There are thirty-four elaborately carved caves at Ellora, 30km northwest of Aurangabad. The twelve southern caves are Buddhist, the seventeen caves in the center are Hindu, and the five northern caves are Jain. They were built in that order (Buddhist, Hindu, Jain) between the 7th and 13th centuries AD. They extend for about 2km. The carvings and sculptures are impressive. The main site is cave 16, the Kailash Temple, which is one of the most magnificent structures in the world. The caves were dug out of a slope in the hill in a north–south direction. They face west, so they receive light from the setting sun. All the caves were carved from the top to the bottom, so workers did not require scaffolding.
The Kailash Temple is a Siva temple with a large linga in the shrine. It is the largest and most magnificent rock-cut temple in the world and is considered one of the wonders of India. 3 million cubic feet of rock was chiseled away to complete the temple buildings, life-size elephants, and sculptures. It is estimated that to carve the Kailash Temple, 200,000 tons of rock had to be removed by thousands of workers for over 150 years.
Archaeologists estimate it took thousands of skilled stone cutters seven to eight generations to construct this temple. It is comparable to the Pyramids. It is twice the size of the Parthenon of Athens and 1½ times as high. It is 81m long, 47m wide, and 33m high. It was carved out of the side of a hill from the top down.
There are carvings telling the pastimes of the Ramayana and Mahabharata on the temple walls. On the south side of the mandapa (hall) is a remarkable sculpture depicting Siva crushing Ravana underfoot when Ravana desired to lift Siva’s Kailash Mountain and shake it. Other impressive carvings are the Ravana-ki-Khai, or Abode of Ravana, and the Dasa Avatara, or ten incarnations of Vishnu.