Kailash temple, also known as the Kailasa temple or Kailasanatha temple, is the world’s largest monolithic structure.
It’s touted as one of the world’s greatest mysteries, with some believing it to be a product of alien technology due to its magnificent size, structure, and design.
For most archaeologists and modern-day engineers, the Kailash temple is an architectural marvel and a representation of olden-day manpower and skilled dedication.
In this article, we will unearth some interesting facts about the Kailash temple in Ellora, along with its history. Be prepared for some jaw-dropping facts and discoveries.
Check out this post for more historical places in India.
Where Is Kailash Temple?
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Kailash Temple is situated in the Charanandri hills of western India, 30km from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
The temple is a part of the Ellora caves, one of the largest rock-cut religious cave complexes in the world. These caves have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The magnificent Ellora caves comprise 34 rock-cut temples and monasteries covering more than 2km of land. These temples and monasteries were dug, carved out, and sculpted side by side in the face of a high basalt cliff. They are divided into three sections to serve three different religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
The Kailash temple is the 16th temple in Ellora’s chain of 34 treasured monuments.
Kailash Temple History
The temple shares some similarities with the Virupaksha temple located in Hampi, northern Karnataka.
Many people believe that the Virupaksha temple’s architects were probably also involved in creating the magnificent Kailash temple due to these similarities.
Who Built the Kailashnath Temple in Ellora?
As per historical records, the Kailash temple was built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty between 756 and 773 AD.
Legend has it that a Hindu King called for the temple to be built after he prayed to Lord Shiva to save his wife from a sickness. This Hindu King is believed to be King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. However, there is no royal dedicatory inscription on the temple to confirm this.
Kailasa Temple Mystery – Interesting Facts
Even though it was built more than 1200 years ago, the Kailash temple still has many scientists, archaeologists, modern-day engineers, and even ordinary people baffled and intrigued today.
Let’s have a look at these mind-boggling facts.
1. Made For Lord Shiva
Aurangabad’s Kailash temple represents Mount Kailash (or Mount Kailasa), the Himalayan home of Lord Shiva. The intention when designing the temple was to mimic Lord Shiva’s mystical abode to honour him.
2. Largest Monolithic Structure
It is the largest temple at Ellora caves and the world’s largest monolithic structure, measuring approximately 33 meters wide and 50 meters long. The temple is a crucial feature of India’s rock-cut architecture.
Its size and design techniques represent quality craft which modern scientists and engineers have said is impossible to recreate today despite access to advanced technology and machinery.
3. One Big Rock
The temple is a multi-storeyed structure carved from a single, gigantic basalt-rock face.
It’s mind-boggling to think that an entire temple, one of the largest in the world, was made from just one gigantic rock. No additional rock piece or stone blocks were added to its structure or used for sculpting. This meant that artisans had to get the design right in their first attempt as no additional rock piece could be used to fix a sculpting or building error.
4. Cut Top to Bottom
Construction for the Kailash temple began from the head of the cliff at Ellora caves.
Artisans flawlessly chiselled the tough volcanic rock in a vertical direction, starting from the top and excavating their way down to dig three massive trenches. The Kailash temple is the only temple in the world that is carved from top to bottom. This technique is called “cut-out”.
All other rock-cut structures in the world are made by cutting the rock or mountain from the front and then carving it; this is called the “cut-in” technique.
Carvers sculpted the rock at every step while descending, giving form to the main temple, a tower over the sanctum, free-standing pillars (mainly stationed at the entrance), religious statues and individual shrines.
No wonder the temple is considered an innovative structure and an engineering miracle.
5. Where Did the Rock Go?
To further add to the temple’s marvellous construction process, about 200,000 tonnes of rock was removed to give the temple its shape. Some say 400,000 tonnes of rock was removed.
Back then, none of the advanced machines of today existed. This meant that artisans dug and sculpted the rock with a hammer and chisel alone and hauled the tonnes of rock away with handmade equipment.
Archaeologists believe it would have taken more than 100 years to take out 200,000 tonnes of rock. But in reality, the temple’s construction took about 18 years.
Moreover, all the evacuated rock was never found in or around the temple’s site. Scientists wonder if the stone was dumped or used somewhere else. And if it was used somewhere else, then where?
6. Inside the Temple
The Kailash temple is a feast for the eyes and will leave you in awe with its endless hand-sculptured designs.
The temple houses several carved panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Giant monolithic statues and pillars stand in its U-shaped courtyard.
The south-eastern gallery has huge panels depicting different avatars of Lord Vishnu. Religious motifs are intricately carved into the stone of the temple’s walls and ceilings.
7. Aurangzeb’s Plan
Emperor Aurangzeb planned to tear the temple to the ground during his rule in 1680.
He hired 100 labourers to complete this task for him. They spent three years trying to destroy the temple but only managed to damage some of the sculptures and idols. The evidence of this damage is still visible today.
Visit the Kailashnath Temple in Ellora
When you stand in the shadows of the towering temple and statues in the courtyard, imagine the work it took to create such a structure. Imagine all of the artisans who chiselled the rock and excavated their way down bit by bit every day, for years, to give rise to this spectacular monument.
After exploring the cave’s interior, hike the path heading to the south of the complex. This will take you to the top perimeter of the “cave”. From here, you’ll have a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the entire temple complex.
While in India, don’t miss the Guruvayur temple located in Kerala.