Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut

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Ellora Jain caves are four cave temples dated between 800 – 1000 AD. And considered the newest as Yadavas of Deogiri, they have funded the construction of the Jain cave temples—a religion with ‘self-help’ and non-violence at its core. Caves 30-34 are north of the area, which must be covered on foot. These caves are more petite and newer than the rest, built in the 9th and 10th centuries by the Digambara sect.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Jain Caves

The Jainist religious philosophies are explained throughout the caves with intricate artworks, bold statues, and gorgeous, detailed carvings. Self-discipline and avoidance of indulgence may be a vital part of the Jain lifestyle, but their caves are still exquisite!

Cave 30

This cave is referred to as “Chota Kailash.” Though incomplete, the architecture and style of this cave closely resemble that of Cave 16. The cave is divided into two parts. The entrance flanks three huge rock-hewn images of Mahavira on one side and a sculpture of Goddess Chakreshvari seated on her Vahana Garuda on the other. The entrance to the front porch has chiselled-out dancing figures on its walls. These dancing figures are assumed to be influenced by Nataraja– Dancing Shiva. A lotus medallion on the ceiling stares down upon the visitors. Dwarapalas guard the doorway.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Chota Kailash

Inside the hypostyle hall, the walls are embellished by impressions of seated and standing Jinas, including Parsvanath– the 23rd Tirthankara. Seated Mahavira in the company of Tirthankaras, Jinas and many other flying celestials rule the main shrine. 

Main Shrine

There is a right wing of this cave on the walls of which several stories from Jain mythology are engraved. Tales of Bahubali, Parsvanath, and Ambika are some of them. The triple-layered lotus medallion is most noticeable on the cave temple’s interior ceiling and exterior roof.

Cave 30

It needs to be more impressive and complete. From the facade, it seemed utterly tucked under a cliff. It is a small cave with carvings of seated Jinas and Parsvanath on its walls.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Cave 31

Cave 31 (Indra Sabha)

The architecture and design of this cave felt complex to a layman’s mind like mine.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Facade of Indra Sabha

To the right of the cave’s main entrance was another cave, which I assume is a part of cave 32. The ceiling of the cave flaunts a much-eroded lotus medallion. On the left wall of the interiors of this cave is a well-sculpted story portraying “Kamatha’s attack on Parsvanath”. Nagins are seen here protecting Parsvanath with their hood. On the opposite panel, “Penance of Bahubali” is depicted on the right wall.

Lotus Medallion

On the left rear wall, Sarvanubhuti sits upon his mount, the elephant, with one leg upon a long-stemmed lotus. Four parrots eat fruits from the tree shading Sarvanubhuti. On the right rear wall, Ambika sits upon her lion mount, with one leg upon a lotus flower. On her lap is a child, and she is under the shade of the mango tree. Between the left and right rear wall is the shrine dedicated to Mahavira.


On entering the main gateway to cave 32, a strikingly designed pavilion housing a Chaumukha with seated Tirthankaras seeks our attention. The exterior walls of the pavilion have been painstakingly carved with delicate designs.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut

A pillar and a giant elephant adorn the central courtyard. This cave had quite a few similarities to caves 16.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut

The two shrines to the left of the pavilion are dedicated to Mahavira, and one is dedicated to a seated Jina. The two shrines to the right of the pavilion are dedicated to seated Jinas. Almost all the shrines are flanked by detailed sculptures of Bahubali, Ambika, Sarvanubhuti and Kamatha’s attack on Parsvanath.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut

A seated Tirthankara occupies the main shrine on the ground floor of the cave. The hall is comparatively simple, with little decoration.The staircase which took us to the second storey was extremely steep. People suffering from vertigo may feel a minor sting of fear while climbing down. 

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut

Life-sized sculptures of characters of the Jain pantheon adorned the hall. The first one we noticed was the massive idol of Sarvanabhuti.


On the opposite end of this corridor is Ambika, seated on her mount lion. The face of the lion is missing, though.


Stunning giant sculptures of seated Tirthankaras beautify the entire hall. The pillars had intricate motifs all over them. A seated Jina dominates the shrine. On the left and right panels of the door to the shrine are two huge models of Parsvanath and Bahubali.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Second storey Courtyard

The uniqueness of this cave lies in its murals. The remains of murals and paintings on the ceilings and walls of this cave are eye-catching. Even a non-specialist could easily spot them!


There are two more shrines on this floor to the left and right of the main hall. These shrines and the halls attached to them can be reached via a passage in the main hall of the second storey. 

Pillar Carvings

These side shrines and attached halls bear similarities with usual Jain sculptures. Still, the paintings on the rock faces are better preserved here than in any other cave of Ellora. 

Cave 33 (Jagannath Sabha)

Moreover, Jain Cave is highly underrated in most cheap guidebooks. Furthermore, this cave is two-storey, with extremely well-detailed artistry. Figures of seated Tirthankaras, Parsvanath, Bahubali, Ambika and Sarvanubhuti dominate the lower level, and paintings in comparatively good condition are found across its upper level.

Ellora Jain Caves: A Classical Masterpiece in rock cut
Jagganath Sabha Facade

However, the only drawback is that since the inside of the cave is very dark, photographic possibilities are limited.


Cave 34

Nevertheless, the pillar details of this cave make it unique. Sculptures of Jain deities are engraved all around its walls.

Cave 34

Evidence of active worship has also been found in this cave, which reveals that Ellora Jain Caves. I gaze in awe at once places where our ancestors went about their everyday lives.

How to Reach

By Air

The city has the nearest Aurangabad Airport, which is 10 km from the city centre. A cab or Auto can be hired from the airport to reach the Ellora Jain Caves.

By Rail 

The city railhead is well connected with all major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Nagpur, Pune, Madurai, Bhopal and Gwalior. The railway station is 2-3km away from the bus stand. A cab or Auto can be hired to reach the Ellora Jain Caves. 

By Road

The road connectivity of State and National Highways is excellent. State and private buses are available from Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Nagpur and other nearby cities. These buses ply at regular intervals. One can also book a cab or self-drive to Aurangabad.


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