Karla, एकवीरा देवी रोड, Lonavala, Maharashtra 410405.
11 km north of Malavi railway station. 20 km from the station of Lonavla, about 126 km south-east of Bombay. On the main railway line Bombay-Pune.
All year daily 9-17.
Adults INR 300, SAARC INR 25, BIMSTEC INR 25, Indians INR 25, Children (0-15) free.
Foto Permit INR 25.
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|Photography:||allowed with permit|
|Address:||Karla Buddha Caves, Karla, एकवीरा देवी रोड, Lonavla, Maharashtra 410405, Tel: +91-22-6910-7600.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|2200 BP||first caves excavated.|
|2nd century||end of first construction period.|
|5th century||second construction period.|
|10th century||end of second construction period.|
The Karla Caves are ancient Buddhist rock cut cave shrines, located at Karli near Lonavala. They are located near an old trade route, and it was not only a possibility for a prayer but also a lodging place for the traders. Many traders, Western Satraps of Saka origin and Satavahana rulers made grants for the construction of these caves. They were built by the Mahāsāṃghika school of Buddhism which had great popularity in this region of India. The caves are at the border between North India and South India, which makes the site quite important for trade. The complex was declared a Protected Monument by the Archaeological Survey of India, which today manage the site.
A steep 500 m climb up the hillside leads to the Karla Cave complex, which is one of the best preserved Hinayana Buddhist caves in India. There are altogether 16 caves, most of them are lenas or cave houses or monastic quarters of the Buddhist monks. The center is the chaitya or prayer hall.
The main cave is called the Great Chaitya or Karla Chaitya, or Cave No. 8. It has a huge entrance portal and a rectangular hall behind, with pillars on both sides. This is the largest rock-cut chaitya in India, 45 m long and up 14 m high. The capitals of the pillars and the walls are covered by reliefs of male and female figures, and animals like lions and elephants. There are 37 octagonal pillars, chiseled from the massive rock, which support the barrel vault high above.
At the far end is a dagoba or stupa, the light falls on this huge hemispherical structure which contains relics. The closely set thick columns which divide the aisles from the nave, prevent the boundary walls from ever being seen.
Behind the entrance portal is an antechamber, also called veranda or outer porch, which is as wide as the chamber behind, but only about 5 m deep. There is a wall separating both chambers, which is also a remaining part of the rock, with sculptures all over. There is a normal-sized door into the main chamber, and a huge window above, which allows air and light to enter the chamber.
In this area numerous Chaitya Caves were constructed. This is not the first one, but it benefited from its predecessors. Earlier Chaitya Caves were first Cave 9 at Kondivite Caves, then Cave 12 at the Bhaja Caves and Cave 10 of Ajanta Caves (1st century BC). Cave 3 at Pitalkhora, Cave 1 at Kondana Caves, and Cave 9 at Ajanta were built in the early 1st century. Cave 18 at Nasik Caves, and Cave 7 at Bedse Caves were built at the end of the century. The Great Chaitya at Karla Caves was the last and has the highest quality. The construction of this chamber started between 50 and 70, and it was completed in 120, during the reign of the Western Satraps ruler Nahapana, who recorded the dedication of the cave in an inscription.
The site is accessed from the parking lot which is located halfway up the hillside. From here a trail with 350 steps cut into the rock lead uphill to the level of the cave, where a terrace allows access to the caves. Along the trail are temples and souvenir shops, so be careful to reach the top without being robbed. The whole village lives from the tourists visiting the caves.