bay of Bengal during the 5th and 10th C AD.
Address: Ellora Caves.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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600-800 Buddhist caves excavated.
900 Hindu caves excavated.
800-1000 Jain caves excavated.
UNESCO World Heritage site.


The Ajanta Caves are noted for their paintings and, as they are much older, it makes sense to visit them first. Chronologically The Ellora Caves start where the Ajanta Caves finish. It is thought that the builders of Ajanta moved to Ellora when they suddenly ceased construction at Ajanta. In all there are 34 caves at Ellora, 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain. Most of the Buddhist caves are viharas or monasteries, except for No 10 the Viswakarma or 'carpenter's cave' which is a chaitya or temple cave. The cave takes its name from the ribs carved into the roof which look like wooden beams. A finely carved horseshoe shaped window lets light in and a huge seated Buddha stands before a 9 m high stupa.

The Hindu Caves are notable for their size. Cave No 16 or the mighty Kailasa Temple is the central attraction at Ellora. It consists of a huge courtyard, 81 m long by 47 m wide and 33 m high fronted by two massive stone elephants. It is estimated that 200,000 tons of rock were excavated to produce this overwhelming site.

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.

Ellora Caves Gallery