Search This Blog

Karla Caves in Karli near Lonavala in Maharashtra

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Karla Caves or Karle Caves are located in Karli near Lonavala, in Maharashtra. Ekvira Devi Temple is located in the cave premises. The caves can be accessed by road both from Mumbai and Pune (cities in Maharashtra). Closest rail station being Lonavala Railway station.
Dominic, Manohar and Me in one of the viharas or dwelling place

Our original plan was to do a overnight trek to Karla Caves, Bedse Caves, Tikona Fort, Tung Fort and finally camp for the night near Pawna Lake. Our backup plan was to visit Rajmachi Fort in Lonavala. But till the last 10 hours we were unsure as to where we were headed.
View of Karli Village from the Karla Caves premises
Finally Dominic who had  accompanied Manohar and Me on our trip to Wai, gave the final nod and the very next morning we planned to visit Karla Caves, Bedse Caves, Tikona Fort and Tung Fort. 

We planned to go by car as ST buses and public transport is not very good around Lonavala, also the places we will be going are distant from each other. So a car tripping will help save on time.
Another view of Karli Village
As decided we met at Ghatkopar Railway station at 6 AM. We were greeted by rain showers. Rain in the month of March is very unusual. I guess this is the sign of global warming.
Other caves in its premises

Mumbai - Panvel - Mumbai Pune Expressway - Lonavala - Old Mumbai Pune Highway -  Ekvira Devi Road. This is the route we took. Google Maps are available for the same.

We had breakfast in the form of vada pav at the food court on the Mumbai Pune Expressway at 9 AM. 
Sculpture in one of the caves
There is an entry fee of Rs.30 to visit the village. From the village starts the round and winding road uphill to the base of the caves. The roads here are very narrow and steep so see to it that you drive in gear one and don't race uphill.
The big pillar with the four lions of Ashoka outside the main cave

The roads offer a beautiful view of the villages below, the mountain ranges in a distance and fields around. Sadly we couldn't stop on the way else we would have gone down the hill.
Carvings on Karla Caves

After paying parking fee of Rs.10 we set out to visit the caves. A series of steep steps, leads to the top of the caves. These steps did test our calves and knees. So take sufficient breaks while you climbing up. There are souvenir shops on either side of the road, selling articles of worship, restaurants, toys and local sweets. 
Beautifully carved entrance to the Karla Caves

Finally we reached the caves. Entry fee for the caves is Rs.5 for Indians for Rs.100 for foreigners. To his Manohar commented, "And we talk of racism." LOL.
Carvings on Karla Caves

There are around seven caves in its premises. Nothing much to see in the initial ones. Certain caves are located on the first level and second level also. But entry to these is not possible  as it is either locked or weeds placed on the stairs making it difficult to move up.

Surely something might have happened in the past due to which this restriction is imposed.

The vihara's or the dwelling place of the monks, were rooms built by the monks to mediate. The floor of the rooms was uneven, They had to sit on them for hours to mediate. I tried sitting on it and my bum started paining in 5 minutes, wondering how they would have sat for hours at a stretch. The room will also consist of a rock cut elevated bed. Meant for sleeping. 

Dominic, Manohar and Me
The place where the Karla Caves are carved is not the highest point on the hill. There is a small tiny road going uphill which takes one to the top. But entry here is restricted and there is a guard manning it. But this place offers a beautiful view of Karli Village and the surrounding hills. 

The Ekvira Devi Temple is located outside the main and the most beautifully crafted cave among st them all. 
The stupa in the centre with the wooden umbrella atop it, parallel pillars with carvings atop it and the wooden arches on the ceiling
There are lots of devotees at Ekvira Devi Temple. So there is crowd around the main cave. The Ekvira Devi Temple is old but not as old as the Main Cave.

Outside the Main Cave (Chaitya or prayer hall) is a huge pillar with the four lions of Ashoka on it. Though I have been to many Buddhist Caves in the past, this is a rare sighting.
Carvings atop the pillars with inscription on them
The Cave is huge both in length and breadth. They have put net on most parts of the caves so that it obstructs bats and birds from entering its premises, who dirty the place with their droppings. Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, they too have nets all over the place.

The elephants, whose tusks have fallen, the carvings of the couple, Buddha mediating and carvings in the shape of a arc are beautiful. There are horse shoe shaped arch carved on the walls of the Chaitya. Similar to the Chaitya at Bedse Caves.
Inscription on the pillars
Inside the premises is a huge stupa with a wooden umbrella atop it. I haven't seen this in any of the other caves I have visited so far.

The parallel pillars leading to the stupa are beautifully carved at the top. A design which is uniform on all the pillars. We also located certain symbols on the pillars. There are writings both in Pali and Sanskrit on the pillars, as confirmed by Manohar.
Stupa with a wooden umbrella atop it
The top of the caves is made of wooden arches. It is surprising that it has survived all these years. 

It really feels nice in these caves. It took us back in time and we started discussing history. I loved history in my schooling days. But what is worth knowing is the handwork that has gone in designing these caves over the years. The Buddhist monks had to cut out huge portions of the rock so that the place could be built. For example to make the Elephants trunk, they have to remove the rock around it. As confirmed by Manohar.

The Karla Caves are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) These caves were built between 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD

Though the Buddhist built these caves to mediate there is a huge crowd at this cave, mainly the devotees at Ekvira Devi Temple. So it is difficult to be at peace in this cave.

We the headed off to see Bedse Caves the second on out itinerary. 


Popular Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...