The Buddhist Caves :- The Buddhist caves (also called Vishvakarma caves) are the earliest of the Ellora Caves, dating from 500 to 750 AD. All except Cave 10 are viharas (monasteries), which were used for study, meditation, communal rituals, eating and sleeping.
The caves become steadily larger and more elaborately decorated as they progress to the north, which scholars have explained by the growing need to compete with Hinduism for patronage. The earliest Hindu caves at Ellora date from 600 AD, right in the middle of the Buddhist period.
Cave 1 is a plain vihara with eight small monastic cells are very little sculpture. It may have served as a granary for the larger halls.
Cave 2 is much more impressive. A large central chamber supported by 12 great square pillars is lined with sculptures of seated Buddhas. The doorway into the sanctuary is flanked by a muscular Padmapani, holding a lotus, and a bejewelled Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Both are accompanied by their consorts. Inside the shrine is a stately seated Buddha on a lion throne.
Caves 3 and 4 have a similar design as Cave 2, but are in poor condition.
Cave 5 is named the Maharwada Cave because it was used by local Mahar tribespeople as a shelter during the monsoon. It centers on a grand assembly hall stretching 36 meters long, which was probably used as a refectory. The two rows of carved benches support this theory. The shrine Buddha is seated on a stool with his right hand touching the ground in the Earth Witness gesture.
Cave 6 was carved in the 600s and is home to two of the finest sculptures at Ellora. On the left is the goddess Tara, with an intense but kind expression. Opposite her on the right is Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning, shown with her attribute, the peacock. A diligent student sits at his desk below. Significantly, Mahamayuri has a very similar Hindu counterpart, Saraswati.
The magnificent Cave 10 dates from the early 700s and is known as the Carpenter's Cave (Sutar Jhopadi) because of its imitation in stone of wooden beams on the ceiling. At the far end, a seated Buddha is enthroned in front of a large stone stupa.
Cave 11 is known as the Dho Tal or "Two Floors" cave, although a basement level discovered in 1876 brings the total floors to three. The top floor is a long assembly hall lined with columns. It has both a Buddha shrine and images of Durga and Ganesh, indicating the cave was converted into a Hindu temple after it was abandoned by the Buddhists.
Cave 12, known as Tin Tal ("Three Floors"), also has an impressive upper hall. The walls of the shrine room are lined with five large bodhisattvas and is flanked by seven Buddhas, representing each of his previous incarnations.
The Ellora Caves are an impressive complex of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples built between the 6th and 10th centuries AD near the ancient Indian village of Ellora. The caves have a slightly less dramatic setting than those at Ajanta,
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