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Kailasa Temple, The Massive Temple Was Chiseled By Hand For More Than 20 Years

The Kailasa Temple was carved over dozens of years, under several rulers, out of a single piece of stone.

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Kailasa Temple
Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr.com

Kailasa Temple in Ellora, Maharashtra, India, is the world’s largest monolithic piece of art. Master craftspeople carved the gigantic structure from a single piece of solid rock in a cave on a mountainside. The entire building took more than two decades to carve. There are plenty of other mind-boggling facts about this ancient wonder while some of the history behind the temple has a bit of controversy attached to it.

Hindus created the temple to honour Lord Shiva, and they intended to mimic his home on Mount Kailash in the Himalayan Mountains. Legend has it a Hindu king ordered the temple built after he prayed to Shiva to save his wife from sickness.

The top of Kailasa Temple. Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr.com
The top of Kailasa Temple. Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr.com

Architects started from the top of the mountain and worked downward to carve the structure. The painstaking process removed more than 200,000 tons of volcanic rock between 757 and 783 A.D., according to archaeologists. Kailasa Temple is one of 34 caves in the area carved from solid rock. Other similar caves date back as early as 300 B.C.

In modern terms, it would take around 200 days, working at 24 hours per day, to excavate the entire site using contemporary technology. That doesn’t take into account the elaborate carvings all over the monolithic structure.

A depiction of the Hindu deity Gajalakshmi. Notice the white plaster in some spots. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A depiction of the Hindu deity Gajalakshmi. Notice the white plaster in some spots. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The temple has a U-shape and is about 150 feet deep. Kailasa Temple is three stories tall. Large stone carvings along the outer walls depict various Hindu deities. Two internal flagstaff pillars show stories from Lord Shiva’s saga. There are also enormous carvings honouring Lord Vishnu, another main Hindu deity.

Almost every inch of the interior structure contains an intricate carving.

Towards the top, you see carvings of elephants that point your way down. On the bottom of the main building it appears as if an army of huge stone elephants are holding up the entire temple. The elephants surround a 100-foot-tall pillar that appears to serve as the main edifice in the temple complex.

Kailasa Temple covers more square footage than the Parthenon in Athens. Somehow, civilizations in India came and went without anyone noticing this magnificent art until 1682.

That’s when Mughal King Aurangzeb, a Muslim, ordered the temple destroyed so he could erase all traces of it. Despite three years and 1,000 men, Kailasa Temple endured. The rock was simply too hard to demolish, even though artisans used only hammers, chisels and picks to construct it.

The Kailasa elephants standing watch over the temple. Photo Credit: cool_spark/Flickr
The Kailasa elephants standing watch over the temple. Photo Credit: cool_spark/Flickr

The current-day structure is mostly black volcanic rock. Back when it was built, architects ordered the sculptures covered in white plaster to give it the illusion of snow. This made the temple appear as if it was in the Himalayan Mountains. Visitors can still see some of the white plaster today.

These amazing works of art hide some secrets. Archaeologist estimate there are more than 30 million Sanskrit carvings that have yet to be translated. If experts can find a way to unlock the hidden meaning of the language, it would make Kailasa Temple one of the most valuable historical artifacts on Earth.

One of the many stories carved into the walls of Kailasa Temple. Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr

Some people argue that the Kailasa Temple is much older because there is no way humans in that time period could excavate such a huge structure.

The surrounding caves have carvings that are much older than Kailasa Temple, but that could simply mean that no one got around to carving Kailasa until much later. Ancient alien theorists contend that the people of this part of India had extra-terrestrial help, but there is no evidence to support this fantastic notion.

In all, the temple is a monument to Lord Shiva. There are five shrines inside Kailasa that pay homage to the greatest of Hindu gods. No matter how long it took or how old it is, Kailasa Temple is truly a marvel to behold.

This article (Kailasa Temple, The Massive Temple Was Chiseled By Hand For More Than 20 Years) was originally created for All That Interesting and is published here under Creative Commons.

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America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been

The text of the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, Jesus Christ, or Christianity.

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Christian Nation
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United Statesby Howard Chandler Christy.

The founding fathers’ religion wasn’t always worn on their sleeves. Looking back, it’s quite difficult to tell where some of our nation’s great leaders fell on the religious scale. Deism was popular at the time – the belief in God as the creator of all things, but not as a miracle worker or one that answers to prayer.

Sure, there are the books written and speeches given. But often personal letters and eyewitnesses are a more accurate gauge of belief. As with any time period, there are sometimes those who aren’t what they seem or claim to be on the surface.

These are the men that fought for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In fact, God, Jesus Christ, and Christianity are not stated once in all of the Constitution, and it is clearly done so on purpose.

The Constitution even bars all laws from “respecting an establishment of religion,” while also protecting “the free exercise thereof.”

Remember, the founding fathers understood their history. They’d seen how the Christian governments of Europe took advantage of the individual freedom of its citizens. They’d seen they constant internal bickering and wars amongst Christian factions.

Even though the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” today some of these very men would be deemed unfit to lead on their respective platforms. To hold them up as a Pinnacle of Christianity is likely as false as George Washington’s teeth. Here are some of the surprising faiths of our founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The man that composed the Declaration of Independence was more interested in protecting religious freedom than imposing religion upon anyone else. It was this very freedom that allowed Thomas Jefferson to cut up his bible and take out anything he didn’t like. Mainly, that included any mention of miracles or things that were “contrary to reason.” This aligned his beliefs more with Deism than Christianity – of which he was baptized into at birth.

Jefferson’s custom assemblage of bible passages was never meant to be published; it was strictly for his own use. However, it acquired a name; The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Almost 70 years after he died, Jefferson’s great-granddaughter sold the book to the Smithsonian Institution.

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know,” Jefferson once said. This stance caused a slight ruckus in the Presidential election of 1800 when the Federalists attacked him as being atheist. Nevertheless, Jefferson won that election running under the Democratic-Republican party.

In 1823, Jefferson wrote to John Adams, famously remarking:

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding…. “

John Adams
John Adams 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

These words, placed in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli by founding father and first vice-president John Adams, are often used as a springboard for debate.

While those words are printed in black and white, there is some underlying context to consider. The treaty goes on to say that “it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” Which gives the context of religious opinions as an invalid excuse to go against the treaty.

So, perhaps that snippet of one document doesn’t prove Adams’ reluctance to full-heartedly embrace Christianity, but later he recognized the “rise of sects and schisms, heresies and bigotries, which have abounded in the Christian world,” and reportedly used deist language in his speeches.

Whatever religion John Adams identified himself as throughout his life, a letter to his wife says quite the mouthful on Catholicism. “This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful and affecting,” he wrote. “The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood…”

George Washington
George Washington 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Another founding father with an unclear belief system was none other than our very first President, George Washington. To say his religion is unclear simply brings notice that there are many books written about Washington, and all of them put him anywhere in the spectrum between Orthodox Christian and strict Deist.

Washington used terms such as “Providence” or “supreme architect” when making speeches or writings. These are Deist terms – but not exclusively so. Washington did not use the names “Jesus” or “Christ” in public appearances; but again, many at the time did not.

Born unto Protestants, Washington certainly frequented church as a child, but reportedly did not attend regularly as an adult, or participate in religious rites. He often left services before communion – and when called out on it, stopped attending that church on communion days.

At any rate, Washington was a staunch advocate for religious freedom. Perhaps the most telltale indication of how religious Washington was came at the end of his life. On his deathbed no priest was called; no minister summoned. In life, he’d imparted to his children the importance of honesty and character, but no mention of religion.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A proponent of free thought and reason, Paine had one of the more defined belief systems. He lamented institutionalized religion – and Christianity in particular. In his younger days, some of the hardships he endured would sway others to the comforting arms of the church. Paine’s wife died in childbirth, and his child died as well.

But Thomas Paine made no qualms about his radical Deism; calling the bible the “pretended word of God”. And we know he’s read it because he tears it a new one book by book in his writing The Age of Reason.

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God,” he writes.

Paine may have never held public office but is deemed a founding father nonetheless. There weren’t many American Revolutionary rebels who didn’t read Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense which shaped the demand for independence from Great Britain. Without Paine, The United States might still be under British rule.

This article (America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been) was originally created for All That Interesting and is published here under Creative Commons.

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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The Great And Powerful Xiongnu

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Xiongnu
Photo Credit: Henan Museum

Between approximately 300 BC and 450 AD, there existed a nomadic group known as the Xiongnu. Their ethnic identity has been greatly contested, but they were a very powerful tribal confederation that was considered a great threat to China. In fact, it was their repeated invasions that prompted the small kingdoms of North China to begin erecting barriers, in what later became the Great Wall of China.

The Xiongnu formed their tribal league in the area that is now known as Mongolia. It is believed that they stemmed from the Siberian branch of the Mongolian race, although it has been hotly debated whether they are ethnically Turkic, Mongolic, Yeniseian, Tocharian, Iranian, Uralic, or some mixture. Some say the name “Xiongnu” has the same etymological origin as “Hun,” but this is also controversial. Only a few words from their culture, mostly titles and individual names, were preserved in Chinese sources. 

Map showing the territory of the Xiongnu Empire. (Wikipedia)

It is believed that the Xiongnu created their empire under the supreme leadership of Modu Chanyu sometime around 209 BC. This political unification allowed them to build stronger armies and use better strategic coordination, turning them into a more formidable state. They adopted many Chinese agriculture techniques, built Chinese-styled homes, and wore silk like the Chinese. The Xiongnu worshipped the sun, moon, heaven, earth, as well as their ancestors. They formed a number of tribes, called the Chubei, Huyan, Lan, Luandi, Qiulin, and Suibu.

The Xiongnu had an established hierarchy system. The leaders following Modu Chanyu formed a dualistic political system, with branches to the right and left. The supreme ruler was known as the “Chanyu” and was equivalent to the Chinese “Son of Heaven.” Under the Chanyu were the “Wise Kings of the Left and Right.” Beneath the Wise Kings were the guli (kuli, ‘kings’), the army commanders, the great governors, the dunghu (tung-hu), the gudu (ku-tu). Directly beneath them were the commanders of groups of either 1000, 100, or ten men. When a Chanyu died, power would pass to his son, or to a younger brother if he did not have a son of age.

Although numerous skirmishes were fought between the Xiongnu and the Han Empire, in 129 BC, a great war broke out between the two arch-enemies. The Han emperor wanted to form an alliance with the Yuezhi people to fight against the Xiongnu, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Forty thousand Chinese cavalry attacked the Xiongnu at the border markets. The war was difficult for the Han due to difficulties transporting food and supplies over long distances, and there was low availability of the fuel they needed to survive the harsh Xiongnu climate. Nevertheless, the Chinese gained control over the Xiongnu, causing instability and weakness of the Xiongnu Empire.

Battle between the Xiongnu and the Han (Henan Museum)

Between 60-53 BC, the Xiongnu empire faced a civil war. Upon the 12th Chanyu’s death, a grandson of his cousin, known as Woyanqudi, took power. This was viewed as usurpation, and led to turmoil. Few supported Woyanqudi, and he eventually fled and committed suicide. As the lineage provided several heirs to the throne, there was disagreement as to who should take over as the 14th Chanyu. Those who supported Woyanqudi pushed for his brother, Tuqi, to be Chanyu in 58 BC. The following year, three more men declared themselves to be Chanyu. This led to a series of forfeitures and defeats. Tuqi was defeated by Huhanye, and then two more claimants appeared: Huhanye’s elder brother Zhizhi, and Runzhen. Zhizhi killed Runzhen in 54 BC, and only Zhizhi and Huhanye were left. Zhizhi grew in power, and Huhanye eventually submitted to the Chinese. After this, power shifted back and forth between the Xiongnu and the Han Dynasty for years, with many battles.

After the Battle of Ikh Bayan in 89 AD, the Northern Xiongnu were driven out of Mongolia, and the Southern Xiongnu became part of Han China. Some believe that the Northern Xiongnu continued west, came under the leadership of Attila, and took on the new name “the Huns.”

Attila the Hun by Eugene Delacroix (Wikiart)

The unique culture of the Xiongnu Empire was very powerful during its time. The fortifications that were initially built to keep the Xiongnu away were eventually transformed into the Great Wall of China. This demonstrates the size and power of the Xiongnu – an ancient nomadic group that played an important role in the history of Mongolia and China.

This article (The Great And Powerful Xiongnu) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Medieval Inscription Found In Teutonic Knights’ Castle Of Cēsis

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Photo Credit: www.destination360.com

The famous Cēsis Castle in central Latvia has given up an ancient secret carved within its blood-stained stone walls.

Cēsis Castle is one of the most iconic medieval castles in Latvia. Founded in 1213 or 1214 AD by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, it prospered from 1237 AD during its time as one of the key administrative and economic centres of the Teutonic Order. At this time the original fortifications were replaced by a monumental square castellum with various service buildings and outer baileys resulting in what Stephen Turnbull’s 2011 book, Crusader Castles of the Teutonic Knights, describes as “one of the largest and most powerful castles of the Teutonic Order.”

Ivan the Terrible damaged the castle in 1577 AD during a siege in the Livonian War and Cēsis Castle fell after the Great Northern War of 1700–1721 AD when the Tsardom of Russia contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. Today, this magnificent castle is the most visited heritage site in Cēsis, and one of the best preserved archaeological sites in the Baltic States.

Cēsis Castle, Cēsis, Latvia

Carved Whispers from A Violent Past

During a recent inspection of a previously hidden spiral staircase located in the South Tower of Cēsis Castle that had been inaccessible for centuries, a stone was discovered bearing a unique inscription from the second half of the 16th century. According to a report on LSM.LV  the carving is written in Latin and German and represents “the oldest, culturally and historically most significant inscription in stone to have survived at Cēsis Castle,” and parts of it has already been deciphered.

The discovery came after Gundars Kalniņš, head of the Medieval Castle Department at Cēsis Museum, noticed light illuminating the previously unknown engraved coat of arms with the initials “WKVA” carved around it, and again in the middle of the ancient design with what is known as a house mark. Next to the carved shield some German text has now faded, but the angled Latin inscription on the right of the stone reads “Si Deus pro nobis quis contra nos” i.e. “If God is for us, who can be against us” the question asked by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans.

Inscription found at Cēsis Castle. Credit: Cēsis Castle
Inscription found at Cēsis Castle. Credit: Cēsis Castle
Reverse Engineering the Carving

According to Kalniņš, the ancient carving is only visible under particular lighting conditions and similarly to the rest of the tower’s inner walls the engraved stone was once coated in limewash, but fortunately the archaeologist was able to find enough contrast between the white coating and the engraving to read the text, and after close examination it was determined that the design had been executed with a “pointed iron tool,” which he says would have blunted during the job.

Kalniņš also says the content of the writing suggests that the inscription may have been made during the siege of Cēsis Castle in 1577 AD, and he says this episode of the Livonian War has gone down in history as one of the most tragic events in 16th century Europe. The archaeologists said that for five days the Russian heavy artillery battered the castle walls until they besieged the garrison. Many ordinary townsfolk who “blew themselves up” unwilling to succumb to Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and many hundreds of Livonians died in this tragedy.

Castle of Cēsis
Cēsis Castle in Latvia (CC by SA 4.0)
Trapped in Shadows for 500 Years

So far as what this symbolic inscription might have represented to its maker, Kalniņš says that in the Middle Ages Latvia town dwellers adopted “rune-like symbols as a kind of coat of arms,” used by owners of property to identify their most valuable possessions. Known as a personal “house mark,” the carved symbol is a form of signature, stamp and seal, and while the specific carver will never be known, this specific decorative shield is characteristically from the second half of the 16th century.

And the reason this timeworn motif has gone unnoticed for 500 years is because it was only last year that archaeologists gained access the South Tower of Cēsis Castle to restore the tower’s ceilings and winding stairs, which are referred to at the castle as “Tall Hermann,” matching the name of the tower in the famous medieval tower of the Toompea Castle, on Toompea hill in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, both of which Kalniņš says are excellent examples of medieval military architecture in Latvia, and the example at Cēsis Castle with the ancient inscription is soon to be opened to the public.

This article (Medieval Inscription Found in Teutonic Knights’ Castle of Cēsis) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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1,800-Year-Old Roman Signet Ring Engraved With The Goddess Of Victory Found In A Field In Somerset

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Somerset
Photo Credit: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

An amateur treasure hunter has made a ‘stunning’ find from the Roman era in the South-West of England. With the help of a metal detector, the man discovered a golden ring at a site being investigated by local archaeologists.

The find is being hailed as very important and one of the most significant finds from the Roman-era in the area in recent years. This discovery has kindled a new excitement regarding the importance of the location where it was discovered and illustrates once again the significant role amateur archaeologists play in unearthing the past.

The Roman gold signet ring with an engraving of ancient victory goddess Victoria / Nike has been found by Jason Massey in a field near Crewkerne, BBC News reports.

The ring was found by an amateur metal detectorist, Jason Massey.
The ring was found by an amateur metal detectorist, Jason Massey.

Massey, who is part of the Detecting for Veterans group, found the Roman gold ring last Sunday after he unearthed some 60 Roman coins.

At first, he thought he had found his first gold coin but the find turned out to be a gold ring weighing 48 grams (1.7 oz).

The Roman ring is described as one of the most substantial archaeological finds in the recent history of England’s Somerset County and is thought to date back to the period between 200 and 300 AD.

The 3rd century AD Ancient Roman gold ring has been discovered in the same spot. Massey and other amateur detectorists stumbled upon a large number of coins and a Roman grave containing coffin lined with lead.

According to Massey, the site in question near Crewkerne, Somerset County, may have once housed a “very high-status Roman villa”.

There’s a load of figures floating about [for the value of the ring] but we’re interested in the villa, who’s lived there and where they’ve come from and who the person was that wore this ring,” he says.

There are a couple of gold rings of that sort of date from Somerset but they’re not common. Gold is… an indication that the owner is fairly wealthy,” comments Ciorstaidh Hayward-Trevarthen, finds liaison officer for South West Heritage Trust.

The 3rd century AD Roman gold ring from Somerset weighs 47 grams. Photos: TV grabs from the BBC
The 3rd century AD Roman gold ring from Somerset weighs 47 grams. Photos: TV grabs from the BBC.

The Ancient Roman grave containing a lead coffin and over 250 coins that Massey and other amateur detectorists found in last year that was dated to ca. 400 AD

A total of six out of some 200 similar Roman lead coffins found in all of the UK have been discovered in the South-Western Somerset County.

In 2016, there were a total of 37 reported cases of treasure found in Somerset, the most in five years.

Somerset County is in England’s top 10 local authority areas for treasure, according to official figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Norfolk County topped the list with 130 discoveries in 2016.

This article (1,800-Year-Old Roman Signet Ring Engraved With The Goddess Of Victory Found In A Field In Somerset) was originally created for Archaeology World and is published here under Creative Commons.

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