The winter vacation this year was a historical one where I got the opportunity to visit some ancient caves in the state of Maharashtra, India. Today I would write about my trip to Karla Caves in Lonavala. It is one of the oldest Buddhist caves in India with magnificent artistic sculptures adorning its interiors. The caves are also known by Karle caves or Karli caves.
It is said that the caves were built almost 2000 years ago where the Buddhist shrines were carved out with elegance and skill. Due to its historical significance, the caves are protected and preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India. As per the study of historians, the cave was constructed in 2 phases, one during the 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD and the other from the 5th century AD to the 10th century. Various people contributed to carving out the artistic sculptures inside the caves.
My journey towards Karla Caves
I started my journey from the resort in a hired car and reached the base of the Karla caves in about 1 hour. The place was not heavily crowded as I started my walk towards the caves. There are 250 high steps leading towards the entrance of Karla caves. I successfully climbed all without any stopover for rest and was happy about my fitness level. It was almost a 30 minutes walk from the base to the entrance of the caves. My spirit was uplifted as I reached the entrance of the caves, portraying the ancient history of India with its grandeur. I was overwhelmed to be acquainted with the fact that the route beside the caves served as an important caravan route for merchant trading in the past.
There is a ticket counter at the entrance to purchase the tickets. The guards checked and granted entry into the caves. I was astounded by the magnificence of the architecture still intact after so many years. It is wonderful and worthy of appreciation. I went inside to observe each of the architecture marvels inside the caves.
The Architecture of Karla Caves
Karla Caves consists of grand and large monuments called Chaityas, huge pillars, old inscriptions and several figures carved out of stone. At the entrance, you will find the holy temple of Goddess Ekvira. The largest of the Chaityas is located in the central hall, measuring 14.02 meter high, 13.87 meters wide and 37.87 meters deep. The hall is adorned by the majestic pillars with the elaborate carvings on the columns.
Both the right and left sides of the cave entrance has exquisite works of elephant and human figures. The pillars are the replica of the Ashokan pillar with elephant motifs ornating them. You can observe the four lions supporting themselves at the top of the pillars. The different figures of Lord Buddha are found at the left and right panels of the entrance. I was marvelled at the intricate works of the artists and the sculptors.
The inscriptions on the pillars are said to belong to the Satavahanas dynasty who ruled the Deccan region of India during the late second century BCE to the early third century BCE. The various forms of Buddha represent the beliefs and faith of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. The main stupa or Chaitya in the central hall is known as Dagoba. It served as the prayer hall for the ancient Buddhists. It is fabulous to watch how the lights from outside have been synchronized with the architecture so that only the stupa is illuminated. Other parts of the hall are kept comparatively dimmed.
Photo Shoots at Karla Caves
After observing in amazed at the incredible intricate architectural decorations inside the caves, I clicked quite a number of pictures as my memory and collections. I will share a few of them with all my readers which I hope will motivate you to visit the place. There are also some rock structures just beside the cave to venture out. You can also go inside the Ekvira temple, especially visited by the fishermen community to offer their prayers and seek her blessings. They normally arrive in groups playing drums and chanting the holy name of Goddess Ekvira.
Few Tips for visiting the Karla Caves
- Cooperate with the security guards as they are quite helpful
- You have to open your shoes to enter into the caves as a customary ritual
- Do not throw food packets, water bottles and other papers at the cave premises. There are dustbins and trash bins for the same.
- Wear sunglasses and caps and apply sunscreen lotion to protect against the sun rays
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes as you need to travel up 250 stairs and then climb down the same number