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Junnar Caves : Amba Ambika Caves in Junnar in Maharashtra

Monday, October 10, 2016

There are around 200 Buddhist caves in the hills of Junnar. The largest collection of caves at a single place in the whole of India. These caves belong to the Hinayana (Theravada) phase of Buddhism. They were built between 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD. The Junnar Caves are further divided on the hill ranges. The  Tulja Caves, The Shivneri Caves are located on the Shivneri Fort, The Manmodi Hills (comprising of Amba Ambika Caves, Bhimashankar Caves and Bhutalinga Caves) and Lenyadri Caves aka Ganesh Caves. 

Amba Ambika Caves

Junnar is around 200 KM away from Mumbai. That is roughly around a 5 hour drive after taking into consideration the traffic and breaks). As we were not sure as to how much time it would take to visit the 200 caves we decided to make it a 2 day trip. 

Aashish, Neha and Manohar joined me in exploring the Junnar Caves. 
Stupa at Amba Ambika Caves

We decided to meet at 5 AM at Ghatkopar Railway station (E). Due to a little delay we kick started the road trip at 5:15 AM. We were greeted by early morning rains. I was hoping to have clear skies else l would get dull photos. Junnar is tagged on google maps, we decided to take the Mumbai Pune Expressway,exit at Talegaon, head over to Chakan to refill the CNG and then head to Junnar via Rajgurunagar, Manchar and Narayangaon. 

The caves are located around the Junnar ST bus depot. 
Vihara at Amba Ambika Caves

As we were approaching Junnar, I noticed a set of caves in the hills. I quickly informed Aashish about the same. We decided to visit the caves first. I checked google maps, these were the Amba Ambika Caves. We quickly exited the Narayangaon-Junnar Road and traveled on the Junnar-Vadaj Road. There are no signboards on this road. So one has to rely on the locals for directions to visit the caves. We asked a couple of locals and they guided us via a small muddy road which goes uphill and leads straight to Amba Ambika Caves. 
Vihara at Amba Ambika Caves

We trekked up the jungle for around 20 minutes to reach the Amba Ambika Caves. A couple of caves have been converted into a temple dedicated to Amba Ambika (painted white). A couple of people were reciting kirtans there, so we didn't want to disturb them.  We decided to go explore the remaining caves. As per Manohar the Amba Ambika comprised of around 40 caves. The caves on the top were not accessible to us. Maybe in the past there was way to reach them. The caves are not in very good condition, except for the temple. 
Inscription at Amba Ambika Caves

One of the caves had nicely carved pillars on them, We didn't go in the cave premises as the floor was covered in moss. There was a Stupa too in it. There is also a inscription on one of the cave walls. Not sure what it meant, as we didn't know the language it was written in. 

Amba Ambika Caves

It took us around 15 minutes to explore the caves. We then asked the priest who had just arrived about the other caves. He informed us that the caves to the left of Amba Ambika are the Bhutalinga Caves and the once in far right are the Bhimashankar Caves. 


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