Regarded as the world heritage site since 1983, the rock cut cave shrines of Ellora can be categorized into three faiths - Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jain - and belong to a period ranging from 5th to 13th centuries AD. Buddhist Caves (1 to 12) belong to 5th to 7th centuries AD and mostly belong to the Mahayana sects. Caves 5, 10 and 12 are the most notable ones, out of which Cave 10 is an ornate chaitya-hall known as 'Visvakarma' and Cave 5 is the largest vihara. Brahmanical caves (13 to 29) are dedicated mostly to Lord Shiva. Cave 16 or Kaila temple is the most beautiful, proportionate structure with elaborate workmanship, rich architectural and sculpture. The masterpiece of this temple is the grand sculpture of Ravana in an attempt to lift Mount Kailasa to take it to his homeland. Jain Caves (30 to 34) are large, well proportioned and elegantly oramented and mark the last phase of construction here. Thus, these caves also symbolize the religious tolerance in India.
Ellora caves are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill, 30 km from
Aurangabad and are not very far from Ajanta caves. The finest
cave-temple architecture in India, they boast of ornate facades and
interiors. Buddhist caves occupy the southern portion of the complex
while 17 Hindu caves are in the centre and 5 Jain caves are in the
northern portions. The serene Buddha caves depict Buddha in diverse ways
and his huge statues are seated on Lion and Lotus thrones. Flanked by
images of snakes, these caves have richly carved roofs and pillars.
Caves 6 and 10 depict harmonious mingling of Buddhist and Hindu faiths.
It is said that the Kailasa temple carved out of a monolith, took over a
century to finish. Cave 32 is quite elegantly decorated with fine
carvings of a lotus flower on the roof and a yakshi on a lion under a
mango tree. One can see the sculptures of Parasnath, Tirthankaras and a
seated figure of Mahavira in these caves.