Ellora Kailashanath

Ellora Kailāsha-nātha
TA2005HR, 20 x 26 inch
Photographer: John Saché, Circa 1860’s

The famous Kailāshanātha temple is part of the huge Ellora temple complex carved out of solid rock. The temple is thought to date from the reign of Rāshtrakuta dynasty. It is designed in honour of Mount Kailash and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The freestanding pillar looks as if it has been built up from the ground but is actually carved by chiseling down into the solid basalt rock. The painstaking work of the stone carvers is also evident on the sculptured panels on the five shrines surrounding the courtyard in an architectural arrangement called panchāyatana. The designs on the outer walls of the temple depict events from the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. One of them shows Ravana attempting to shake Mount Kailash but Shiva subdues Ravana by pressing him into a cavern with his feet.

This temple is considered to be one of the architectural wonders of the world; a work of art as well as a monumental piece of architecture. Without the two small figures in turbans in the picture, it would be hard to fathom the sheer size of this temple at Ellora. No doubt the photographer John Saché deliberately told the two assistants to stand there in order to add a sense of scale. Early plate photography demanded long exposure times and the two subjects would have needed to stand absolutely still to avoid becoming blurred by movement.

About the photographer: John Edward Saché was an important American photographer working in India from the mid 1860’s until 1882 when he died. He operated a number of studios in northern India and produced more than 1,000 photos including topographical views and architectural studies. Saché followed in the footsteps of the great photographer Samuel Bourne in more ways than one. He is reputed to have deliberately taken some of the same shots and angles as Bourne. Nevertheless, his original photos of India show he had an eye for the picturesque view, just as Samuel Bourne.

Collections: All, Vintage Photos

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