are the Buddhist caves and monasteries which were carved out by Buddhist
monks between 1st century BC and 9th century AD. These caves were
rediscovered by Dr. James Bird. This site is perhaps the only clue to the
rise and fall of Buddhism in Western India. The word Kanheri originates from
the Sanskrit word 'Krishnagiri'. Krishna generally stands for black colour.
The other name in usage was 'Khaneri' which means black mountain.
The location of the caves is 45 km from main Mumbai city and 10 km from
Borivali railway station. The way to the caves leads through the most
beautiful and best natural surroundings of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The
zig-zag concrete road is fascinating and to walk in this lap of mother
nature will be worth enjoying. Yes, these caves are well and safe in the
heart of Mumbai's national park.
The entire complex contains 109 tiny cells, chiselled out of the volcanic
rock and into the flank of the hill, each fitted with a stone plinth that
evidently served as a bed. Most of the cells are Buddhist Viharas, which
were meant for their residence, study and meditation.
The existence of a large number of Viharas actually prove a well-organized
monks' establishment during that period. A few are larger and deeper
chambers known as Chaityas (for congregational worship).
The main Chaitya has colossal figures of standing Buddha on each side of
the entrance porch, a colonnade of 34 pillars surrounding the inner hall and
an topped Stupa ( Shrine) at the far end, all carved from the stone in the
place. The highest cave is situated at a height of 1500 ft above the sea
most important cave is Cave No. 3 of 6th century which has the last of the
excavated Chaitya Halls of Hinayana Order. The other important caves are
Cave 11, Durbar Hall or the Assembly Hall with a statue of the Buddha. Cave
34 is dark one and has the paintings of Buddha on the walls. You will notice
one thing here that unlike the much decorated idols of the Elephanta, the
sculpture here is spartan and bare.
The whole area has more than 100 inscriptions in Pallavi, Sanskrit,
Devanagri and Brahmi scripts. The most rare motifs here are 11-headed
Avlokiteshwara (in Cave No. 41) and a Makara on Buddha's throne.
You can still find some channels and cisterns that are remnants of an
ancient water system that channelled rain water into huge urns. This place
was also well connected with many trade centres near it. Kanheri was also a
well-flourished university of that period.
Kanheri was under the control of Portuguese, Marathas and the British in
recent centuries. Almost all the caves have benches in their verandahs or
front courts. The refreshing breeze coming from the sea will take all your
fatigue away from you.
Every year on the occasion of Dussehra Festival, all the local trekkers
gather here and perform prayers and wish for the long life of the caves and
start their routine climbing the rocks of the caves. So, are you also
planning this season for the same ?