Kanheri Caves are one of the best ancient
architecture in Mumbai. These rock-cut caves are situated within the premises
of Sanjay Gandhi National Park near to the town of Borivali. The caves are
known for the paintings and sculptures that are heavily influenced Buddhist and
Indian culture. There are 109 entrances to the caves and the carvings and
inscriptions in the caves date back to sometime around the 1st and
10th centuries. Situated amidst the lush greenery, the caves can be
accessed by a series of steps made of rocks.
The caves are an important source of Buddhist
history and since they were built over an extended period of time, the
architecture style among the caves differ. The caves that were built during the
initial period have a simple design as compared to the newer ones, which are in
turn adorned with carvings and inscriptions. However, the only common thing
among the caves is the individual stone plinth they are built on. The caves
complex also constitutes other interesting establishments such as splendid
carved pillars, a common prayer hall, stupas and hand-carved water channels.
One of the caves now has been converted into a monastery and is of great
religious importance to the Buddhists.
More on Kanheri Caves
History of Kanheri
The construction of Kanheri Caves depicts the
time span in history when Buddhism had a stronghold among the ancient people
residing in the region. Kanheri word is deduced from a Sanskrit term
“Krishnagiri” which means a mountain with a darker shade. It was named so
because the area around the caves is comprised of black basaltic stone. The
most interesting aspect of this cave is that is built on a single rock bed,
unlike other caves in India.
These caves have been of immense religious
importance to the Buddhist community since the time they were built. It was an
important pilgrimage site and learning centre for the monks that lived between
the 1st and 10th centuries.
A massive congregation hall with stupas
installed within implies that this region was a focal point for Buddhist
settlement during the ancient times. Very soon, it became a prominent
institution for worshipping and other religious activities for Buddhists
Main attractions near the Kanheri Caves
For the travel and history enthusiasts,
Kanheri Caves won’t disappoint you because there are lot many things to explore
around this place. There are 34 incomplete Buddhist paintings and a large
congregation hall that succinctly depicts the lifestyle and culture of ancient
For those looking for an adventure can partake
in thrilling activities like trapezing or just simply trekking around the
Sanjay Gandhi National Park. You might also spot small waterfalls and narrow
streams charting their course through the dense jungle. These water bodies add
to the serenity and beauty of the place. It is indeed a perfect place to
organize a picnic with your family and friends and to unwind from a stressful
Inside the Kanheri
The rock-cut Kaneri Caves are known for their
impressive collection of inscriptions and paintings. There are around 51
readable inscriptions and 26 short phrases written in Brahmi and Devanagari.
Majority of these caves were used by the Buddhist monks as Viharas, which were,
in turn, were built for meditation and study purposes. The viharas are small
chambers which also had a small stone bed to sleep on.
The caves which are larger in size were called
Chaityagrahas, which were halls used for worship and other religious
activities. The rectangular-shaped Chaityagrahas constitutes beautiful stone
pillars adorned with intricate carvings and interestingly, no two pillars have
same carvings. A long row of 34 pillars divide the Grahas and each has detailed
carvings of Lord Buddha and Bodhisattvas. The outer part of the Chaityagraha has
a large porch which can be compared to a modern-day verandah.
The carvings and sculptures on the Viharas and
the Chaityagrahas represent various aspects of Buddhism. The most attractive
part of Kanheri Caves is the Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva who was an idol of
love and compassion for all. There is also an inscription that points out the
auspicious wedding ceremony of Satavahana ruler Vashishtiputra and daughter of
Trekking in Kanheri
Trekking might not be on your To-do list while
travelling to Mumbai, however, you might want to trek through the verdant
landscapes around the Kanheri Caves. A trek to Kanheri Caves is two hours long
and the trail is easily navigable by the amateur trekkers. You will get a
breathtaking view of the surroundings as you reach the top. The trek route
passes through several waterfalls, thickets and mesmerizing landscapes.
If you are lucky, you might also spot a few
animals in the forest, but do not tease or get close to them. Near to the
caves, you might even spot a few tribal women selling snacks and tea. You can
interact with them and learn interesting facts about the caves. Kanheri Trek is
indeed one of the best ways to explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Tips for Visiting Kanheri caves
trek route is slightly rough and rocky, therefore, watch your steps to avoid
tripping over an uneven surface.
Carry enough water bottles and sun protection gear such as sunglasses,
hat, sunscreen, etc.
not litter the place. There are dustbins provided all over the cave complex.
Wear comfortable clothes and trekking shoes with a good grip.
How to Reach Kanheri
Kanheri Caves is located in the northern part
of Mumbai. The nearest railway station is Borivali which is well-connected to
different railway routes spread across the city. Once you reach the station,
you can take an auto-rickshaw or a cab that will drop you right in front of
Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Alternatively, if the weather is pleasant, you can
take a walk to the park which will hardly take 10-15 minutes. From the park,
you can trek to the Kanheri Caves.