The Kailasa temple at Ellora, one of India's greatest architecture treasures, was hewn out of the solid rock of the hillside to form a free-standing temple consisting of a gateway, two storied halls and the main shrine within. Unlike traditional architecture which is built up from its foundation, this temple has been carved downwards. While it adheres to architectural principles with pillars, roofs, windows, doorways and beams, it is in fact a monumental sculpture.
The scale of this sculpture can be gauged human figures. the architectural design of Kailasa temple derives its inspiration from southern india. the shikara, or main temple tower, consists of a pyramid made up of well defined horizontal diminishing tiers crowned by an eight-sided cupola. The pyramid represents the symbolic mountain abode of lord Shiva, mount Kailasa. The different levels are peopled with figures of minor deities, attendants and guardians of the directions.
At the Kailasa temple there is a magnificient representation of Mahishasuramardini: the killing of the asura named Mahisha. In this episode the gods pool their strenght to create a 'super goddess', shown riding on her lion vehicle, to destroy the demon, Mahisha, who appears in this panel with the horns of a bull, while the gods are shown above watching this dramatic episode.
With in the courtyard of the Kailasa temple are free-standing pillars and monolithic elephants. The side walls of the surrounding hillside have also been excavated to form halls. the walls of the main temple illustrate episodes from the Puranas and epics, punctuated by figures of flying celestial couples.
The Kailasa temple is shown as if carried by huge elephant caryatids similar elephants and lions are found on the balcony and parapet walls.