Ellora is located in the region of Maharashtra not far from the city of Aurangabad. This majestic site is full of many different temples, all completely carve out of the rock and dedicated to various different religions of India. Some are Hindu, some are Jainist and others Buddhist, but they are all built next to each other, demonstrating the religious harmony that must have taken place under the Rashtrakuta dynasty, the family responsible for having constructed such a wonderful site. There are 34 temples in total and they date back between the 5th and 7th centuries.
Today, Ellora is a major pilgrimage site for Indian people, and the bright colours of the ladies' saris are a cheerful contrast to the stone. Enjoying a mango juice in the shade of a banyan tree, being careful not to get into any of the monkeys' way, I waited for the sun to move behind the major temple, a most outstanding monument, completely carved out of the rock and built from top to bottom, to get the perfect light. Inside, the story of Ramaya can be read in the carvings on the rock. Huge elephants line the outskirts of this incredibly enormous site. Wondering inside makes you feel small, especially when reaching the back, looking up at the tall cliff. Even more exciting is to walk up along its borders to admire it from the top. People are small colourful dots wondering around in awe and everything is perfectly symmetrical from start to finish. One may wonder how they managed to carve such an enormous temple in perfect symmetry. I later discovered that water was used as a measure so that each side was carved on the same level of the other one. What is amazing is how they got so much water to flood the temple in the first place! Absolutely outstanding!
Although the journey to reach this wonderful location is quite a long one from Mumbai, it is possible to reach it easily from Aurangabad, which also deserves a visit for the interesting Bibi Ka Maqbara, a mausoleum bearing a great resemblance to the Taj Mahal. One must definitely take the time to make the journey up to Ellora and must also visit Ajanta, another sensational World Heritage site, which is not far from Ellora.
Like at Ajanta, there are many other smaller temples carved out of rock with wonderful facades and incredible interior decorations. I must admit, I was completely in awe with this location and could not stop clicking away at every detail, statues, rooms and carvings I came across. Buddhas, elephants, dancing figures, flowers, everything was beautifully executed and decorated. This is definitely a must see for anyone visiting India.
In the surrounding area it is also possible to see many nomad campsites and one often comes across caravans of oxen towed wagons moving from one site to the next. I stopped to photograph a nomad camp site and was greeted with a warm welcome and lots of smiles, everyone was really friendly and happy to have their picture taken. I must admit, photographing India and Indians is a real pleasure and I can't wait to go back!!!