Kailasha temple at Ellora, sculptural plan part 1, Gopuram outer face.

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Kailashanatha temple, Ellora, sculptural plan gopuram, outside.
Kailasha temple, Ellora, sculptural plan gopuram, outside.


Notes and thoughts on the sculptural program of the gopuram of the Kailasha temple of Ellora. Numbers refer to accompanying ground plans,  (not to scale)

  • The river goddesses are framing the entrance at the outside face instead of gracing the door jambs/threshold, as is mostly/always found in South Indian temples.
  • The niches with the Nagas are go across the corner, very unusual.
  • The sculptural plan of the northern face and southern face are not symmetrical
  • Is there a Shaiva inclination on the northern outside face and a Vaishnava one on the southern face?


Gopuram Entrance Passage

Northern niche is Vyasa Rishi (facing South)

Southern niche is Valmiki Rishi (facing North)

? unknown figure North of the door

? unknown figure South of the door


NW outside face of gopuram (red numbers)

NW 01. Ganga Rives Goddess, on Makara

NW 02. Naga and Nagini

NW 03. Varuna, Dikpala of the West, on Makara

NW 04. Vayu, Dikpala of the North-West, on Stag

NW 05. Agni, Dikpala of the South-East, on Ram

NW 06. Kubera, Dikpala of the North, on Horse

NW 07. ? niche is complete destroyed?

NW 08. ? not yet identified

NW 09. ? not yet identified

NW 10. ? not yet identified

NW 11. Brahma

NW 12. Shiva dancing Urddhva Tandava


SW outside face of gopuram: numbers refer to accompanying ground plans (not to scale)

SW 01. Yamuna River Goddess, on Kurma

SW 02. Naga and Nagini

SW 03. Indra, Dikpala of the East

SW 04. ? Yama, Dikpala of the South, on Buffalo (outline buffalo head vaguely present)

SW 05. ? Nṛrti, Dikpala of the South-West (niche very disturbed, left after identifying other)

SW 06. Ishana, Dikpala of the North-East, on Nandi vahana

SW 07. Bhu-Varaha, 3rd avatara of Lord Vishnu

SW 08. ? Seated Figure, could be playing a drum?

SW 09. Trivikrama, 5th avatara of Vishnu, Vishnu measuring the cosmos with Three steps

SW 10. ? unidentified, joins SW 11 across the corner

SW 11. Narasimha, Vishnu’s 5th avatara

SW 12. Dancing Shiva, could be Gajantaka, Dancing on the Elephant skull?