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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Maharashtra’s Four UNESCO Sites

Maharashtra, India’s third largest state, is home to the cosmopolitan capital of Mumbai (Bombay). Visitors find tropical forests, beaches on the Arabian Sea and hundreds of archaeological sites, including four designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Heritage sites.

Those four World Heritage sites are the rock cut-temples of Ajanta and Ellora, the Elephanta caves, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai (Bombay).

Ellora Caves
The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora form an enormous complex carved out of the vertical face rock north of the city of Aurangabad. Extending in a linear fashion, the 34 caves fall into three distinct eras: Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.The Buddhist caves contain intricate carvings; the Hindu caves contain sculptures of Hindu deities; and the Jain caves, known as Indra Sabha provide visitors with a sense of mystery and spirituality found nowhere else.

The temple caves of Indra Sabha were excavated in the early 1800s.

Ajanta Caves
The Ajanta caves are a source of tremendous pride for Maharashtra. The rock-cut caves, which lie in the form of a gigantic horseshoe, illustrate the skill and artistry that Indian craftsmen achieved several hundred years ago. Dating from 100 B.C., these caves were carved out of solid rock with only a hammer and chisel. Many of the caves are elaborated with detailed carvings on walls, pillars and entrances and feature intricate paintings. These works exemplify the finest and oldest examples of Buddhist frescoes in the world.

Elephanta Caves
The Elephanta Caves are the heart of the Elephanta Island, located in the Mumbai harbor.The “City of Caves,” is a temple complex said to be the abode of the Hindu god Shiva and is created from one large piece of rock. The Elephanta Caves cover an area of 60,000 sq ft, consisting of a main chamber, two lateral ones, courtyards and subsidiary shrines.These caves contain beautiful, larger-than-life reliefs and sculptures depicting the lives of Hindu deities, as well as a temple dedicated to Shiva. It’s a collection of shrines, courtyards, inner cells, grand halls and porticos arranged in the splendid symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

The Elephanta caves on an island near Mumbai were carved from solid rock.


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