India features the most incredible old rock-cut architectural and cultural treasures at numerous historical sites.
The 2nd century BCE Bhaje or Bhaja caves are one fine example of stone-carved architecture. These caves serve as an illustration of early Buddhist architecture, which is thought to have been sculpted by the Hinayana school.
It is a collection of 22 caverns that includes 14 rock-cut stupas, a spectacular Chaityagraha, and many viharas.
These caves were built on a trade route from the Arabian Sea to the Deccan plateau in ancient times.
The caverns continue to house Buddhist monks for meditation and lodging.
In this article, you will get to know the following points about the Bhaja Caves in Lonavala (Maharastra),
Let’s see each of these points in detail…
Location of Bhaja Caves
The Bhaja caves are situated in Maval Taluka of Pune District near Lonavala, Maharashtra.
It is about 3 km from Malavali station on the Mumbai-Pune route, in the valley of the Indrayani River on the Deccan plateau.
The 120-meter-tall west-facing caves tower over the Bhaja settlement and are surrounded by lush greenery.
How to reach Bhaja Caves
By Train: Malavli is the closest railway station (3 kilometers) to Bhaja Caves. You can reach there by local train.
Additionally, you can take a train from Mumbai or Pune to reach Lonavala, from there you can again take a local train to Malavli.
By Road: Local buses that travel from Lonavala to Karla caves make it simple to reach Bhaja caverns.
The Karla caves are located 10 kilometers from the Bhaja caves. You can also take a taxi or an auto to get to these cave caves from Khandala.
By Air: Take a trip to Pune and then opt for your preferred mode of transportation—a train or a road—to reach Bhaja caves.
Timings of Bhaja Caves
The timings of Bhaja Caves are from 11:00 AM – 05:00 PM.
Entry Fees for Bhaja Caves
The entry fees for Bhaja Caves are,
|Indian citizens||INR 5|
Best time to visit Bhaja Caves
The best time to visit Bhaja Caves is during the winter as the temperature remains low and the weather is quite comforting to plan a visit to the destination.
I would also recommend you visit the caves during autumn or spring, as the weather is not too hot or cold at that time.
You can spend a considerable amount of time in the caves and feel the pleasant breezes and see beautiful floras all around the caves.
You can also visit during the other time of the year, but during the summers, the temperature remains as high as 42 degrees in Pune, so it is better to avoid the month of April to June.
Architectures of Bhaja Caves
The stunning architecture defines these caves in their own ways.
There are a total of 14 stupas, 9 of which are carved into the smaller cave and 5 of which stand inside.
Cave 6 has irregular viharas, cave 9 has rail pattern ornate embellishments, verandah, and broken animal structures.
Cave 12 has a monolithic stupa gallery and cave 19 has Viraha with Indra and Surya.
Built-in honor of revered monks, some of the viharas include the remains of the monks who lived there until they passed away.
And some of them feature inscriptions with their names and special titles.
You can walk through the magnificent structures and admire the beauty of beautiful stupa structures.
The Bhaja Chaitya Griha
The largest and most notable of all the Bhaja caves is the Bhaja Chaitya Griha. The Archaeological Survey of India claims it to be one of the earliest ancient chaityas which are still in good condition.
A rectangular hall measuring 18 meters long, 8.50 meters wide, and 6.5 meters high, creates the foundation of this Chaitya Griha.
Its arched horseshoe-shaped ceiling is supported by Burmese teak wood rib beams, which are still in existence.
A horseshoe-shaped chaitya window has been carved into the archway’s top, and miniature chaitya windows have been placed on the fencing designs on both sides.
On the interior, there are 27 octagonal pillars that are placed slightly in an inclined position. These are carved with beautiful artifacts.
It closely resembled the wooden pillars that supported the ceiling in ancient times.
However, later it was discovered that upright pillars could also support the load of the ceilings.
The Chaitya Griha’s walls have the traditional Mauryan glossy finish, and there are 8 inscriptions on them that include the names of certain donors and reliefs.
The inscriptions also depict Buddha figures and Indian mythical stories and also state that these caves are as old as 2000 years.
The main, central, stone-carved stupa features a Hermika, or fence-like structure, on top with a hole to support a wooden umbrella.
One can see the entire verandah structure from the outside and notice a high-rise building with distinctive reliefs.
The panels of the verandah are carved with elephant riders and chariot riders. You can also identify the sun god Surya and the King of Gods Indra in these panels.
The sculptures in this area are great works of art that are said to have been painted in vivid colors before being encased in plaster, such as the well-known “dancing couple” in the last cave to the south.
It’s interesting to note that representations of a lotus flower, an elephant, or a throne can be seen everywhere as holy symbols for depicting significant events that took place in Buddha’s life.
The Buddha paintings, on the other hand, became a part of the caves after the fourth century AD.
On the verandahs, there are depictions of demons being trampled by chariots of royal women.
The concept that the musical instrument is of foreign origin has been disapproved by carvings showing women playing tabla with another woman accompanying her with beautiful dancing skills.
The windows in the Bhaja caves are carved in such an unusual way that the sun’s rays penetrate the cave and illuminate the statues of gods and goddesses.
Therefore, climbing uphill 180–230 step trek to reach the Bhaja caves can surely delight your eyes with the exquisite Buddhist art and architecture of ancient India.
There are also many more important archaeological buildings that can be seen here.
Places to stay near Bhaja Caves
You can find many affordable, comfortable, and hygienic accommodation facilities near Bhaja Caves with basic amenities.
Vista Mirabella, The Adarsh Hotel, Greenwood Countryside resort, and Neel resort are some of the fantastic staying options.
There are also many local restaurants nearby Bhaja caves where you can also find good quality food, especially Maharashtrian thalis. Hasty Tasty Lonavla, Sports Bar, Cream Centre, and Rama Krishna are some of them.
Other places of attraction nearby
Tigers Leap, Korigad Fort, Narayani Dham Temple, Karla Caves, Lohagas, and Visapuur Fort are some of the other special attractions near Bhaja Caves.
The rock-cut caves are abodes of tranquillity.
The rich green blankets are also a delight for the souls wandering for peace of mind and soul.
So, if you visit here, make sure to click a ton of pictures of the stunning architecture and the captivating treasures of nature.
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