Rohit Agarwal | April 22, 2017
India’s rich cultural heritage is the greatest treasure of this nation. One can only marvel at the artistic flair of our ancestors whenever one has a tryst with India’s sublime past. Of these, rock-cut architecture; with its beautiful carvings is a must-visit sight in India. Here’s a lowdown of 10 rock cut temples in India that are an absolute delight for your senses and your soul.
1. Varaha Cave Temple
This monolithic rock-cut temple is in the shape of a mandapa (a hall for ritual functions) carved from pink granite. The dramatic sculpture of Vishnu, lifting the Mother Earth goddess from the sea, is the most eye-catching devotional relic of the temple. A number of other striking sculptures can also be found here, making it one of the foremost tourist attractions of Tamil Nadu.
2. Kailasa Temple
The largest rock-cut temple in Ellora, Kailasa temple is bound to satisfy your aesthetic needs. The temple is an unprecedented architectural feat, as the mammoth structure has been carved out of a single rock. The deities on the left side of the arresting entrance are of Shiva, while on the right celebrate Vishnu. Complete with pillars, windows, gathering halls, and an enormous stone lingam at its core, the shrine is carved intricately with deities and figures.
3. Mandapa Cave Temple
Krishna Mandapam is a monumental temple at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu; a distinguished UNESCO world heritage site since 1984. The most prominent depiction in the temple is of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill to save the villagers from the wrath of Indra. The temple is renowned for its realistic portrayals of Hindu mythological themes, through the rewarding rock-cut architecture.
4. Masroor Cave Temple
Photo by Kartik Gupta, CC BY-SA 3.0
Also, known as the Himalayan pyramid, it is a compound of temples located in Kangra Valley which is one of the major tourist places in Himachal Pradesh. The Masroor Lake located in front of this rock-cut temple completes the magnificent look of the place. According to legend, the Pandavas from the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, resided here during their exile from their kingdom and built this remarkable temple.
5. Panchapandava Cave Temple
Photo by Baldiri, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Panchapandava Cave temple is the largest, yet unfinished cave temple in Mahabalipuram. The temple has phenomenal and lifelike lion bases on the columns of the verandah, a typical feature of the Pallava architecture. At the entrance, the curved top of the ceiling has a series of exquisite shrines, with four of the central ones protruding outwards.
6. Mahishasuramardini Mandapa
This is a rock-cut temple is another proud part of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. The architectural feat owes its grandeur to three prominent representations of Hindu mythology, two belonging to Goddess Durga and one to Vishnu. The temple is devoted to Mahishasuramardini, an incarnation of Durga. This temple also has the famous Somaskanda panel at the back of the central chamber.
7. Karpaga Vinayagar Temple
This is an ancient rock-cut temple devoted to Ganesha. The temple houses a mammoth 6-feet-tall image of Ganesha, a bewildering sight to witness. Images of Shiva are also vividly carved out from the rock. Over 15 inscriptions are found within the temple, helping establish its age.
8. Badami Cave Temple
Reflecting the religious diversity of India, the Badami cave temple is an interesting blend of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. Badami cave temple is one of the must visit places in Karnataka. The designs of the Badami temples are considered as the precursors of later Hindu temple structure elsewhere in India. Some of the most striking sculptures of the temple include the portrayal of Shiva performing his enigmatic Tandava, Vishnu and revered figures of Jainism.
9. Ajanta Caves
The masterpieces of Buddhist religious art can be found in these famous Ajanta caves, a collection of about thirty rock-cut Buddhist monuments. Ancient monasteries and worship halls of various Buddhist traditions are carved onto the sky-high rocks. Besides stone carvings, these caves also offer tourists mural paintings to indulge in.
10. Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda
Bojjannakonda, Photo by Keerthi27, CC BY-SA 3.0
These two Buddhist rock-cut caves on adjacent hills date back to the 4th and 9th century. Bojjannakonda contains beautifully carved figures of Buddha in isolation or with his attendants. Lingalakonda consists of a large number of stupas carved on an incredible stone ridge.
Indian rock-cut architecture satiates one’s aesthetic palate. These temples promise to take you on an epic journey through history and the rich heritage of India’s artistic past.
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