This is the first cave ever to be carved out; it is a Buddhist monastery built towards the south. It only consists of four cells and has no sculptures of any kind.
Another shrine built in Lord Buddha’s memory, it is at the end of a long flight of stairs. It consists of a mandap that has Buddha’s unfinished images segregated into a gallery. The sculptures found here are grand and huge with many deities being depicted including—the God of Wealth, Panchika, and the Goddess of Prosperity, Hariti.
Nowhere close to the other caves’ historical charm, this cave has an incomplete image of Buddha in a seated position along with other small motifs and symbols that decorate the place.
Once as big as two storeys, Cave 4 is presently in ruins. This cave too has the image of a seated Buddha.
Spanning across a depth of an astonishing 117 feet and 59 feet in width, this cave is essentially a vihara (monastery) and goes by the name Maharvada. It houses 20 rooms for Buddhist monks alongside a beautiful shrine for Lord Buddha. There are two long and narrow benches that must not be missed while here.
This cave accommodates a hall in a rectangle shape. Images of Bodhisattva and goddesses Mahamayuri and Tara adorn this place.
This cave isn’t as significant as the other ones. It comprises of a plain hall with pillars.
A monastery once upon a time, this cave holds precious Buddha sculptures. One can go around the entire cave and explore the different features.
This cave houses a beautiful capture of Goddess Tara rescuing her worshippers from an elephant, a snake, a fire and a shipwreck. One can find an open terrace here alongside a shrine.
This cave is named after the famous architect, Vishwakarma. It also goes by the name of Sutar Ka Jhonpra—a carpenter’s hut. Carpenters visit this cave to pay homage to Vishwakarma. A chaityagriha—Lord Buddha’s chapel—can also be seen.
As you enter from the entrance door, be assured that the idol of Lord Buddha is sitting in a dharmachakra pravartana mudra—its height touching at least 11 feet.
This cave is extremely significant as an important juncture in the Chaitya dynasty in India.
Cave 11 (Do Thal)
Do Thal literally translates to two storeys; however, the cave actually has three storeys. The name was given as Do Thal and not Teen Thal as the ground floor has actually crumpled and given way. This cave, too, sees the Buddha in a seated, teaching position. Idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Durga can be seen here.
Cave 12 (Teen Thal)
This is the largest monastery in the entire state of Maharashtra. It is three storeys long. A wide entrance leads you to a huge courtyard. There are individual stairs that lead one to the respective storeys. This hall has numerous pillars and images and sculptures of a seated Buddha and other deities.
This cave goes by the name Raavan Ki Khai. The reason behind the origination of the name is yet not known. It comprises a massive courtyard apart from a shrine. The shrine has a circular passage that can be walked around. The walls of the shrine have images of the Vaishnava faith sculpted on them.
The other walls consist of images of Goddesses Durga and Gajalakshmi. The courtyard floor has four unexplained pits. This cave paved the way to the other Hindu caves here. The courtyard has a Shivalingam in its centre.
The only cave to have sculptures carved out on a monolithic rock, this cave signifies the Dasavatara or the ten incarnations of Vishnu. There exists a two-storeyed mandap with the entire history of the ruling dynasties there in chronological order. The representations are interestingly part-Buddhist while part-Hindu/Brahmanical.
This is the most iconic cave of the lot present at Ellora; it is also the largest ever excavation in the entire world. It is named the Kailasa and is carved into a massive, gorgeous temple. It is devoted to Lord Shiva who resided in Kailash. The temple has clearly drawn inspiration from the Virupaksha Temple, a temple built during the Chalukya dynasty.
The cave is basically divided into the following parts—the entrance, the temple, the Nandi shrine and the surrounding cloisters. This place holds great interest and information for anyone even slightly interested in archaeology.
The cave consists of a shrine, mandap, magnificent sculptures and representations and many fascinating pillars—all carved out from the monolith parent rock.
This cave goes by the name Ramesvara and is one of the earliest caves to be carved out here. It is unique in its sculptural depictions of the various Hindu deities.
This cave, too, is devoted to Lord Shiva and has a linga and a Nandi as his famous representations. There also exists a mandap, as found in other caves. The walls have beautiful depictions of Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna along with a representation of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s marriage.
A circumambulatory passage makes Pradakshina possible here.
Known as the Dumar Lena, Cave 29 is situated by the Sita Ka Nahani—a pool there. It is an isolated shrine which is home to a big linga. The hall has four dwarapalakas—door guards—surrounding it. This cave resembles the Elephanta Caves that are found near Mumbai.
Known as the Chota Kailash, this cave attempts to copy Cave 16 of the Hindu Group, thought it is nowhere even close to the original carvings. It is unfinished and has the depiction of Lord Mahavira seated on a throne.
A series of shrines, Cave 32 is known as the Indra Sabha which means “an assembly hall of Indra”. It is devoted to Lord Mahavira—the founder of Jainism. It is double storeyed with the entrance leading you to a small court. There is a massive monolithic shrine right in the centre, called Manastambha, alongside a monolithic elephant to the left.
Cave 33 (Jagannath Sabha)
Known as the Jagannath Sabha, this cave is merely an extension to the earlier cave and carries the same kind of paintings and sculptures in it.