Directorate of Archaeology ( Uttar Pradesh ) INDIA Directorate of Archaeology ( Uttar Pradesh ) INDIA Directorate of Archaeology ( Uttar Pradesh ) INDIA
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Artists worked at the cave site of Ellora, 30 km from Aurangabad, from the sixth century A.D. till about 1000 A.D. They created Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain caves next to each other. The masterpiece at Ellora is the astonishing temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is the world's largest monolithic sculpture, carved out of a single rock cliff by 7000 labourers over a 150 year period. The workers started at the top and gradually cut downward, an amazing feat of architecture with no room for improvisation or error. The temple is called the Kailasha temple, taking its name from Mount Kailash, a Tibetan peak in the Himalaya considered to be a divine axis between heaven and earth, where the Hindus believe Shiva lives.
Lying 58 km south of Chennai, this ancient seaport of the Pallava dynasty is now a village sitting quietly among its fabulous rock-cut temples, giant frieze and shore temple carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. Mamallapuram's monuments, though ravaged by the sea and wind, still bear testimony to the magnificent heritage of Dravidian architecture. The famous shore temple stands on the seashore with its paved forecourts. Early rock-cut temples excavated from the hillside near the centre of the village have large carved panels depicting stories from Indian mythology. Several man-made caves are scattered through the area. Then there are the rathas, "chariots", carved in situ from single boulders, to resemble temples or the chariots used in temple processions.
The splendid Sun temple of Konarak, built in the 13th century and located about 35 km from Puri, is the finest example of ancient Orissan temple architecture and a World Heritage Site. Though the main temple tower has fallen, the large audience hall stands proof of the magnificent scale of the architect's overall conception. The temple was conceived in the form of a colossal chariot for the sun god Surya, standing on 12 pairs of eight-spoke-wheels and drawn by seven galloping horses. The horses represent the seven days of the week, the wheels the 24 fortnights of the Indian year, and the eight spokes of each wheel the periods into which the ancients divided day and night. Every aspect of life has been carved on the facades of the temple. The most striking sculptures are the erotic figures locked in postures drawn from the Kama Sutra.
Khajuraho, a tiny village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is world renowned for its temples representing the finest art and architecture of medieval India. These temples were built in a short span of hundred years between 950 to 1050 A.D. The Chandela dynasty which claimed descent from the moon patronised the craftsmen who have created the most exquisitely carved temples. Today out of eighty five temples only twenty five remain. The sculptures are sublime and sensuous at the same time. They adorn every space of the temple walls depicting several themes of celestial nymphs, ascetics in penance, hunting and war scenes, group dances and royal processions. However, Khajuraho has achieved most of its fame for its erotic sculptures. Stone figures of celestial maidens appear on every temple. In between are erotic figures running through a whole Kamasutra of positions and possibilities.
Hampi was the seat of the Vijayanagar empire (1336 - 1565). At its height of power in the 16th century, the city rivalled Rome in splendour and controlled almost all of south India. Historical accounts from visitors say that the city was planned out in neat grids, had a well thought of sewage system, bustling market place full of luxurious goods and bejewelled palaces. After some Muslim invasions though, what remained were only the stone buildings and a ghost city. Today, the ruins of the Vijayanagara empire at Hampi still tell a lot about a very advanced civilization. Moreover, the landscape is remarkable, otherworldly even, with huge boulders standing against the blue skies in stark contrast. The river nearby flows calm and the sunsets from the hillocks are spectacular. Since there is no decent accommodation available in Hampi, it is advisable to stay overnight in Hospet, just 13 km away.
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