Karla Caves are one of the oldest Buddhist
rock-cut caves situated near to the city of Lonavala. These caves lie next to
the highway that connects Pune with Mumbai and is one of the few of the caves
that have been excavated in Sahyadri Hills. These caves were built 2000 years
ago anytime between 2nd century BC and 5th century AD.
The caves are known for their splendid architecture, Chaityas (chambers) and
Viharas (monasteries) that depict various stories from the life of Buddha and
other mythological texts. There is also
an exotic temple constructed at the entrance of the caves.
Karla Caves were of immense religious
importance to the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism and later it was influenced by
Hinduism. The Buddhist Monasteries built in the caves dates back to 2nd
century BC and are an important source of information related to ancient
Buddhist culture. As you explore the caves you will come across a 15-meter tall
pillar, referred to as Veluraka, and an ancient temple devoted to the Goddess
You will be fascinated to spot the trade route
near the caves that enabled the trading between Deccan Indian to other parts of
the world. The route runs east from the Arabian Sea to the Deccan India. The
trade flourished in this region because of the establishment of monasteries by
the monks in the past. Karla Caves is a perfect place to visit for those who
want to learn more about ancient India. The rich history of the caves along
with its beautiful architecture is now under the protection of the
Archaeological Survey of India.
More on Karla Caves
History of Karla Caves
Karla Caves were constructed in two phases,
the first lasted from 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD
and the second phase lasted from 5th century AD to 10th
century AD. It is believed that the entire cave was constructed on the basis of
a single design, however, there are other three excavations that have a
resemblance to the architecture that was prominent during the Mahayana period
The construction of the caves was funded by
the donation that was collected from people that belonged to all sections of
society such as merchants, monks, nuns and also Marathi princes. Various
inscriptions found in the caves depict the names of people who made generous
donations such as Dhenukakata, Sopara, Umehanakata and Vejamti.
Architecture of Karla
Karla Caves are known for their grandiose
structures and houses the largest Chaityagrihas in India measuring about 13.87
wide, 14.02 high and about 37.87 deep. The caves here are embellished with
elegant rock-cut pillars, intricate carvings and various inscriptions.
A passageway behind the pillars connects to a
splendid semi-circular ceiling of the chamber wherein the main idol is
positioned. The ceiling of the Chaitya is supported by a series of wooden arches
thereby, adding to its beauty and elegance.
The caves comprise of 16 rock-cut structures of which 8 are
Chaityagrihas. The stupas in the caves are cylindrical in shape which supports
a cube-shaped ‘Harmika’ and a pyramid-shaped roof-like structure.
The main chamber is adorned with finely
sculpted figures of men, women and animals. A magnificent statue of Lord Buddha
is seated on a throne that is supported by a lion. The throne also exhibits
striking carvings of three elephants. Another interesting aspect of the caves
is the pillars that resemble the Ashokan Pillar and which are in turn decorated
with figures of elephants. At the entrance of the temple, you will also spot an
ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Ekvira.
Stay Near Karla Caves
A number of options are available to the
visitors to make arrangements for their stay around the caves. Few of the
popular hotels are Highland Resort, Gulab Paradise, Heritage Villa, Valvan
Village Resort and Neel Resort.
Restaurants Near Karla
The area around the caves is filled with
street food stalls. Moreover, you can opt for a fancy lunch or dinner at
restaurants such as Sunny Da Dhaba, The Kinara Village Dhaba, Sidhu Punjabi
Dhaba, Maval Darbar and Rohit Family Restaurant.
Tips for Visiting Karla Caves
1. Carry enough water and remain hydrated
while exploring the caves. Carry shades and sunscreen to protect yourself from
sun and dust.
2. Do not litter around as its punishable.
How to Reach Karla
Karla Caves is well-connected to the nearby
cities via roadways. You can take a private taxi directly from Pune, Mumbai or
Lonavala. Alternatively, you can take a bus to reach the place. Once you have
reached, it takes around 20 minutes of steep climbing to reach the caves.