This entire trip has been difficult to put into words. From the views passing by the bus window to the incredible variety of food, smells, people and just things to see and to experience there is just so much to take in. That being said, actually physically seeing these sites has been one of the coolest (for lack of a better term) experiences. Seeing photographs cannot begin to do justice to these sites. Of these experiences, exploring Cave 15 at Ellora has been one of my favorite thus far. I had done my project during the fall semester on the relationship between the three religions at the site, but after all that researching nothing prepared me fully to see it with my own eyes. As I led the way through the entry archway into the site, the buildings were nothing like the pictures had appeared.
My first thought was that I had made some crucial mistake and ended up at the wrong site. It took a few frantic minutes before I found that not only that I was at the right site, but that the evidence I want to explain was even more obvious than I had hoped. The Hindu depictions, mainly of Shiva, are set deeply into the stone, and it can easily be imagined that they are carved over some earlier Buddhist work. Additionally, the figures on top of the second floor pillars are Buddhas, with all the iconography that goes along with him. The idea that the site was an unfinished Buddhist cave later reconstructed for Hindu use was no longer some hypothesis from a scholars article, but something that I agree with based on what I saw with my own eyes. It felt as if some great puzzle was being pieced together after so much time, and thats a feeling I won’t soon forget.
If you are interested in looking farther into how Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sites relate to one another, I suggest the following articles;
Kumar, Krishna. “The Buddhist Origin of Some Brahmanical Cave-Temples at Ellora.” East and West 26, no. 3/4 (1976): 359–73.
Owen, Lisa N. “Kings or Ascetics? Evidence of Patronage in Ellora’s Jain Caves.” Artibus Asia 70, no. 2 (2010): 181–225.