Karla Caves

Weather :

Label : Top Attraction

Tags : Cave

Timings : 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Time Required : 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 300 per head

Distance from Lonavala : 10.9 km

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Karla caves, Lonavala Overview

Karla Caves are ancient Buddhist rock-cut caves and a famous tourist attraction located near Lonavala. Also known as Karli Caves, Karle Caves or Karla Cells, it is one of the oldest Buddhist cave shrines in India. These caves houses one of the largest Chaityas (prayer hall with a stupa) in India. Karla Caves is mainly known for the Ekvira Temple located inside.

Also known as Veluraka in the olden times, Karla Caves house a humongous 15 - meter pillar along with a temple dedicated to Goddess Ekveera. It also houses a Buddhist monastery which is believed to have been built there around 2nd century BC. One can spot a major ancient trade route near the caves running towards east from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. One has to climb almost 150 stairs to reach the cave. 

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How to Reach Karla Caves

One can reach the Karla caves through public transportation. The best option is to either hire a taxi if one is traveling from Pune or Mumbai or take a state transport bus that plies regularly from Mumbai and Pune to Lonavala and from Lonavala to Karla. Once you have reached, it takes around 20 minutes of steep climb walking to reach the caves.

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 is supported 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 of 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. 
Karla Caves
Row of Capitals in Karla Caves

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.

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