Ranked 11 among Places to Visit in Lonavala
Ideal Time: More than 3 hours
Karla caves, carved from a rocky hillside, are among the oldest Buddhist cave shrines in India. It is located on the Pune-Mumbai highway at Karla, and if sources are to be believed, these are only a few among scores of other caves unearthed in Sahyadri Hills. Carved almost 2000 years ago around the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, this place constitutes an extensive collection of beautiful Chaityas (halls) and Viharas (monasteries) reflecting upon a journey of the past, narrating some amusing stories. A temple made of pillars from the Buddhist period has also been built recently at the entrance of the caves.
The caves are also known as Karli Caves, Karle Caves or Karla Cells. If ancient sources are to be believed, the caves were of great importance to the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism before they became relevant to Hinduism. The caves house a Buddhist monastery which is believed to have been built there around 2nd century BC. Also known as Veluraka in the olden times, the caves house a humongous 15 - meter pillar along with a temple dedicated to Goddess Ekveera. One can spot a major ancient trade route near the caves running towards east from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. It is so because the early Buddhists used to settle the monasteries close to the major trading routes in order to provide shelters to the travelling traders. Owing to its historic significance, the cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
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