Ellora Indra Sabha

Ellora Indra Sabhā
TA2004HR, 20 x 26 inch
Photographer: Samuel Bourne, Circa 1869

The rock face on the right was hewn out in the early medieval period to make the two cave temples known as Indra Sabhā (Court of Indra). The cliff on the left shows how the rock face must have looked in its natural form before transformation into a cavernous place of worship. This two-storey cave structure is numbered dryly as Cave 32 by archaeologists and is part of the Ellora rock-cut temple complex including a total of 34 caves. It was established by the Digambara sect of Jain tradition under the patronage of the Rashtrakuta dynasty and is the largest of the Jain series of caves here. Other cave temples contain more Vedic and Buddhist themes showing the diversity represented at this huge site in Maharashtra, reputed to be the largest monumental construction in the world.

Inside the lower cave, there is a columned hall known as a mandapa with a sculpture of the deity Mātanga on an elephant on the back wall. The ceiling is adorned with a fine carving of a lotus flower. The upper cave is dedicated to the goddess Ambikā, who sits under a mango tree ripe with fruit and with monkeys playing in its branches. The exterior of Indra Sabhā is shown here in an inviting composition by Samuel Bourne that draws the eye towards the dark entrance of these ornate temples crafted into the rock.

About the photographer: Born in 1834 in England, Samuel Bourne is widely regarded as the most influential topographical and architectural photographer to portray India in the 19th century, when photography was still in its infancy. There was a public mania at the time about this new exciting way of portraying reality and Bourne was a prime exponent of the new art with an eye for the picturesque and grand. He spent seven years photographing in India from 1863 to 1870. Part explorer, part photographer, Bourne journeyed into the Himalayan Mountains three times from 1863-1866 becoming the first person to photograph at such high altitudes. He worked with albumen prints made from wet plate collodion negatives and his negatives were carefully numbered. Samuel Bourne, who left India in 1870 and died in England in 1912, has only been recognized as a great photographer of India in the last few decades. Certain images from his travels in India have become iconic and collector’s items. Self Enquiry Life Fellowship has an extensive collection of Bourne’s images of India in its archives.

Collections: All, Vintage Photos

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