Dating back to the 2nd BC and artistically built over a few centuries, the
Caves of Maharashtra have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves
have been home to monks of different religions.
Be it the paintings in the Ajanta caves or the sculpture of the Ellora caves,
or the divine presence in the Elephanta caves, the visitors have always and will always continue to be spellbound. These caves
offer a visit that is truly unforgettable. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, a discovery of the self, and of
The Caves will be closed on Monday.
The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out
of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 26 km north of Aurangabad. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain
Buddhist Chaityas, or halls of worship, and Viharas,
or monasteries, Hindu and Jai temples.
Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5 th and
11 th century AD, the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29).The most imposing
excavation is, without doubt, that of the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave
16) which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Interestingly, Ellora, unlike the site of Ajanta, was never ‘rediscovered’.
Known as Verul in ancient times, it has continuously attracted pilgrims
through the centuries to the present day.
Ellora has been designed as a World Heritage Site, to be preserved
as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come.
The Caves will be closed on Tuesday.
Aurangabad Caves are artificial caves, dug out of the rather soft
rock during the 6th and 7th century. This caves are found on two separate locations, called Western Group Caves (caves 1-5)
and Eastern Group Caves (caves 6-10), about 1km from each other. Each group has five caves. The architecture and iconography
is influenced by Tantric Hinduism.
Cave four of the Western Group Caves is the oldest cave. It is a Hinayana Chaitya
with a ridged roof like the Karla Cave near Lonavala. Hinayana (Sanskrit: Lesser Vehicle) is the more orthodox, conservative
schools of Buddhism. Chaitya (Sanskrit) is the word for a funeral monument. There is a stupa in front of it, now partially
The other four Western caves are viharas, which are an early type of Buddhist monastery consisting of an
open court surrounded by open cells accessible through an entrance porch. The viharas in India were originally constructed
to shelter the monks. Cave 3, the most fascinating cave of the Western Group, is supported by 12 finely carved columns. They
show sculptures portraying scenes from the Jataka tales.
Built around 80 BC, Karla, 12 km from Lonavala, is the site of
the largest rock cut chaitya (temple) caves in India. Amongst the best-preserved Buddhist temples in India, they are the finest
examples of this style of temple architecture. The temple is carved by monks and artisans from the rock imitating the wooden
architecture. The 37 pillars those form the isles are topped by kneeling elephants. An Ashoka Pillar topped by four back to
back lions stands outside the cave.
About 3 kms from the main road is the more peaceful setting
of the Bhaja Caves. Dating from around 200 BC, 10 of the 18 caves here are viharas (monasteries) while Cave 12 is an open
chaitya earlier than the chaitas of Karla. Lohagad Fort and Visapura Fort, old and atmospheric, are located on the hills above
Situated on the side of a thickly wooded valley in the middle
of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the well-known Kanheri Cave Complex that was built between the 2nd and 9th centuries by
the Buddhist monks of Hinayana faith. The 109-cave line is one of the largest monastic settlements in India.
impressive cave is the 2nd century Cave No. 3, whose entrance is flanked by two huge statues of Buddha carved in the 6th century.
The interior has an arcade of pillars with intricate carvings of lions and elephants with a 5m stupa in the rear.
Pandav Lena Caves
Pandav Lena caves are located on a small hillock, 2.5km from the
Taj Residency hotel on the Bombay-Agra Road. This group of 24 Buddhist caves belonging to the Hinayana faith, who worshipped
Buddha in symbolical form, dates back to the 1st Century BC and the 2nd Century AD. The images of Buddha carving in some of
the caves are additions by the Mahayana faith during 4th - 6th Century AD.
All caves in the group are Viharas (monasteries)
except cave No. 18, which is a well sculptured Chaitya (Temple). Cave No. 3 is a large vihara with a shrine and cisterns and
was excavated at the orders of the Mother of the famous Satvahana King Gautamiputra Satkarni. Cave No 10 is also a vihara
identical to cave no 3, but it is much older and finer in its details.
Thirteen Buddhist excavations, dating from the 2nd century
BC to the 1st century AD lie about 40 km northwest of Ellora, cut into the side of the a secluded ravine. Comprising
mainly viharas, they form the largest group of Hinayana Buddhist structures.
9 nautical miles across the sea from the Gateway of India lay Elephanta,
also known as ‘Gharapuri’. Visit this green island for the wonders of the 7 th century, the painstakingly hewn
rock-cut cave temple, dedicated to Shiva. The Maheshamurti panel in which Shiva is shown as a creator, protector and destroyer,
is a sight that should be enjoyed at least once in a lifetime. Regular excursions to Elephanta start every day from the Gateway
of India. The Caves will be closed on Monday.