Vlog 47 | Kailasa : The Mountain Temple
The city of Aurangabad in the Maharashtra State of India is not a metropolis, but it bears witness to the greatest footfalls in the history of the subcontinent. Distributed in and around Aurangabad are monuments of immense historical and cultural value and today I hope to visit at least the major ones. The government recently renamed this city from Aurangabad which was named after the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, in honor of the great 17th century Maratha leader Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj; the son of the founder of the Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Touted as the 'nursery of history', this area was under the rule of the Hindu Yadava dynasty till the late 13th century. By the 17th century, Aurangabad was a major fortified city accessible from 52 gates; some of which still stand.
The Islamic imperial history begins with the capture of the Devgiri fort by Alaudding Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate in 1296, which ended the Yadava rule. The eccentric 14th century Islamic King Muhammad binTughlaq, in whose court served the famous traveller Ibn Battuta, decided to abandon Delhi and move his capital here to Devgiri or Daulatabad, as he liked to call it! The hill fortress of Devgiri or Daulatabad was a formidable defense structure coveted by every ruling Dynasty in India. Initially built by the Yadavas, it was occupied by a series of conquerors from the Mughals to the Marathas. Devgiri or Daulatabad Fort shall be the last spot on my itinerary. I shall climb to the summit
of the fort and explore its history in detail. But first we need to take the blessings of Lord Shiva. The Ghrishneshwar Temple is among the 12 most revered Shiva temples in India called the Jyotirlingas. Although nobody knows exactly when it was built, it is mentioned in many ancient Hindu scriptures. The Muslim conquerors destroyed it many times and the temple went through many rounds of rebuilding. Even after centuries of atrocities, the worship of Lord Shiva continues in this place unabated! Lord Shiva is one of the major deities of Hinduism and revered in the form of a 'Linga'; a cylindrical stone; the symbol of Lord Shiva representing generative power in the Universe. India is also called Hindustan; the land of the Hindus. Hinduism
is a complex religion and the next site we visit will demonstrate just how complex! Welcome to the World Heritage Site of Ellora. A masterpiece of human creativity; the epitome of Rock-Cut architecture; a window into the ancient Indian religion and practices. These 34 Rock-cut temples and monasteries extend over 2 km in the Rocky Face of a Mountain Cliff carved over a period of 400 years from 600 CE to 1,000 CE. As I enter the complex, the first structure in front of me is the gigantic Kailasa Temple, built by completely hollowing out a whole Rocky Mountain.
The architecture is so extraordinary that it looks like a freestanding structure; a temple built stone by stone from the ground upwards, whereas the reality is quite astounding. This is a monolithic structure, carved out of a single gigantic rock face from top to bottom with primitive tools such as Hammers and Chisels more than 1,200 years ago. As we enter the temple complex, we are greeted by Gajalaxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, sitting on a Lotus, flanked by two elephants pouring Sacred Water over her. Every inch of the temple is decorated with beautiful statues of gods belonging to the Hindu Pantheon. It is estimated that around 200,000 tons of rock has been hauled away from this place to make this Temple a reality. This remarkable Temple was built mainly during the reign of Krishna I; a powerful King of the Rashtrakuta dynasty which ruled over a great swathe of land in India from the 6th to the 10th centuries.
Every sculpture you see is carved in situ from the very stone this mountain is made of! Everything you see is monolithic. It is astonishing to see that some of the original plaster and colour has survived the effects of the past millennia! The Ravananugraha statue is a popular theme in many Hindu temples. The Demon King Ravana is trying to lift Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, as he was not allowed to pass his flying craft over it. Lord Shiva presses down the mountain with his great toe trapping Ravana's hand under it. Ravana is forced to ask forgiveness and sing hymns In praise of Lord Shiva for a thousand years before he set free. The temple has multiple statues of Lord Shiva in various forms poses and incarnations.
This is Rudra the Destroyer. He's dancing, wearing snakes as ornaments, a garland of skulls and the ashes of the Cremation grounds smeared over his body. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe; a part of the Hindu Trinity of gods which includes Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the Destroyer! Just imagine, all the empty space you see was once solid stone, gradually chiseled away piece by piece, by labourers and artisans working tirelessly for decades. A master-sculptor must have made music with his chisel and hammer on these Stones. I can see him with my mind's eyes; an Indian Michelangelo, whose name is lost in the mist of time... This is Lord Vishnu in his native form; at rest in the cosmic ocean.
Brahma the creator of the the universe is seen emerging from the navel of Vishnu seated on a Lotus. Vishnu in the Varaha Avatar, slaying the demon Hiranyaksh, who had stolen the Earth and hidden it in the cosmic ocean. Vishnu rescues the Earth goddess and reinstates her in her proper place in the universe. The Narasimha Avatar - Vishnu killing the demon Hiranyakashyapa by disemboweling him in his lap! Among the many forms of Shiva, the Nataraja is widely popular. He' s the Divine Cosmic Dancer, dancing away in wild abandon; performing The Divine Dance, the 'Tandava.'
A frieze of Lingodbhava, representing Lord Shiva emerging out of a pillar of light. In this beautiful panel, Shiva is shown wielding his bow to kill the demon Tripura. A six armed Shiva is running his Trident through the body of the demon Andhakasura, who is shown minuscule in front of the huge Shiva! Chusar is a popular board game in India since ancient times, played with the dice. In this panel, Shiva is stopping his wife Parvati from throwing the dice as she seems to be winning against him. This 17th century painting is made on the similar theme. This is Kalyana-sundara, the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati. They are shown
performing the Panigrahana ritual of a Hindu wedding, where the groom accepts the bride by taking her hand into his. This is a panel of Ravananugraha which we have seen earlier; Ravana shaking Mount Kailash. The relief of Ravana is unfinished.
We have seen panels of the Demon King Ravana trying to shake the abode of Lord Shiva out of arrogance, but this panel shows a chastised Ravana, cutting off his 10 heads one by one in offering; to coerce Shiva into granting him a boon. We are now entering the Main Temple, which is on the first floor. When you ascend the staircase you reach this portico, called the Rang-Mahal. It was completely and beautifully painted in the past. Unfortunately, only vestiges of the original paintings remain. These can be dated to the time of the building of the temple, that is, in the 8th or 9th century. The paintings are
of the highest quality, thus giving us an idea of the skill of the Indian artists of that time. This is the sanctum sanctorum, the holiest Shrine of the temple. The Shiva-linga is still intact and present in its original place after more than a thousand years! The experience of the Kailasa temple leaves one overwhelmed by the richness of its art, the beauty of its sculpture and the grandeur of its architecture. I am amazed by the audacity of those who planned it; and by the courage of those who dared to execute it.
Kailasa is an Ode to the religious and cultural evolution of ancient India.