Kuda Mandad Caves

Kuda Buddhist Caves

Useful Information

Location: Kuda, Rahatad.
(18.285593, 73.072820)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=70 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Kuda Mandad Caves, Rahatad, Maharashtra 402111.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1st century BC caves excavated.
1854 Reverend J. Stephenson, an Indian history enthusiast, explores the caves and publishes nine inscriptions he found.
1878 H. Jacobi corrects the original erroneous interpretations.
1881 inscriptions collated and translated by James Burgess and Bhagwanlal Indraji, the most well-known epigraphists of the 19th century.


Kuda Mandad Caves are located on the hill above the small village Kuda, hence the name. There are fifteen Buddhist caves, which are rather small, simple, and were excavated in 1st century BC. They also created several reliefs of the Buddha, carved with symbols of lotus, wheel and Nagas. The inscriptions were in Pali.

In the 5th and 6th century the Buddhist branch of the Mahayana took over the caves. They added sculptures of a different style, showing Buddha, other people, and even two elephants at the entrance. The newer inscriptions are written in Sanskrit. There are also inscriptions describing donations by various people including a gardener, a writer, physician, a flower vendor and a minister. Inside the caves are massive stupas which were cut from the rock.

The caves are rectangular, with pillars followed by an antechamber, then a rock wall with a door and windows, then a main chamber, and at the far end another wall with a door followed by a small chamber with a stupa. The caves are different but this seems to be a typical layout.

This site actually has a Roman history, there was an Indo-Roman port named Mandagora by the Romans and Mandava by the locals. It was obviously located at the coast, but its exact location ist unknown. It was mentioned in the book Geographia by Ptolemy in the 2nd century. It was also mentioned in the 1st century in Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greek trade manual. While the exact location is lost, the archaeological research at least confirmed that it was in the vicinity of today's village Mandad. The reason is simple, in the descriptions the harbour was at the capital of Mandava and the archaeologists have proven, that Mandad is the place where once the capital was.

Buddhist rock-cut monasteries were located along trade routes, which allowed the traders to visit them and were a source of income for the monks, who received donations. They did not grow their own food like medieval monasteries, they actually depended on donors and local rulers for their sustenance. And of course the stability of the local political system was also important for the security of the monasteries. The local dynasty which protected this monastery was the Mahabhojas of Mandava. This small kingdom is more or less forgotten, only the caves actually remain. This monastery, like the small kingdom, are so-called "lesser" caves. The important caves had high barrel vaults and a large amount of sculptures, so this monastery was less rich and mostly of local importance.

The caves were cut into basaltic rocks of the Deccan Trapp, it two distinct levels. A narrow path connects them. The main cave is today called cave No 6, it is the most elaborate with two elephants at the entrance, with antechamber, main chamber and sanctum. Some sculptures show donors.