Ellora – Cave 15, The Dasavatara

DSC05002To this cave, there is a very considerable ascent up the rock by means of steps. Like the last two Buddhist caves, the whole court had been hewn out of the solid rock, leaving a curtain wall across in front of it, and a sacrificial hall in the middle, with a number of small shrines and a water cistern in the surrounding walls. This hall has had a porch to the left supported by two square pillars in front of a perforated window, over which is a long Sanskrit inscription too much DSC05008obliterated for translation.  This goes fourteen long lines and twenty nine and a half verses. It contains the genealogy of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which ruled over the Deccan from 600 A.D till the end of the tenth Century. Dantidurga is mentioned at the end, which clearly points that either the temples was completely finished or at least in an advanced stage of construction when Dantidurga visited Ellora. The inscDSC05019ription breaks off at the thirtieth verse and has never been finished.

The entrance faces the cave to the back, and inside it has four pillars on a raised platform in the floor. In the back aisle is a single round fire pit. The outer walls have a good deal of carving, and the flat roof is surmounted outside by lions at the corners and fat human figures between along the edges.

The cave is of two stories, the lower being a few feet above the level of the court, and supported by fourteen square pillars and measuring 95 feet in length. In the left end of the front aisDSC05030le, the stair ascends, and is lighted by a window at the landing, where it turns to the right. On the wall of this landing are eleven compartments, each about two feet in height, with bas-reliefs.

Another flight of steps leads to the end of the front aisle of the great hall above, 95 feet wide and 110 feet deep inclusive of the vestibule of the shrine, supported by 44 square columns, including the two in frontDSC05039 of the vestibule. Those in front are richly carved with floral ornamentations, in which dwarfs, snakes etc. are introduced. Outside at the end of the balcony, is a four armed Rudra in a state of frantic excitement, but a leg and one of the arms are broken off. Like in the last cave, the sculptures on the side are mostly Vaishnava and, and on the other entirely Saiva.

Beginning from the right side with the Saiva sculptures – the first from the door is Mahadeva or Bhairava in his terrible DSC05036form. The gigantic figure lounges forward holding up his elephant hide, with a necklace of skulls depending below is loins. Round him a cobra is knotted; his open mouth showing his large teeth, while with his trisula he has transfixed one victim. To add to the elements of horror, Kali, gaunt and grim, stretches her skeleton length below, with huge mouth, having a crooked knife in her right hand, and stretching out the other with a bowl as if wanting a share of the victim’s blood.

The secoDSC05026nd chapel contains Siva dancing the tandava. The third contains an altar probably for Bhavani but never finished; fourth is Siva and Parvati playing the dice game, with Nandi and the ganas below; fifth contains the marriage scene of Siva and Parvati, in which, contrary to the usual representations, she is at his left side. Brahma with his triple face performs the priestly functions, while various gods on their vehicles are witnesses to the scene. The sixth chapel contains a usual representation of Ravana lifting the Kailasa mountain. DSC05032

On the back wall, we have Siva springing out of the linga to protect his worshipper Markandeya, whom Yama, has noosed and about to drag off to his dark abode. The second has Siva and Parvati. We now come to the ante-chamber or vestibule of the shrine. On the left end of it is a huge Ganapati. On the floor at the back corner are lions, carved with considDSC05033erable spirit. Inside the sanctum is a Siva Linga which seems to have been recently installed (as when this cave was discovered, the pedestal was empty). To the right of the shrine door is Lakshmi, flanked by four elephants pouring water upon her.

In the left side of the back wall is Siva inside a linga with flames issuing from the sides of it. Vishnu in the Varaha (boar) form is digging down to see if he can reach the base of the great linga; having failed to do so is shown worshipping. On the other side Brahma is also shown worshipping it. In this panel, Siva is shown superior to the others in the triad. Second panel shows Siva, having seized the horses of the DSC05029Sun, made the four Vedas his horses, and Brahma his charioteer.

We now come to the South wall, and starting from the front we first have Vishnu, six armed, his left foot on a dwarf holding up the hill Govardhan to protect his people. Second, Vishnu resting on Sesha, the great serpent with a human head and five hoods; while out of Vishnu’s navel DSC05034springs a lotus on which Brahma is seated. Lakshmi rubs her lord’s feet and seven figures are represented below. Third, Vishnu riding Garuda; Fourth, an altar protected by a high screen in front. Fifth, Varaha holding the Prithvi on his hand, with three other snake figures below. Sixth is Vishnu in the incarnation of Vamana turning into a giant presses his foot over the head of the demon King Bali. Next is Narasimha, or the man lion form of Vishnu, wrestling with his enemy who looks defeated before the four armed Vishnu.

Now it is time to move towards the masterpiece in Ellora, Cave 16 also know as the Kailas Temple.

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