6: Daulatabad and Ellora Caves

by - January 12, 2014

Inside Daulatabad Fort
Daulatabad Fort from the surrounding countryside
After a successful day at Ajanta our driver was to take us to the closer caves at Ellora as well as a nearby fort at a place called Daulatabad.  We started at the fort, about a 30 minute journey north west of Aurangabad, which for a brief period was the capital of India when Mongol invasions caused Delhi to be temporarily abandone - though remember that ‘India’ as a state was a long way from being a concept this time and the capital actually belonged to the 'Tughlaq’ dynasty, one of several ruling groups.  The fort sits imposingly on a hilltop with views in all directions and was never captured, but was abandoned as the capital after only six years due to its unreliable water supply.  We decided to hire a guide, as Lonely Planet suggested that the fort was quite easy to get lost inside - and it is always nice to have a bit of extra information.  Our guide explained to us just how the fort became so impregnable, with stories of all manner of gruesome traps - most of which resulted in invaders being pushed into the crocodile-infested moats.  The fort was home to 5,000 people at one stage and contains wells, temples and mosques as well as the palace which belonged to the ruler of the time.

Monkeys at Dalautabad
We spent about an hour with our guide, slowly climbing up to the top of the fortress through pitch black, bat-filled tunnels (deliberately designed to be dark to confuse invaders).  On our way we were again asked to shake hands and take photos with locals - it really appears that very few tourists visit this part of India and people are genuinely surprised and excited to see us.  It must be said however that trying to climb a staircase in the dark with bats flying around overhead and children grabbing at your hands is quite a stressful situation.  Our guide left us at the top, so after getting our photos of the surrounding countryside and the fortifications we made our way back down to our waiting (and very impatient) driver who was to take us to Ellora, a further 15 minute drive away.

Views over the town of Dalautabad and the fortifications
Kailasha Temple
The rise of Ellora in the 5th century AD had caused the decline (and eventual abandonment) of Ajanta.  While no new caves were built at Ellora after the 10th century AD, the site has remained a place of religious importance ever since and is a major sight for tourists and worshippers alike.  Where Ajanta is carved into the the side of cliffs, Ellora is carved into what is more a long rock escarpment - at the former the sculptors carved horizontally into the rock whereas at Ellora they carved vertically.  The caves at Ellora are larger and more impressive than those at Ajanta, especially considering the method of construction.  The most impressive of all is the Kailasha Temple which is technically the largest sculpture in the world.  This multi-story temple with carvings of elephants and gods, was totally excavated from the cliffs from above - so they hewed out the ceiling first before scraping the walls downwards, if you can imagine that.  While the picture would suggest that the temple was built by putting pieces of rock one on top of each other, it was actually built by carving out one continuous cliff face - which to me, is astonishing when you think about the drafting equipment of the age.  As at Ajanta, there were around thirty caves to explore but as we had less time (and had already got a pretty good idea of what they generally looked like) we only went in a couple.  Again, I will let the pictures do the talking:

Outside the Kailasha Temple

Elephant Carvings in the Kailasha Temple

You May Also Like