The Karla and Bhaja caves are among the oldest caves in India and date back all the way to 160 B.C. and are situated near Lonavala in Maharashtra. The Bhaja caves are a group of 22 rock-cut caves which are believed to have existed from the times of Hinayana phase of Buddhism, which is of 2nd to 1st century BC. Karla Cave is the largest Hinayana Buddhist chaitya (temple) in India Travel back in time on this trip to ancient Indian rock-cut caves with the best rock-cut architecture of all times. The ancient caves are protected as Monument of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Bhaja Caves are a notable example of the development of wooden architecture in India sharing its architectural design with the Karla Caves. The most prominent structure of the caves is the chaityagriha which has an open, horse-shoe shaped entrance. The Chaityagrihas are known for the Buddha images. These caves are also famous for the carving of a woman playing the tabla (percussion instrument) which proves that tabla is being used in India for two thousand years. The sculptures in the Bhaja caves feature grand headdress, jewellery and garlands which might have been painted in bright colours originally but later got covered by plaster. A waterfall can be seen in the last cave which brims with water during the monsoon, cascading into a small pond at the bottom.
The Bhaja Caves houses a group of 14 majestic stupas which are the heirloom of the resident monks who died at Bhaja. Five of these stupas can be seen outside the ancient cave while nine are outside displaying an inscription with the name of three monks - Ampinika, Dhammagiri and Sanghdina. These stupas have been sculpted very intricately showing the name of the monks along with their titles.
Cave VI- This 14 feet square, irregular vihara houses two cells on two sides and three on back. The name of Bodhi (ploughman's wife) is inscribed on the cell door indicating that this vihara was gifted by her.
Cave IX- Identical to Cave VIII at Pandavleni Caves, this cave features broken animal figures, rail pattern embellishments and a verandah.
Cave XII- This cave houses the chaitya which is the earliest surviving chaitya hall in the country. The walls of these viharas are polished in the Mauryan style and have a horse-shoe shaped window set above the arched doorway. The portico-area seems to be carved in the fashion of a multi-storeyed building replete with balconies and windows.
Cave XIII- This 30 feet long and 14.5 feet deep cave seems to have been destroyed by fire housing the charred remains of what appears to be wooden architecture.
The best time to visit this place is from October to March. The months of April to July are the summer months in Pune and can be quite hot with the daytime temperature rising as high as 40 deg C. From July till August-September, Pune receives rains, which result in high humidity and uncomfortable climate. The remaining period of October to March is the best time to take a trip to Pune. During this time, the weather in the city is at its best.
In order to reach the Bhaja Caves, you need to deboard at the Malavli station and then climb around 200 steps to the cave. The 5km trek can be covered in around 2 hours including the exploration of the 22 caves.
Air: Nearest airports are at Pune (64kms) and Mumbai (International airport 110 kms). From here you can take an auto or taxi to reach the caves.
Rail: The nearest railway station is Malavi. From Malavli, Bhaja lies on the right side of the tracks.
Road: Pune is well connected to all the main cities of Maharashtra as well as the rest of the country by road. There are regular bus services available between Pune and Mumbai, Nasik, etc.ë_
Taxis and autos run in the city to travel to places. You can reach the caves in a taxi and hire a private guide for yourself too.
The MTDC is the best place to put up at near this place. MTDC has a wonderful resort at Karla. Also there are many other private hotels to suit every budget in Lonavala.
Apart from the Karla and Bhaja caves, you can take a trip to the Hindu Temple. Kanheri Caves and Elephanta Caves are two other major tourist attractions of the place. One can also visit the Lohagad Fort. Other than these, one can visit the towns of Lonavala, Pune and Khandala.
Shopping in Pune can be a very exciting experience as the city presents a wide range of markets, streets and malls that are a paradise for shopaholics. Phoenix Market City and Amanora Town Centre are among Pune's largest shopping marts. Laxmi Road is one Pune's oldest shopping hubs, popular for its saree shops and jewellery stores. M.G. Road gives a great shopping and culinary experience with many old and well-known shops, restaurants and bakeries. Fashion Street is filled with inexpensive fashionable items and leather goods.
The city of Pune has gained a cosmopolitan status. People belonging to different castes, creeds, religions and economic backgrounds reside here. The people of Pune display a mixture of different cultures. A mutual thing to all the people living in Pune is their never say die spirit. The people of Pune are also very interested in arts and crafts, music, spirituality, etc.
Sited within ten minutes driving distance from Hyatt Regency Pune, Kalyani Nagar and Koregaon Park are at the heart of Pune's budding nightlife. Kalyani Nagar has many multiplex cinema houses and restaurants along with bars and fast food chains. Koregaon Park is also known as the Greenwich Village of Pune because of its sprawling greens and low rise buildings along with grand old bungalows. The area is popular for its organic food cafes and juice bars along with inexpensive, ethnic restaurants.
There are a number of restaurants and roadside eateries in the city that serve local cuisine. The local cuisines of Pune maintain the typical taste of coconut and garlic. A large amount of green chilies are used, making the dishes quite spicy. The main course in the traditional food of Poona comprises of a number of food items made up of jowar and bajra. Do not forget to taste chewda, bhakerwadi and pedas which are the specialty of Pune. There are also many restaurants in the outskirts of the city that serve the traditional food.
Pune has a large number of great restaurants, which offer cuisine ranging from Indian to Chinese to Italian to Continental. Chung Fa Chinese Restaurant (East Street), The Blue Diamond (Koregaon Road), The Viceroy & Tuan (Bhosale Heights, Fergusson College Road), The Bullocks Restaurant - Pub (Uttam Towers, Nagar Road), Shravan Restaurant (F.C. Road, Shivaji Nagar), etc. are some of the popular restaurants of the locality. Sheen Chinese Fast Food (Parmar Nagar, Fatima Nagar), Shree Chinese Fast Food (Kubera Park, Kondhwa), Get Together Pizza Hot (Gulmohar Garden, Meera Nagar, Koregaon Park), Hot Breads (Gera Sterling North, Main Road, Koregaon Park) are some of the well-known fats food restaurants.
The caves are best seen on a trip to Lonavala, Khandala or Pune. Start your day early and reach the caves from whichever city you have chose to be based at. Spend the larger bit of the day exploring the caves. The next day one can head to the Lohagad fort at a short distance from the caves. One may also visit the Visapur Fort. These regions are ideal for trekking expeditions. One can follow with a trip to any of the towns of Lonavala, Pune or Khandala.
The Karla and Bhaja caves are the earliest rock-cut monuments in Maharashtra.
1. Hire a private guide while visiting the caves.
2. Since many stairs need to be climbed to reach the caves, it might be difficult for elderly and people with knee problem.
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