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Tags : Cave

Timings : 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM, Tuesday-Sunday (Closed on Mondays)

Time Required : 3-4 hours

Entry Fee : INR 5 (For Indians) INR 100 (For Foreign Citizens)

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Kanheri Caves, Mumbai Overview

Located in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, near Borivali in Mumbai, the Kanheri Caves in Mumbai are a group of rock - cut monuments in the form of caves. The caves and the paintings, themselves, illustrate the Buddhist influence on the Indian art and culture. The caves are famous for their 109 special entrances as well as for their ancient sculptures, carvings, paintings and inscriptions dating back to the 1st century to the 10th century that adorn their basalt formations. Standing in sharp contrast to the verdant greenery of the surrounding hills, Kanheri Caves can be accessed through a series of rock cut steps.

While the caves provide an excellent insight into history, it can be clearly seen that they were built over an extensive period of time. The older of the Kanheri Caves are plainer in their design, while the newer caves are more ornamented. What ties the design of each of these caves is an individual stone plinth on which they rest, which is common to all. In addition to the caves, a congregation hall, intricately carved pillars, Buddhist stupas, and ingenious water channels carved out stone are some of the exciting aspects to witness and marvel. Another one of the caves here has been converted into a monastery and holds special importance for the Buddhist community. 

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History of Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves have a long and illustrious history associated with their name, which is delicately intertwined with the spread of Buddhism in the region as well. The word Kanheri has been derived from the Sanskrit word "Krishnagiri" which literally means black mountain. It was named so because of its black basaltic stone, which makes this attraction quite prominent against its surroundings. The unique feature of this cave is that it is formed from a single rock bed, unlike the other caves in the country. Kanheri caves were an important Buddhist learning centre and a pilgrimage site for the Buddhist monks between 9th and the 1st centuries BCE. The congregation halls with the large stupas indicate the importance of the cave as a Buddhist shrine and the focal point of Buddhist settlement during the 3rd century. It became a distinctive institution for Buddhist congregational worship, study and meditation. 

Main attractions near the Kanheri Caves

There is a lot to see in and around the Kanheri Caves. This destination houses 34 unfinished Buddhist paintings and the prayer hall depicts the Buddhist way of life and culture. If you are looking for adventure, there are planned tours of adventure sports like trapezing and trekking around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in which the caves are situated. Since the caves are located on hilly terrain, there are also some minor waterfalls to witness. The natural rivers and waterbodies around the caves create a soothing and beautiful environment and is the perfect location to enjoy a small picnic with your family.

Inside the Kanheri Caves

Kaheri Caves is a fascinating collection of rock - cut caves that have about 51 legible inscriptions and 26 epigraphs including inscriptions in Brahmi, Devanagari and 3 Pahlavi. Most of the caves here were used as Buddhist Virahas, which are meant for studying, meditation and accommodation, and had stone platforms in place of beds. The larger caves among the Kanheri Caves called the Chaityagrahas were used as halls of worship and religious congregations during the olden times. These halls are rectangular in shape and are adorned with stone pillars, each of which has their own unique construction style and no similarity to another. There is a row of 34 pillars that divide the Grahas and have intricate carvings of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. 

As you move out of the Chaityagraha, you are welcomed into a large front porch which can be easily compared to a verandah. Both the Viharas and the Chaityagrahas have sculptures and carvings relating to Buddhism ornamenting their pillars, roofs and walls. The Avalokiteshvara is the most prominent figure in the Kanheri Caves, who is a bodhisattva that represents love and compassion for all. Another inscription describes Satavahana ruler Vashishtiputra Satakarni's wedding to the daughter of Rudradaman I.

Trekking in Kanheri Caves

When one thinks about Mumbai, trekking is probably the last thing that crosses your mind. However, Kanheri Caves in the city are an unlikely and very popular destination for this adventure sport. The two-hour trek to the caves takes you through the forest areas in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The hills on which the Kanheri Caves are located are quite easily navigable and is a relatively simple terrain for both beginner and seasoned hikers. The view is quite mesmerising too, with the green of the forest combined with gushing waterfalls nearby making this destination a nature lover's delight. If you are lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the animals in the park. Tribal women sell light snacks while relating stories of the caves, which makes a trip to Kanheri even more interesting. Once you reach the end point of the trek, the view of the caves more than makes up for the hard work. Trekking in Kanheri makes for the perfect way to explore the landscape of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and is a must - do weekend activity indeed!

Tips For Visiting Kanheri caves

1. Carry a water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen and all necessary protection against the sun when you visit Kanheri Caves
2. Be careful as you trek through the hills
3. Maintain the decorum and cleanliness in the premises.
4. Make sure you wear comfortable footwear so that you can trek and walk through the caves.

How To Reach Kanheri Caves

It is located towards the north of Mumbai. You can take the local train to Borivali fromor any other station on the Western Line, which will take about an hour. From there you can take an autorickshaw right up to the park gate. Or if the weather permits, even a pleasant 10 -miute walk from the station to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, can prove to be refreshing. The Kanheri caves are located within the national park itself.

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