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Kailash temple at Ellora

Kailash temple at Ellora – preserving ancient wisdom for mankind – Part 2


(Read Part 1) Kailash Mountain is considered the residence of the Supreme, the Holy of Holies, the pillar of the Universe, the seat of the highest mind, holy for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and spiritual seekers alike. For thousands of years, pilgrims have come to circumambulate this mountain, praying for forgiveness for their sins of their own and all beings.  Many of them even take a dip in the ice-cold water of the nearby Manasarovar Lake to cleanse themselves. But then, what is the connection between the mountain and the temple? Is there one at all?

Tibetan and Nepalese Thangka depicting Mount Kailash

Tibetan and Nepalese Thangka depicting Mount Kailash. Image source.

One may ask, what was first? The rocky ranges of the Deccan trap, supposedly 65 million years old, or the Himalayas which seem to have been created some time after? One might continue to ask, who chose this particular site for the Kailash Temple in Ellora, close to where a stream runs down a hill and close to a lake, known as the Fairies’ Lake, which is considered holy up to today. As the mountain has its lake, so has the temple. Then there is the question, what was the intention of the unknown conceptor?  Did he want to create a temple or a school? Did he foresee the time when mankind would be caught up in the world of the mind, forgetting the origin of existence? Did he want to create a place to keep the knowledge about the creation of the earth and the cosmic functions alive?  Did he want to create a ‘textbook’ in stone at a time when there were no religions, when there were no governments, nor human made laws, a time when wisdom ruled the earth, the time of the  Krita-Yuga, the Yuga (era) of Truth? The time before Atlantis? There are findings that suggest Ellora could even have been populated 20,000 years ago.

Science may never find rational proof for the many questions, but legends about the origins of Kailash Temple abound. According to ancient belief, angels came down in their ships to help create the temple. Others say, angels loved this place so much they came to enjoy it and forgot that they were told to return before dawn. As a result, they were left hanging in stone on the temple walls. Most conventional perspectives refer to the copper plates found at the temple dating from the 7 th and 8 th century AD, which refer to donations to Ellora and mention the Rashtrakuta king Krisna I as the builder of the Kailash temple. However, as most inscriptions in ancient times were done to glorify builders and donors, they are not proof for the origin of the monuments they are referring to. As seen in many archaeological excavations, holy sites were built upon again and again. It is deep inside where the secrets remain. 

Looking closely at the many symbols and codes at the Kailash Temple, their origin point to an unknown past, though the sculptures of the deities, celestials, pillars, pots and animals seem to have been done in AD times.

The temple walls are coated in white chalk, said to have been done to resemble Mount Kailash itself. It is not known when this temple was first coated with chalk, but three distinct layers have been found, relating to different times.  Very little of these faint paintings remain, but it is enough to imagine how beautiful it must have been when all was shining white. 

How old the Kailash temple really is, is not all that important; more important is its message.  A number of keys suggesting its significance are evident right at the entrance hall, though these keys seem to be a later addition. Here, in a niche on the left, sits a statue of Vyasa, the Seer poet of the Mahabharata, whose grandfather is said to have been one of the seven rishis who saved the records of the earth. On the opposite side of the entrance is a niche with Valmiki, the ancient figure who composed the Ramayana.  Both these epics were written at a time still unknown. They are like textbooks on the nature of mankind, describing the consequences of deeds, words and even thoughts. They also describe technologies and sciences be they about architecture, weapons, flying machines or spiritual practices. They talk of deities walking among men. Up to today, these epics are India’s greatest works of literature, written by holy men passed on what they knew to keep eternal knowledge alive.

Passing through the entrance gate and looking straight ahead, one sees a big panel with the Goddess Gajalakshmi, being born out of the Ocean, reflecting her role as the Mother of Creation.  Her four arms are broken, but it is known, that in each of her upper arms she was holding a Lotus flower.  The Lotus was the symbol of the sunken continent of Lemuria, which existed before Atlantis. Tamil language speaks of this sunken continent as Kumari Kandam or Kumari Nadu, which once connected India with Africa and Australia. Underwater findings suggest that this continent is not fiction but did, in fact, exist.

Panel with the Goddess Gajalakshmi

Panel with the Goddess Gajalakshmi. Photo source.

When turning to the left on the ground floor, one sees a carved panel reflecting stories from the Mahabharatha, and on the right of the temple wall is another panel out of the Ramayana. Both panels seem to have been carved at a time when their authors, Vyasa and Valmiki, were placed in the niches.

Then one may look up to the roofs of the various shrines and wonder about those vaulted barrel structures. What do they mean?  And why are they topped by rows of waterpots, called Kalashas. There are many interpretations about what those waterpots mean, all carved out of the one big temple rock. One of the interpretations says that they are holding the seeds for creation after pralaya, the great flood. Are they the same as what the western world calls “the holy grail” or sangreal?” These were stone pots, where holy knowledge was deposited. One can go on and on by checking the meaning of the many sculptures of deities, celestials, and animals, but one has to be careful not to get stuck in just an intellectual exercise or the repetition of what has been written in many books and essays by art historians, conventional archaeologists and travel tours. 

Even questions of much more recent times are not yet answered.  One of them refers to the Mugahl King Aurangzeb. He was a devout Muslim who had many Hindu temples destroyed, but he did not destroy the temples at Ellora and it is said, he even came to the Kailash shrines with admiration and respect. He even had his capital set up nearby in the city he named Aurangabad.

Mughal King Aurangzeb

Mughal King Aurangzeb. Image source.

Did he sense, that this temple was a not meant as a temple for a particular religion, but a sanctuary blessed by the Supreme, a place where the heritage of wisdom speaks to all who come with love and respect in their heart?  Even today many Muslim families and numerous school groups of Muslim children come to visit from all over the country and stand in awe next to Hindus, Buddhist, Jains or people who adhere to religions and beliefs other than these. By official rule, the Kailash Temple is not a pilgrimage site, where priests control who can come.  The Kailash Temple is under the authority of women and men of the Archaeological Survey of India. Their duty is obvious: to preserve the Kailash Temple as a monument to remind and teach mankind.

Featured image: Entrance to Kailash Temple. Photo source.

Part 1

By Kartika

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Kartika studied economics in Germany, but her lifelong interest is in Buddhism and Asian studies. She worked as a Southeast Asia correspondent for leading German papers for more than three decades. Now retired, she devotes herself to researching ancient wisdom... Read More

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