KARLA AND BHAJA CAVES

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Location: Near Lonavala, Pune, Maharashtra
Dates Back To: C2nd Century
Architectural Style: Rock-Cut Architecture
Significance: The Largest Chaitya Caves In India

Karla and Bhaja Caves are the largest Chaitya Caves in India that date back to 2nd century BC, which are situated near Lonavala. The Chiatya among the caves is the biggest of its kind and well preserved. They are the pinnacle of modern Maharashtra and are carved thousands of years ago. Although as exquisite as the more, famous Ajanta and Ellora caves, these caves are less crowded and make for an extremely pleasant outing.

BHAJA CAVES

The Bhaja caves, on the southern flank of the Visapur fort, are among the earliest, dating from the second to the early 1st century BC, during the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. They are located 3-km from the main road that consists of Viharas and Chaityas, set in lush green surroundings.

The last cave has some fine sculptures. It is very peaceful out here and there is a waterfall near the caves, which is considered ideal for a refreshing dip. Nearby are the Lohagad and Visapur Fort, which are worth a visit.

KARLA CAVES

Karla Caves in MaharashtraKarla is the finest example of rock-cut architecture in Maharashtra, which is carved out of living rock by monks and artisans. Some of its 2000-year-old wooden beams are still intact. The Karla Cave is the largest Hinayana Buddhist chaitya (temple) in India built in the time of the Hinayana sect, during the Satavahanas (also spelt as Satavahan) rule.

A pillar topped by four back - to - back lions stands outside the cave and is reputed to be very old. One can climb the Karla caves in 20 minutes the way is steep, which also has some small viharas dotted in the hillside. They take you on a journey back in time, narrating stories of the past. Buddhist monks, used to gather here during the monsoons.

At the entrance there is a temple, which was recently built, accompanied by a pillar from the Buddhist period. Carved temple screens, sculpted with railing ornaments and human couples, form the facade of the caves. The panels of the wooden doors and windows are finely decorated with intricate sculptures of couples embracing. One will also come across a 45-meter (148-foot) long Chaitya, possibly the finest of its kind in the country.

One can also find sculptures of the Buddha preaching while seated on a lion-supported throne, along with magnificent carvings of three elephants. On each side, fifteen pillars separate the narrow aisles from the central arch. The pillars are adorned with motifs of elephants, men and women riding, etc.

HOW TO GET THERE

Air: Nearest airport is Pune .

Rail: Nearest railway station is Malavli, 2-km on Central railway line. But tourists find Lonavla station, 10-km away, the most convenient base to visit the Karla and Bhaja caves.

Road: Karla is 114-km from Mumbai and State Transport buses ply from Mumbai, Pune, Lonavla to Karla regularly.

WHERE TO STAY

There are M.T.D.C. Holiday Resorts at Karla and Lonavala for accommodation.



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