The Kailash temple is believed to be the largest monolithic structure in the world. Hewn from volcanic granite and nestled among the rocks 30 km away from Aurangabad, Maharastra, it is an incredible work of architecture that rivals the present wonders of the world. Carved out of a single rock, the temple is huge (200 ft X 100 ft X 90ft height) as well as stunning.
Conceived by King Krishna I (Rashtrakuta Dynasty) between the years 756 and 773 CE, the structure evokes awe. The temple was built by chipping and removing granite, a process similar to making sculptures.
What inspires a sense of bewilderment and wonder at the magnificence of the imposing structure is that the temple was built top-down. And that too using just the chisel and hammer (the only tools available at the time)!
Legends abound as to why the temple was built top-down. The more popular folklore is that when the King fell seriously ill, his Queen prayed to, and vowed to Lord Shiva, that if her husband survived, a South Indian abode would be constructed for Shiva.
In addition, she declared that her vow would be time-bound, in that the queen would fast until the temple was completed. Once the king recovered, realization of the impossibility of the vow surfaced. A loophole was found by the architect Kokasa. He suggested that the shikhara or the dome-shaped top of the temple be completed first. The installation of the shikhara signifies the readiness of any temple for the consecration of the idol. Thus Kokasa’s top-down approach fulfilled the queens’ vow and saved her life too.
DID YOU KNOW? Granite is a coarse-grained (phaneritic) intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cools and solidifies underground. It is common in the continental crust of Earth, where it is found in igneous intrusions. These range in size from dikes only a few centimeters across to batholiths exposed over hundreds of square kilometers. Granite is nearly always massive (lacking any internal structures), hard, and tough. These properties have made granite a widespread construction stone throughout human history.
There is another wonder connected to the Temple. The granite estimated to be excavated for the temple complex ranges from 200,000 – 500,000 tons. However, it is nowhere to be found for a 50 km radius.
Because of the way the temple was constructed, errors could not be permitted. On inspection, it appears as if none were. This in spite of more than 600 statutes, intricately perforated windows panes, bridges from the temple to the imposing gopuram, rainwater harvesting, intricate drainage system, ventilation shafts that narrow to a size that discourages human entry, hidden underground passages, secret peepholes, balconies, and stairways which connect different levels of the temple structure.
Ancient temple architecture, especially Dravidian influence is SOP bound, in that the longitudinal layout usually represents the body of the deity. Right from the Shikara that is the topmost dome over the sanctum sanctorum representing the soul or Atma to the gopuram representing the feet, every structure represents the 7 chakras or energy centers of the body, according to yogic practice.
To meticulously design a structure that incorporates elements that adhere to Vaastu (Indian version of Feng shui) and have the design followed by artisans over a period of at least 135 years (which resulted in different types of architecture being manifested) is nothing short of outstanding. It is a marvel that just must be seen to be believed.
As part of the UNESCO heritage site of Ellora, the Kailasha temple is listed simply as Cave no 16, out of the 34 caves-temples excavated on slopes of the Deccan plateau, facing the Arabian Sea. The nearest airport is Aurangabad. Also, of interest, about 170 km from here, is the 50000-year-old, Lonar Crater Lake, created by a meteoric impact.
WORDS: Girish Nair.
IMAGE SOURCE: Puneet Neeraj 024.