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Cave temples in India: Divinity expressed through arts

India has incredible cave temples that reflect determination, faith of early humans and present wonderful arenas of ancient Indian rock cut architecture. These rock-cut cave temples aren’t just rich in history, they also boast of remarkable architectural and artistic qualities that existed in ancient civilization of India. Here’s a list of few strikingly beautiful cave temples of India.

Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ajanta and Ellora caves are undoubtedly the pride of India and include stunning paintings and commendable rock cut sculptures. They are believed to have been formed by accumulation of limestone. One needs to explore the caves to understand its history and magnificence. There are 34 caves at the Ellora that date back to 6th and 11th century AD and 29 caves at Ajanta dating back to 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. The caves at the Ajanta are Buddhist caves while Ellora caves are a mix of Buddhism, Hinduism as well as Jainism. They exhibit finest surviving example of ancient Indian art today.

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Badami Caves, Karnataka

The manmade Badami caves are the finest example of Badami Chalukya rock cut architecture. The temple is located at the bank of an artificial lake in Badami town of Karnataka and dates back to 6th and 7th century AD. It has total four caves out of which three have Brahamanical temples and one has Jain temple. Each cave has artistically carved sculptures of Hindu Gods and reflects Chalukayas immense love for sandstone architecture .These magnificent caves are also amongst the top tourist attractions of Karnataka.

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Elephanta Island Caves, Maharashtra

The enigmatic Elephanta caves date back to 5thand 8th centuries AD and are believed to have been hand carved out of a single rock. Located on the densely covered Elephanta Island, it consists of a large group of five Hindu caves and a smaller group of two Buddhist caves that feature spectacular sculptures of Hindu mythological figures. The main cave or the Great Cave has a 6 m high Trimurthi sculpture of the three faces of Lord Shiva and is a sacred Hindu place of worship. Despite the mindless destruction during colonial past, Elephanta cave still attracts numerous tourists from around the country every year.

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Varaha Caves, Tamil Nadu

Built in the late 7th century AD, Varaha Cave Temple at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is an outstanding example of Indian rock cut architecture. This temple has intricately moulded lion pillars with elaborate sculptures of Lakshmi, Durga and Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu and reflects natural art and culture of Pallava dynasty.

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Trichy Rock Fort Temple, Tamil Nadu

Constructed on a 273 foot high rock, Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort is a 7th century old Hindu temple and is amongst the most incredible cave temples in India. There are two cave temples namely The Uchchi Pillayar Koil and The Siva Temple. The caves are said to have been built during the Pallavas, but it was the Nayaks of Madurai who completed both the temples. The cave’s interiors are spectacularly gripping and its hill top view is simply breathtaking.

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Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Bihar

Also known as the Mahakala caves, Dungeshwari Caves house the Buddhist temples that are very artistically structured. These are three caves where it is believed the Buddha spent a lot of years meditating, before going to Bodhygaya and attaining enlightenment. This is a worshipping place for Buddhists and is very peaceful and meditative.

Amarnath Cave, Jammu and Kashmir

One of the holiest shrines in Hinduism even today, the Amarnath cave temple is located at an altitude of 12,756 ft, within the snow-covered mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. According to a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to Parvati. Thousands of pilgrims every year pay visit to pray Shiv Linga, the stalagmite that is formed due to freezing of falling waterdrops from the roof and grows up vertically from the floor inside the 40 m tall Amarnath cave.

Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh

More than 150 years old, Borra Caves are situated in the Ananthagiri Hills(about 705 m high) in Araku Valley of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are one of the largest cave in the country. Formed from limestone, these wonder caves distinctly exhibit many irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites that have been associated with various deities according to their shapes. Famous figures of this cave temple include a Shivalingam and the idol of the cow known as Kamadhenu.

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