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bhaja caves overview

#10 of 28 Places To Visit in Lonavala
bhaja caves
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Khandala, Maharashtra, India
visit duration
2 to 3 hours

about bhaja caves

Bhaja is an important Buddhist centre in Maharashtra, consisting of 22 excavations and located on a hill near the Bhaja village. The importance of the Bhaja Caves is further enhanced by the presence of two more monastic complexes namely Bedsa located on the south face of the same hill in which Bhaja is situated and Karla, directly opposite north of Bhaja nearly 5 Km from the latter. All the caves belong to the Hinayana phase and their origin dates back to 3rd century BCE to 2nd century CE. However the group was under occupation up to 6th century CE as attested from some of the painted Buddha images in the chaityagrha, the most prominent among the excavations.

The chaityagrha is considered to be the earliest of its kind. It consist of a large hall, the ceiling of the nave is vaulted and original wooden beams are fixed. A stupa is placed at the back for worship. The stupa has a prominent hemispherical dome on a cylindrical drum crowned by a railing pattern. At present, the entrance of the hall is completely open. However, the evidence of mortise holes indicates the presence of a wooden facade below the chaitya arch and also wooden screen of the chaitya window.

Cave 18 is a monastery and consists of a rectangular hall with a front pillared verandah. The hall has two cells each on the back and right side, while on the left side is a bench. Unlike the pillars of the chaityagrha the pillars have square base and top with octagonal shape at the middle. Two doors from the verandah lead to the hall; they are flanked by lavishly bejewelled dvarapalas. The verandah of this monastery has two famous sculptural reliefs which are most important. One depicts a royal personage attended by two women, driving in a chariot driven by four horses, which tramples on a demolished figure. The person in royal attire has been identified by some as Sun god Surya. To the left of the door is depicted a person driving an elephant carrying an ankusa (elephant goad), with attendants carrying a banner and spear. The figure has been identified by some as Indra.

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