Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ajanta and Ellora

Ajanta, a UNESCO world heritage site, is famous for its Buddhist rock-cut cave temples and monasteries with their extraordinary wall paintings. The temples are hollowed out of granite cliffs on the inner side of a 20-meter ravine in the Wagurna River valley, 105 km northeast of Aurangabad,in India. About 30 caves were excavated between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE.The fresco-type paintings that are the chief interest of Ajanta. These paintings depict colorful Buddhist legends and divinities with an exuberance and vitality that is unsurpassed in Indian art.

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The cave temples of Ellora, also a UNESCO world heritage site , are unique examples of rock cut architecture. Over five centuries, from 600 -1000 CE generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved chapels, monasteries, and temples from a 2 km long escarpment and decorated them with a profusion of sculptures of remarkable imagination and detail.
The masterpiece of Ellora is the Kailasa Temple, one of the most audacious feats of architecture ever conceived. Dedicated to Shiva, it is the world's largest monolithic sculpture, hewn from the rock by 7000 laborers over a 150 year period. It was created from a single piece of stone by first cutting three huge trenches into the rock of the Ellora cliff face and then 'releasing' the shape of the temple using hammers and chisels. Of overwhelming scale, it covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens, is 1-1/2 times as high, and entailed removing 200,000 tons of rock.

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