Ellora, 1876

Engraving of the Kailas temple in Ellora, as printed in The Illustrated London News in 1876.
Ellora, 1876
Ellora, 1876

The Illustrated London News (TILN)was the first of its kind a newspaper with pictures. Simple really, and highly effective. Although it published for a staggering 161 years, from 1842 to 2003, the paper reached the zenith of its popularity in the late 19th century, when it brought the world, and far-flung corners of the British Empire, to the Victorian middle classes. At the time, it had a circulation of 300,000. Apart from hearsay&mdashthere&rsquos an illustration of a ship encountering a monstrous &lsquosea serpent&rsquo off the West Indies in the 1850s&mdashand political analysis, the paper also carried extensive reportage, with people such as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie as contributors. Much like National Geographic, the paper also used to send out &lsquospecial artists&rsquo to travel and sketch. One such &lsquospecial artist&rsquo produced this atmospheric engraving of the Kailas temple in Ellora for the March 18 issue of TILN in 1876.

By then, Ellora&rsquos myriad rock-cut caves, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu, had been known to the western world for at least about a century, since the British annexation of western Deccan from the Marathas. The one monument here that understandably drew the most attention was the monolithic Kailas temple with paintings and engravings of it appearing from the turn of the 19th century, including the much-celebrated paintings by Thomas Daniell published in 1803, as well as sketches and engravings by British officers and European travellers.

This excellent engraving captures the awe-inspiring beauty of the site, and establishes what has become the most popular vantage point when viewing the temple. You can bet those Victorians were very impressed

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