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Ellora Temple Complex

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Aurangabad, India.

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The complex of thirty-four temples at Ellora in Maharashtra state represents the greatest example of cave-cut architecture in the world. Built during the Gupta period of the 6th to 8th centuries AD, the caves were constructed by carving into a mountain side and removing thousands of tons of rock, leaving only the temple structures behind. At Ellora, there 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain temples. The construction and use of these temples by three different religions is a wonderful indication of the extraordinary spiritual maturity of ancient India.

In the cave temple of Sita-ki-Nahani, Shiva is shown as Andakasuramardana, killing a blind demon. The goddess Kali crouches below to catch the demon's blood in a bowl. While showing significant motion, this particular Shiva form is not, however, a representation of dancing. During his divine dancing, Shiva never has fangs or a fearsome expression, but displays a radiant calm. Mythologically Shiva is regarded as the great master of dance and all the 108 modes of dancing have come from him. Shiva's dancing manifests the Panchakryta or five acts of god: creation, preservation, destruction, embodiment and release. It is said that he dances every evening in order to relieve the sufferings of creatures and entertain the gods and goddesses who gather upon Mt. Kailash. Shiva is believed to have manifested in the Nataraja dancing form at the celebrated pilgrimage shrine of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Photo: Shiva, cave number 29, Ellora

Sacred Sites on the Ellora Temple Complex.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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