Beyond buddhist and brahmanical activity: the place of the Jain Rock-Cut Excavations at Ellora
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The practice of carving interior spaces into a mountainside to be used for devotional activities is an important and long-enduring tradition in India. This is particularly true in western India, and out of the many rock-cut sites in this region, the most spectacular is Ellora. Ellora is noteworthy not only for its large number of cave-temples, but it is also the only site on the subcontinent to contain monuments for three of India's indigenous religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The cave-temples at Ellora, which date from the late sixth through tenth centuries CE, therefore provide us with the opportunity to view the development of rock-cut excavation across time and across religious affiliations. While past scholarship has looked at limited aspects of the Hindu and Buddhist caves, less attention has been paid to Ellora's Jain excavations. My dissertation examines the Jain caves which are among India's richest examples of Jain rock-cut architecture, sculpture, and painting. Excavated in the early ninth through tenth centuries CE, these monuments are an important visual record of Jain artistic and devotional activities in early medieval India. In this project, I not only explicate the distinctive nature of Jain art and practice at Ellora but I also consider the Jain caves within the context of the Hindu and Buddhist excavations at the site. This approach not only highlights the understudied Jain caves, but it also allows us to formulate questions about the artistic and devotional activities associated with all three religious traditions at Ellora. By considering the site's multi-religious nature, we can then begin to understand the dynamics of Ellora in terms of religious interaction, devotional practice, and patterns of patronage. In addition, Ellora's Jain monuments can serve as a foundation for understanding the transition towards structural temple building and the development of Jain imagery in the tenth through thirteenth centuries.