Temples are works of art, built with great planning and efficiency. This is true especially for ancient temples built by the Kings and monarchs that took them more than 10 years to construct. While most temples were raised from the ground level, few were cave temples cut out of single rock in hilly areas.
Rock architecture is very popular in India. Most of the Cave temples in India are Stupas and monasteries related to Buddhism. Others are monuments of Hindu and Jain religion. Have you visited any of these cave temples?
- Ajantha cave temples
Ajantha Cave temple is the most famous temple rock-cut temple in India. These caves are located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.
They were built between the 2nd and 7th century. There are about 36 caves with exquisite art and mural paintings in the complex. The carvings inside the temple include Stupas and pillars display influences of Buddhism.
People travel from all corners of the world to pay homage to Lord Buddha here.
- Karla Caves, Maharashtra
These rock cut caves lie on the Pune-Mumbai highway at Lonavala in Maharashtra. The grand entrance has a horse-shoe shaped arch. The main cave called Chaitya( a place for prayer) has 37 pillars. This place was built for Buddhist monks to rest, pray and learn Buddhism. The walls of the Chaitya and Vihars, (places were the monks stayed) have heavily decorated sculptures of lions, elephants and other animals.
- Udayagiri caves and khandagir caves of Odisha
Expert artisans have carved out multi-tiered cave temples in Udagiri and Khandagir depicting symbols
of Jainism. These caves were built around 4th to 6th century by King Kharavela.
There are about 20 caves here with both Hindu and Jain symbols. The most popular cave has a Lord Vishnu’s Varaha Avatar sculpture.
Some of the amazing carved figures inside these rock-cut caves are women, flowers, elephants and athletes.
- Amarnath cave, Pahalgam, Kashmir
This cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva and lies at altitude of 12756 feet above sea level in Kashmir. Dates to 3rd century or earlier, this cave is one of the holiest shrines of Hinduism.
- Elephanta Caves
These rock cut caves lie close to the Gateway of India in Elephanta Island. It is locally called Gharpurichi Leni. It has five Hindu caves and 2 Buddhist caves. This cave has a massive 18 ft Lord Shiva’s Trimurti with 3 faces depicting his nature as a creator, protector, and destroyer.
Those of you who wish to visit this place can go in the month of February when a dance festival is organized by the Tourism Department of Government of Maharashtra.
- Pataleshwar Cave temple, Maharashtra
This cave temple is located in Pune, Maharastra and was built in the 8th century. It is dedicated to the lord of underworld, Pateleshwar, (Lord Shiva) The sound of bells is an unique part here.
The architecture to this temple resembles the Elephant Caves. There is a museum inside the premises with a grain of rice having 5000 characters inscribed in it.
- Phugat Monastery or Phugtal Gompa, Ladakh
Phugat Monastery is located in Lungnak valley.
The monastery has a main temple, a library with Buddhist texts, living quarters, a teaching area and kitchen
- Adi Varaha temple, Mahabhalipuram
Adi Varaha rock-cut cave temple lies on the coast of the bay of Bengal in Mahabhalipuram. It has Rock-cut temple with intricate pillars inside the rock(cave), This temple was built in the 7th century by Pallava rulers.
This place is a world heritage site since 1984.
The main deity inside is Lord Vishnu in the avatar of Varha holding Mother Earth. There also other mythical creatures carved out of the rock.
- Undavalli Caves, Penumaka, Vijayawada Andhra Pradesh
You can visit the Undavalli Caves in Vijayawada. These are four levels of caves situated on a hill that overlooks a river. Dated from 4th to 5th century, these caves have many deities including a huge sculpture of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture.
- Ellora Caves
Ellora caves are one of the largest series of cave temples in the world. These are about 100 caves located in Chanranandri Hills near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. This place is a UNESCO World Heritage site with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments that are dated to 600 BC.
Of the 100, 34 caves are open and these include 12 dedicated to Buddhism, 17 to Hindu and 5 to Jain religions.
In Cave 16 one sees the huge single-rock cut Kailashnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Other gods and goddesses and panels detailing Ramayana and Mahabharata can also be found in this particular temple.
11. Badami Cave temple
Badami Caves lie in Badami town in the state of Karnataka. It was built in the 6th century by the Chalukya kings who ruled the area then.
The caves are cut out of sandstone rocks lying near the Agastya Lake. Here four caves are dedicated to Hindu gods such as Bhootnath, Nataraja (both forms of Lord Shiva) and Lord Vishnu. One temple cave is dedicated to the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavira. The highlight of the temple is the exquisite sculpture and carvings.
One can also look into the Badami Archaeological Museum on a visit to these famous cave temple in Karnataka.