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World Heritage Sites – Ellora Caves – Jaina Group of Caves

Jaina Group of Caves


The followers of the Jainism were the last to arrive at Ellora. The Cave nos. 30 – 34 belongs to the Jaina tradition. They are generally dated between 9th and 11th – 12th centuries A.D. Out of the five caves, Caves 32 and 33 are most important. They are known as Indra Sabha and Jagannath Sabha respectively. Cave 30 is an unfinished excavation resembling the Great Kailasa; hence it is known as Chhota Kailasa (Small Kailasa). The technique of rock excavation and converting it into structures can be well understood from the unfinished excavation.


The Cave 32 known as Indra Sabha is actually a series of shrines dedicated to Mahavira and other Jaina divinities aesthetically arranged in double storeys. The main entrance of Cave 32 is on the south, the gate in the form of a Dravidian gopura. The entrance leads into a small court at the center of which is a monolithic shrine on a high pedestal. A huge monolithic pillar known as manastambha is to its right and a colossal monolithic elephant to its left. The manastambha measures 28 feet in height and is crowned by four seated images facing the cardinal directions. The monolithic elephant reminds one of the elephants sculpted in the court of Kailasa, but, here it is more elegant and well preserved.

The monolithic shrine at the center is reached by a flight of steps on the south and north, and with provisions of entrance on east and west but without steps. At the center of the shrine is the Sarvatobhadra, a concept in Jainism of worshipping the four important tirthankaras, viz., Adinatha or Rshibhanatha (1st), Parsvanatha (22nd), Neminatha (23rd) and Mahavira (24th). The images of these tirthankaras are depicted on the cardinal directions. The superstructure of the shrine is in Dravidian order with local variations.

The court leads to multiple shrines, two on the west, one on the north and one on the east. All these shrines are primarily dedicated to Mahavira, flanked by his attendant deities, Indra on elephant and Ambika on lion. The side walls of the shrines usually depict the images of Gomateshwara (the son of Rishabhanatha, in penance), Parsvanatha with the snake hood and subsidiary deities.

A flight of steps leads us to the first storey through the bigger shrine at the north of the court. The steps lead into a large shrine on the first floor, with side entrances on the east and west leading to smaller shrines. Invariably these shrines are also dedicated to Mahavira. Here one can see the remains of murals executed on the ceilings and the wall portion of the caves.
The exit on the west leads to two smaller shrines dedicated to Mahavira. A small exit on the southwest corner of this shrine takes us to a huge shrine of Mahavira. The pillars, wall portions are exquisitely decorated with sculptures. The pillars are elaborate and depart well with the earlier period traditions. The doorway of the shrine is also elaborately carved with multiple bands of sculptures.

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