Weather :

Ideal time : More than 3 hours

Entry Fee : Indian, SAARC and BIMSTEC country residents (above 15 years): INR 15 per head
Foreign visitors (above 15 years): INR 200 per head

Timings : 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Karla caves, Lonavala Overview

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 CavesKarle 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.

Photos of Karla caves

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History of Karla Caves

Constructed over two periods ago, the first phase of Karla Caves lasted from 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD while the second phase lasted from the 5th century AD to the 10th century. The entire cave is believed to have been created with the help of a single design except for three excavations that belong to the Mahayana phase. They were built with the help of generous donations from people belonging to all walks of life, ranging from merchants to monks, nuns and even the prince of a Marathi family. Inscriptions found here have mentions of various individuals from all over the country such as Vejamti, Sopara, Umehanakata and Dhenukakata. There are other inscriptions which hint towards the donation of land to Velluraka Samgha and hence, the ancient name of the caves 'Veluraka' can be traced back to these.

Architecture of Karla Caves

Karla caves are a magnificent structure bearing one of the grandest and the largest Chaityagrihas of all such monuments in India. The largest of them is 37.87 m deep from door to back, 13.87 m wide and 14.02 high. It is adorned with a number of rock cut columns which are further embellished with intricate carvings and inscriptions. An alley behind the columns gives way to a magnificent semi-circular ceiling which is the main object of worship and issupported by an array of wooden arches. The stupa has a cylindrical drum rising in two stages and it further supports a cubical 'harmika' and a seven step square - base pyramid. The cave comprises of total 16 rocks cut excavations, 8 of them are the Chaityagrihas.

One will also find the fine sculptures of males, females, and animals in the hall. A sculpture of preaching Buddha seated on a lion-supported throne exhibits spectacular carvings of three elephants. The pillars resembling the Ashokan pillar are adorned with motifs of elephants are among the key features. The entrance of the cave has a temple dedicated to the Goddess Ekvira as well.

Karla Caves
Entrance of Great Chaitya Caves

Karla Caves
Great Chaitya Hall Incorporates the architecture of both Hinduism and Jainism


Stupa at Great Chaitya
Stupa at Great Chaitya Hall


Karla Caves
Row of Capitals in Karla Caves


Inscription of the pillar is written in old brahmi
Inscription of the pillar is written in old Brahmi

Stay Near Karla caves

Since the caves are such a popular attraction, a number of accommodation options are available nearby. These include Gulab Paradise, Valvan Village Resort, Highland Resort, Heritage Villa and Neel Resort among others.

Restaurants Near Karla caves

In addition to street food options here, you can also have a meal at Maval Darbar, The Kinara Village Dhaba, Sunny Da Dhaba, Sidhu Punjabi Dhaba and Rohit Family Restaurant.

Tips For Visiting Karla caves

1. Don't forget to carry water bottles, sunscreen and sunglasses for protection against the sun  
2. Do not litter the premises
3. Vandalism of the site is strictly prohibited

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