Indian architecture and art dates back to ancient times and is one of the major sources of pride of the country. Ancient Indian kings appointed sculptures to create some of the world’s most beautiful stone crafted temples. Every year a large number of tourists visit these beautiful temples to enjoy and appreciate the magnificent architecture that meets the eyes.
There are quite a few such temples spread across the subcontinent, each of them belonging to a different time period, but all of them equally beautifully constructed. Following are nine such examples of splendid rock-cut temples in India:
Here Are 9 Rock-Cut Temples in India
- Barabar Caves
- Varaha Cave Temple
- Pandavleni Caves
- Badami Caves
- Kanheri Caves
- Belum Caves
- Udaygiri Caves
- Ajanta and Ellora Caves
- Elephanta Caves
1. Barabar Caves
We start off our list with the Barabar caves, which are located in the Barabar hills of Andhra Pradesh. Dating back to as early as 200 B.C, the rock cut temple was constructed during the reign of emperor Ashoka. The entire temple consists of four different caves, all cut out from a single large rock. The caves are named as Lomas Rishi, Karan chaupar, Sudama and Viswa Zhopri. The temples where a prayer hall for Buddhist monks. The entire set of caves has numerous beautiful rock cut architecture and inscriptions.
2. Varaha Cave Temple
This temple is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, at Kanchipuram. The temple dates back to the 7th century and is the pride of the city of Mahabalipuram. The temple houses a stunning sculpture if one of Lord Vishnu’s forms, known as Varah. Tourists are sure to be awestruck by the detailing of engravings on the temple walls and sculptures. Another beautiful feature of the temple is the Mandappa at its entrance, which is supported by two stone cut and engraved pillars.
3. Pandavleni Caves
A religious center for ancient Buddhists, the Pandavleni caves near Basil in Maharashtra is one of the better example of religious sites of Buddhism in India. Estimated to have been created around 2nd century B.C, this set of 24 stone cut temple caves consists of Buddhist monasteries and a Buddhist shrine. Adorned with beautiful stone cut ladders along with engravings, the caves are a architectural marvel to behold. The beautiful sculptures inside the temple premises are also worth visiting.
4. Badami Caves
Yet another noteworthy site for rock cut architecture in southern India is the Badami caves located in Karnataka. Cut out from a sandstone cliff face, the Badami caves consists of four cave temples dedicated to the deities of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Dated back to the era of Chanakya, around 6th to 7th century, the temples are an example of the magnificent architecture that flourished during this period. The entrance of the caves are known as the mukho Mandappa, and they are supported by magnificent pillars with beautiful engravings and architectural carvings on them, that are sure to attract the eyes of every tourist visiting.
5. Kanheri Caves
The Kanheri caves are located at Mumbai and are one of the finest examples of rock cut architecture in India. One of the major centres for Buddhist religion, the temple dates back to a period of construction ranging from 1st century B.C to 10th century A.D. the temples are cut out from a volcanic rock and houses some of the most beautiful sculptures of Lord Buddha. The prayer halls and stupas exude serenity, and one is sure to deke at peace walking into the premises.
6. Belum Caves
The Belum caves holds the distinction of being the second largest cave of India and is located at Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. One of the distinctive feature sir these caves is the fact that they are said to have been created by the action of an underground river, which gradually eroded and shapes the stones into the caves. The caves were the centres for prayers for Buddhists and Jains. It is estimated that the Belum caves date back to as early as 4800 B.C , making it one of the oldest caves in India. The natural deposition of stalactites and stalagmites are worth viewing.
7. Udaygiri Caves
Located in Orissa near Bhubaneswar, the Udaygiri caves are cut out from the rocks of the Udayagiri hills. Consisting of a total of 18 caves combined with the 15 in the adjacent Khandagiri hills, it houses some of the most executed carved arches and engravings on the cave walls. These engravings are used for depicting the events happening during that time, in various fields such as arts, commerce and nature.
8. Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Perhaps the most historically and architecturally significant set of rock cut temples in India, the Ajanta and Ellora caves are located at Aurangabad and houses a total of 34 rock hewn monasteries. Spread across an area of 2 kilometres, the caves are carved out from the volcanic rocks. Estimated to have been built around 6th-10th century, these caves were home to different religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The campus also houses the cave temple of Lord Shiva, which holds the significance of being the World’s largest monolithic cave. It has beautiful sculpture of Lord Shiva and Nandi, and magnificent pillars with engravings.
9. Elephanta Caves
The Elephanta caves located at Mumbai, are dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the most famous tourist spots in India. It is located at an island which is 2km from the shore and consists of a combination of caves devoted to Hindu gods along with a few Buddhist stupas. Dating back to 5th to 9th century, the caves have engravings and sculptures that are detailed and worth marvelling. Currently holding the distinction of being a UNESCO world heritage site, the Elephanta caves are a definite must in the itinerary of any tourist visiting Mumbai.
Indian architecture has always been worth marvelling, and it shines none brighter than in the rock cut temples which are painstakingly engraved in detailings about the different deities as well as happenings of everyday life.
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