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Q 25- Write a note on Kailasanatha Temple and Dashavatar Cave architecture of Rashtrakutas. (250 words)

  • Paper & Topic: GS I à Indian Culture


  • Model Answer:


  • Introduction:


  • The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the architectural heritage of the Deccan. 
  • Percy Brown says that the Kailash temple is “an illustration of one of those rare occasions when men’s minds, hearts and hands work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal”.
  • The Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the splendid rock-cut cave temples at Ellora and Elephanta, areas also occupied by Jain monks, located in present-day Maharashtra.
  • The most extensive and sumptuous of the Rashtrakuta works at Ellora is their creation of the monolithic Kailasanath Temple and Dashavatar Cave architecture.


  • Body:


  • Kailashanatha Temple:
  • As per the historical records, it was built by the 8th century Rashtrakuta King Krishna I between the year 756 and 773 AD.
  • Cave 16, known as the Kailasha temple, is a particularly notable cave temple in India as a result of its size, architecture and having been entirely carved out of a single rock.
  • It is modelled along similar lines to other Hindu temples with:


  • a gateway,
  • an assembly hall,
  • a multi-storey main temple surrounded by numerous shrines laid out according to the square principle,
  • an integrated space for circumambulation,
  • a garbha-grihya (sanctum sanctorum) wherein resides the linga-yoni, and a spire-shaped like Mount Kailash – all carved from one rock.


  • Other shrines carved from the same rock are dedicated to Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, the ten avatars of Vishnu, Vedic gods and goddesses including Indra, Agni, Vayu, Surya and Usha, as well as non-Vedic deities like Ganesha, Ardhanarishvara (half Shiva, half Parvati), Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu), Annapurna, Durga and others.
  • It has a three-tiered sikhara or tower resembling the sikhara of the Mamallapuram rathas.
  • In the interior of the temple there is a pillared hall which has sixteen square pillars.
  • The Kailasa temple is an architectural marvel with it beautiful sculptures.
  • The sculpture of the Goddess Durga is shown as slaying the Buffalo demon.
  • In another sculpture Ravana was making attempts to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva.
  • The scenes of Ramayana were also depicted on the walls.
  • The general characteristics of the Kailasa temple are more Dravidian.
  • Kailasha temple is considered a highly notable example of temple construction from 1st millennium Indian history, and was called, by Carmel Berkson, “a wonder of the world” among rock-cut monuments.


  • Dashavatara Cave:


  • Cave 15, Dashavatara Cave is one of the finest at Ellora.
  • The two storeyed temple contains mesmerising Shiva Nataraja and a Shiva emerging from Lingam while Vishnu and Brahma pay homage.


  • Features of Dashavatara Caves:


  • It has cells and a layout plan that are similar to Buddhist Caves.
  • It also indicates presence of non-Buddhist features, such as a Nrtya Mandapa at its entrance.
  •  Hindu temple housed in Cave 15 has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa at the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear.
  • Large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrate a wide range of themes, including the ten avatars of Vishnu.
  • finest relief of this cave is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon his shoulder.
  • Other reliefs in Cave 15 include the Gangadhara, marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Tripurantika of Shakti tradition, Markendeya, Garuda, aspects of life, Nandi in mandapa, dancing Shiva, Andhakasura, Govardhanadhari, Gajendravarada and others.
  • Panels are arranged in dyads, which displays “cooperative but also antagonistic energy” with a mutuality of power transference.
  • Conclusion:
  • Art historians consider the Kailasnatha temple and Dashavatara caves as an unrivalled work of rock architecture, a monument that has always excited and astonished travellers.


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