2nd Century Buddhist Cave Architecture That Will Captivate Your Soul

Maharashtra has several historical chapters to deliver.  And the Karla and Bhaja rock-cut caves are one of those glorious chapters.

Maharashtra has several historical chapters to deliver. And the Karla and Bhaja rock-cut caves are one of those glorious chapters. We’ve brought you the information about vast and incredible caves in Maharashtra, which you must see while visiting the city. The exquisiteness and meticulousness of these caves will leave you awestruck as you look at the temples, carvings and the skilful architecture of that era.


An Epitome of Buddhist Cave Architecture

The ancient temple and intricate sculptures of Karla caves will mesmerize you. Karla and Bhaja rock-cut caves, sited near Lonavala in Maharashtra, are perfect examples of Buddhist cave Architecture in India. The history of these caves dated back to 2nd century BC. The beautiful interiors and the intricate sculptures of humans, Buddha and animals are fascinating. Moreover, these caves are remarkably well-adapted to Indian seasons as these are cozy in winter and cool in summer.


Karla cave is an extremely remarkable cave, which is assumed to carve out from a single rock. Out of 18 caves- 10 are viharas- usually a sleeping or resting place for monks. The cave also has a group of 14 stupas, in which nine are placed outside and five are located inside the smaller cave. Moreover, Karla cave has the largest early Chaitya (a temple or prayer hall) in India that was built during Satavahana's rule.

It takes only 20-minutes to hike the steep way of the cave from the Minibazaar at the base of a hill. The length and height of Chaitya are around 40m and 15m respectively. The best feature of these caves is that they have a hemispherical ‘sun window’ that sieves light towards Stupa or Dagoba sheltered by an engraved wooden umbrella. Recently, a temple has been built at the entrance with the help of pillars from Buddhist period. There is also a sculpture of Buddha seated on a lion-supported throne preaching his disciples. The sculpture also has splendid carvings of three elephants.


On the other side of the expressway, 3 km off the main road, you can feast your eyes historic dark and deep rock-cut Bhaja caves amidst lush green surroundings. Standing 400 feet above the village of Bhaja near Lonavala, Bhaja caves are regarded to be built in the Hinayana phase of Buddhism, which is 2nd to 1st century BC.  There is a waterfall near the cave where you can refresh yourselves. Visapur and Lohagad forts are also nearby to these caves. These caves have a magnificent display of wooden architecture.

Though these caves are a little pale in comparison to Ajanta or Ellora and that is the reason why these places are low on commercial tourism. But for those seeking solitude, it is an ideal place to visit. Also, if you are one of those who loves philosophy, history, architecture or photography, these caves will surely satiate your intellectual hunger.

How to Reach Karla and Bhaja Caves

From Lonavala, you need to travel only 12 km by road to reach Karla Caves. You can go there by bus or car. To climb over 300 steps to reach the top, you may need a half day or a full day.

And to reach Bhaja caves, you need to cover a distance of only 10 km from Lonavala. However, if you are travelling by train, Bhaja caves are near Malavali, which is the closest railway station to these caves and is a few kilometres away. 

Nearest Railway Station: Malavli

Nearest Airports: At Pune (64kms) and Mumbai (International airport 110 km)

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