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Karla Caves are the sublime example of Hinayana sculpture dating back to Satvahana period. This rock-cut magic of work can be seen near Lonavala in Maharastra.
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Home :: Buddhist Caves in India :: Karla Caves

Karla Caves

Pillars Inside Karla CavesThe caves are the excellent examples of Hinayana Sculpture of Satvahana period. The caves were carved in 160 BC and are known for their Chaitya Halls ( Chapel ), some Viharas ( Dwelling Caves), intricate sculptures and pillars with ingenious architecture. These Chaityas are perhaps the largest in the country.

These caves are 20 km from Lonavala and 40 km from Pune and situated near Mumbai-Pune Road. The caves exist amid a range of hills near Lonavala.

As you approach across a large courtyard, itself carved from the rock, the enormous 14-meter-high facade of the hall towers above, topped by a horse shoe shaped window and with three entrances below, one for the priest and the others for devotees. A Simhastambha - a tall monolithic column capped with four lines- stands to the left of the entrance.

These caves have been cut into solid rock and have 37 octagonal pillars of remarkable beauty. Each column rests in a water jar. Some of these pillars have capitals on the top. The capitals have figures of elephants kneeling on bell shaped bases.

In the porch of the cave, dividing the three doorways, are panels of figures in six couples, presumed to have been the wealthy patrons of the halls. Two rows of octagonal columns with pot-shaped bases divide the interior into three, forming a wide central aisle and on the outside, a hall that allowed the devotees to circumambulate the monolithic Stupa at the back. Above each pillar's fluted capital kneels a finely carved elephant mounted by two riders, one with arms draped over the other's shoulders.

Karla CavesAmazingly, perishable remnants survive from the time when the hall was in use; teak ribs on the vaulted ceiling show that the stone was carved to resemble a wooden structural model. Surmounting the Stupa are the remains of a carved wooden umbrella.

The temple measures about forty meters long and fifteen meters high, it has thirty seven pillars and a semi-circular 'sun window' that filters the light and makes a representation of Buddha.

Karle has some of the best preserved Buddhist Chaityas and Viharas in the entire sub-continent. The awesome Chaitya Halls make this journey worth it. You will also not find the hordes of tourists unlike Ajanta Ellora because this place is not on the tourist beaten track. If you want to avoid the holidaying localites, please don't visit the caves at the weekends.

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