Kondana Caves, nestled cosily in the midst of a dense and magnificent forest near Kondana Village, is located 33 kilometres north of Lonavala and about 15 kilometres from Karjat, Maharashtra. These caves were discovered in the 1st century BC and consist of intricate and delicate carvings of Buddhist architecture. Although an earthquake in 1900 damaged some parts of the caves, the existing structures are worth seeing. One can take a stroll in the caves and experience the regal aura of the stone-cut structure. This place is sure to take your breath away.
The Kondana Caves were discovered during an excavation in the 1st century BC. The cave group is one of the three sister caves along with Bhaje Caves and Karla Caves. They were majorly used by the Buddhist monks for meditation purposes, especially during the monsoons. It's a set of 16 caves that house the Chaitya, some intricately designed ancient sculptures, serene Viharas with meditation pods and Stupas that depict Buddhist history and are a perfect illustration of the old methods of Buddhist architecture. The rock-cut structures carved with immense finesse and symmetry are of religious significance to the Buddhist community and also one of the few still existing in Maharashtra. A mesmerising construction in every right, the Kondana caves are a beautiful specimen of ancient architecture.
The Kondana Caves face north-west and are hidden behind the dense forest. The entire complex is divided into four caves. The first cave is the arch-shaped Chaitya cave which extends over 65 feet and stands 28 feet tall & 25 feet wide. The Chaitya cave lies to the south-west of the cave group. The cave houses a Dagoba, which is a dome-shaped shrine with a diameter of over 9 feet and is believed to contain relics of Buddhist Saints. The nave in front of the Dagoba is about 14 feet wide and 49 feet long. The nave was surrounded by thirty columns which are now in ruins, but their positions can be determined if seen carefully.
To the north-east of the cave group is the Vihara. Although the front portion of the porch is completely ruined, the portion at the left end is quite intact. About 29 feet long and over 23 feet wide, the cave houses fifteen pillars, a raised alcove and a small Dagoba under a Chaitya arch. Each side of the Vihara hall has six cells with beds for the monks.
The third cave is also a Vihara with nine cells which are completely in ruins today.
The fourth cave is a set of another 9 cells, which now look like a hollow under the cliff. Beyond this cave lies a reservoir which is now filled with mud. The rest of the ruins consist of two more cells under an over-hanging rock and another small reservoir.
The ancient carvings and sculptures in Kondana Caves are sure to fascinate you too. Featuring men and women in elegant dance postures, the embellishments here are held together by massive octagonal pillars. Each and every corner of these caves is graced with amazingly detailed craftsmanship and is a bedazzling experience. The meditation pods here are a unique feature of these caves and provide the perfect place to meditate and introspect.
The trek up to the caves of Kondana is pleasant and a gentle one. Combined with the scenic beauty of the region, this expedition is a beautiful experience. With its gradual terrain, this trek route is quite easily traversed and is the perfect place to begin your journey as a trekker. There are a lot of trekking groups that one can join; however, one can also plan a day-long trek with friends and family. Trekkers can reach the Karjat station and hire an auto or take a state transport bus ride till the base village. The trek to the caves from the base village takes a little over 60 minutes. If the trek involves Rajmachi fort, one can take the route down the western slope of Rajmachi Plateau to reach the caves. The directions have been marked on some trees and boulders/ rocks which can be followed. This part of the trek is a 55 to 60-minute trek.
September to February is the best time to visit the Kondana caves as the weather is pleasant and dry making it easier for walking to and through the caves. June to September is the best time if you enjoy monsoon treks in the lush greenery around the caves.
Take a bus or rickshaw from Karjat to Kondivade and then proceed to Kondane or Kharvandi village, as the caves are equally near from both these places. Auto rides and State Transport buses are easily available from Karjat Station. It takes about 40 min to reach the village at the base of the caves.
You can also trek down the western slope of Rajmachi Plateau to reach the caves.
1. Consult your physician before enrolling for the trek.
2. Wear decent trekking gear.
3. Carry raincoat if trekking during monsoons.
4. Carry enough water, dry food items and first aid kit.
5. Carry your prescribed medication.
6. Watch your step as you trek through the lush greenery.
7. It is advisable to visit the site during the daytime and visitors is responsible for their own safety.
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