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Karla Caves

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, May 19, 2016.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    History of Karla Caves

    Karla Caves of Maharashtra is one of the earliest rock-carved architectures on the Indian soil. The magnificent cave temples of Karla used to be the epicenter of Buddhist philosophy dating back to the 2nd century BC. As far as the history of Karla is concerned, the sculptures at Karla Caves were developed between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD, with the oldest one belonging to 160 BC - which coincides with the rulings of Satavahana dynasty.

    Karla Caves is an excellent site for the history enthusiasts who would like to have a close look at the ancient architecture and Buddhist culture of India. The place has received widespread attention among the scholars as well as the commoners. Nestled between the lush green landscapes of Sahyadri mountains, the Karla Caves attract lots of tourists from different parts of the country, and even from beyond the borders. The Karla complex has now been declared as a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

    Location of Karla Caves

    This heritage site is located near the famous hill station of Lonavala in Maharashtra. The caves were constructed on a chain of rocky terrain along the Sahyadri ranges, on the north bank of the Indrayani river. It is situated near a major ancient trade route connecting historical sea-ports of Kalyan and Sopara to the cities in the Deccan region.

    Karla Caves Architecture

    Excavations at the site has resulted in unveiling 16 rock-cut caves. Various inscriptions found here have made the Archeologists believe that these caves used to serve as a monastic complex for the followers of Indian Buddhism, particularly for those belonging to the Mahasanghmika sect of Buddhism.

    The most striking piece of architecture is found in Cave 8, which features a Buddhist Chaityagriha (prayer hall). The chaityagriha at Karla is the largest of all Buddhist prayer halls in the entire country, measuring around 45 meters in length, with a width and height of 14 meters each, supported by 15 pillars. The interior of the prayer hall is decorated with various religious figures and inscriptions. There is a stone-carved stupa with a circular dome (chhatri) at the rear end of the hall which used to be the presiding figure of worship.

    There are a few other Chaityagriha and Buddha Viharas in the Karla complex, but none could match the splendor and brilliance of Cave 8.

    The arched entrances, intricately carved motifs and vaulted interiors are the notable features of cave temples found at Karla. The pillars, featuring octagonal shaft mounted on a stepped pyramidal base, are carved in great detail. These are decorated with various figures related to Lord Buddha's life.

    There is another set of historic cave temples, the Bhaja Caves, located in close proximity to Karla. The majority of tourists visit both the places together as they are just around 10 KM from one another.

    How to Reach Karla Caves?

    Karla Caves are located in Maval Taluka off Pune-Mumbai highway. The place is around 60 KM away from Pune towards the North-Western direction. From Mumbai, the distance is around 120 KM. Lonavala is the nearest major tourist attraction situated at a distance of just 8 KM.

    To reach Karla Caves from Pune or Mumbai, you can take the old Pune-Mumbai Highway (NH-4) and drive towards Lonavala. If you are coming from the Pune side, around 6 KM before Lonavala, you will come across a junction with two diversions, one towards the right and the other on the left side. Take the right diversion and drive for another 2-3 KM to reach at the base of the Karla Caves. From there, it would require you to climb up around 350 stairs to arrive at the Karla Caves Complex. The left diversion can take you to the Bhaja Caves, which is around 7 KM away from the junction.

    You can even avail public transport facility to arrive at the Karla Caves. The local trains between Mumbai and Pune usually stop at Malavli railway station (MVL), which is around 5 KM from the Karla Complex. You can also travel in the buses plying in Mumbai-Pune highway (NH-4) and get down at Karla bus stop.


  2. cafwen

    cafwen New Member


    I had to post this stunning photo of the the Chaitya Hall - isn't it an amazing work of ancient architecture? This place really has something for everyone, whether you appreciate history, art, culture or even geology. Definitely a must see if you have the opportunity to visit.

  3. arunava basu

    arunava basu New Member

    I really appreciate this article. Most people do not know about Karla Caves. But it is such an important chapter of the history of India, its cultural diversity, and the great pomp of those times and unbelievable skills of the artisans.