The Kailasa temple in India is one of the country’s largest and greatest monuments. The jaw-dropping site was, believe it or not, carved out of a single piece of rock. Located at the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India, the temple has baffled researchers for centuries. It currently holds the record for the world’s largest monolithic structure and without doubt one of the most breathtaking sites on the planet.
It is often overlooked, or at least overshadowed by sites such as the Giza pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge of England, the Mexican Pyramid of the Sun, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey and so on, but this is certainly one of humanity’s greatest architectural achievements.
Also known as the Kailasanatha temple, it was designed to resemble Mount Kailash, the home of the Hindu god Shiva. Not only is it unique because of its monolithic structure, the temple also features elaborate architectural and sculptural influences.
The Kailasa temple is one of the 34 cave temples and monasteries that form the Ellora Caves. The truth is, nobody really understands how this particular temple was built as it clearly exhibits a far more advanced technology than what we are told the people of India had between the 5th and 10th centuries. It was cut out of solid basalt rock, and the result was this incredible structure that totally boggles the mind.
The temple is thought to have been built during the reign of Krishna I, a ruler of the Rashtrakuta Empire in the 8th century AD and it shows influences from Pallava and Chalukya architecture.
Historians believe it took 18 years to build the temple.
Unlike other temples, the Kailasa temple was excavated downward, making it even more unique. During the excavation, 200,000 to 500,000 tons of solid rock were excavated out of the vertical cliff. But the mysterious part that baffled several researchers. Where did the basalt stones went? It seems to have vanished without a trace along with the tools used to build it.
According to those who have studied the temple, the builders probably started at the top and work downwards carving out one of the most fascinating ancient temple on earth. Since it was a bedrock excavation, there was zero room for error and upon inspection no errors were actually made. This is sophistication to the highest order. But what did the builders used to create it? How did they manage to do it? And how did this tremendously sophisticated knowledge been lost?
A medieval legend from the Marathi people of Maharashtra tells an interesting story. According to the legend, the king was very ill at the time, and his queen prayed to Shiva to cure him. In return, the queen promised to build a temple in his honor and to fast until the construction was done. The god Shiva granted the queen’s wish and construction commenced.
An architect named Kokasa promised the queen he could build the temple in one week, so the queen wouldn’t have to fast for so long and risk her health. Kokasa led the construction, which began from the top and carved the massive stone downward. The one huge stone became a magical underground place filled with various sculptures.
In the base of the temple are carved and painted scenes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
In the main courtyard, there is a monument to Nandi, Shiva’s bull. There are also elephant sculptures at the base of the temple that make it look like they are holding up the whole structure.
There are also a few detached shrines around the temple, three of which are dedicated to Yamuna, Saraswati, and Ganga, the river goddesses from the Hindu mythology.
The Kailasa temple is definitely something you need to add to your list of must-see places.
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