Mahakali caves

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Mahakali caves, Mumbai Overview

Mahakali Caves, also known as Kondivite Caves, are centuries old and are located in the western part of the city of Mumbai in Andheri. Mahakali Caves comprise a total of nineteen rock-cut monuments, built between 1st and 6th century. The main cave consists of Buddha figures and stupas and there are several Buddha idols carved on the rocks too. These solid basalt caves are a favourite place for history lovers, and archaeologists. Surprisingly clean and efficiently maintained, the caves are far from the city area hence give a sense of serenity.

Beautifully carved out of solid black basalt rock, the caves exist since the Ashokan Empire. The existence of a Buddhist Stupa indicates the dwelling of Buddhist monks here. The walls contain scriptures in Pali, a language older than Sanskrit. A majority of the caves are on a low-lying hill, rising only a few meters above the surroundings. Since the caves are carved in volcanic trap breccias, they are prone to weathering. The caves are small in size and contain numerous rock-cut cisterns. Though the images today are not clearly visible, the Mahakali caves are indeed one of the most beautiful specimens of the rock-cut monastery.

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Located in the eastern suburb of Andheri, this Buddhist Monastery consists of two groups of rock-cut caves; which composes of four caves in the northwest direction, while the rest fifteen caves in the southeasterly direction. Most of these caves are viharas and cells for monks. Only cave number 9 is chaitya and contains mutilated figures from the Buddhist mythology as well as the seven depictions of Buddha. The Mahakali caves in total have twenty entrances. The south-eastern group of caves is older than the north-western group of caves. Some caves even consist of verandahs and courtyards. In the North-West category, two of the four caves were used as dwelling while one was used as a dining place. The next group has a chapel, the significant cave 9, few shrines, and some dwelling places.

The area between both the groups of caves consists of several broken tombstones. There are a few more fascinating rock-cut monuments including a small auditorium made for teacher and his disciples. Several broken stone steps from the west lead down to the southern group of caves.

Cave number 9, Chaitya is a unique cave out of the fifteen caves. Being the largest cave at Kondivite, it has seven depictions of Lord Buddha and several other figures from Buddhist mythology. Sadly all of these have now been mutilated. Part of the southeastern group of caves, it has a peculiar plan and is evidently one of the oldest in the group. It composes of an inner shrine and a stupa which is enclosed in a curved wall, 8 inches thick and has a central door along with a latticed window on either side. It has a 2.34 m high dagoba comprising of four holes on the top of the umbrella. 

The shrine has a hemispherical dome, and the stupa which it contains is now erroneously considered to be a lingam. Over the window on the right side lies a two-line inscription in Pali. These inscriptions belong to the 3d century AD. It reads as: "Gift of a Vihar, with his brother, by Pittimba a Brahman of the Gotamas gotra, an inhabitant of Pachi Kama." Moreover, there is also a carved panel of Buddha along with his attendants and other figures. 




Several local buses operate from Saibaba Mandir Marol Bus Station, Takshila Bus Station, Model Town (Majas) Bus Station, Holy Spirit Hospital Bus Station etc. making these caves an easy reach. Furthermore, local trains being the heart of the city, you can take a train to Jogeshwari and Andheri which are the nearest railway stations. From here you can take a taxi or an auto to reach the caves.

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