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Timings : 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 2-3 hrs

Entry Fee : Adults: INR 2,
Children (Up to 15 years): Free,
The entry is free for everyone on Fridays

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Pandavleni Caves, Nashik Overview

Located about 8 kilometres to the south of the centre of Nashik in Maharashtra in India, the Pandavleni Caves, also known as Pandu Caves or Nasik Caves are ancient rock-cut caves that are situated on the tableland of the Trivashmi Hills. These caves date back to the period between the 3rd century BC and 2nd century AD. The Pandavleni caves are a group of 24 caves that represent Hinayana Buddhism. The mystic caves also comprise of musical fountains, museums and various outlets of food. Multiple monasteries, shrines, water tanks, pillars, and carvings can also be found inside.

The Pandavleni Caves were built by prominent rulers of that time, such as the Satavahanas and Kshaharatas, for the Hinayana Buddhist monks.  Of all the twenty-four caves, cave numbers 3 and 10 are the most beautiful ones. The architecture of these caves is unique and impressive. The inside of these caves also consists of inscriptions which act as significant study material for researchers and scholars till this day. Cave number 15 has an inscription about the King of Western Maharashtra.

There are beautiful sculptures, chambers, unique water structures and stone ladders too built inside the cave. The Dada Saheb Phalke Smarak lies at the foot of the Pandavleni caves and showcases the work of Dadasaheb Phalke. Tourists have to climb nearly 200 steps to reach the top and enjoy the breathtaking views. People also visit this attraction frequently to enjoy trekking. At the same time, the location of the caves is a prominent holy Buddhist site. This makes the Pandavleni Caves a well-known tourist site that is visited by tourists in large numbers all year round.

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History of Pandavleni Caves

The caves have served as home to many prominent and renowned Jain saints, including Ambika Devi, Tirthankara Vrishabdeo, and Veer Manibhadraji.

The Pandavleni Caves were initially known as Pundru, which means 'yellow ochre colour' in Pali language. This is because the caves served as the residence of Buddhist monks who wore the 'chivara' or yellow robes. These alluring caves were used to provide space for carrying out meditation and for living suitably and peacefully. The name of the caves - Pandavleni- has no reference and no connection to the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata. Some water tanks, which are built inside the rocks, served as places where meetings were held amongst the disciples. They also comprise of numerous sculptures of Bodhisattvas and Lord Buddha.

Later on, the word 'Pundru' was changed to Pandu Caves. The various inscriptions in the beguiling cave are an essential source of relevant historical information. They bear testimony to the fact that Nashik in that period was ruled by three dynasties in all - the Western Kshatrapas, the Satavahanas and the Abhiras. The inscriptions also confirm that apart from the kings, local merchants and landlords also supported Buddhism and donated large amounts of money for the development of the Pandavleni Caves. Decades later, people started calling these caves as the Pandav Caves, and they continue to be recognised by this name till date, even though the name is a misnomer.

Layout and Concept of Pandavleni Caves

The group of these twenty-four caves was cut in a long line on the north face of the Trisasmi hill. Other than holding significant historical value, the caves also represent a brilliant phase in the rock-cut architecture style that existed in those times. Although there are twenty-four excavations in all, many of them are small and less significant. The interior of the Pandavleni Caves comes across as simple when compared to the heavily ornamented exterior.

Interior of Pandavleni Caves

Most of the Pandavleni Caves are Viharas, which means that they are dwellings or refuges used by wandering monks during the rainy season, while the 18th cave is a Chaitya, which is basically a shrine or a prayer hall with a Stupa at one end. The most fascinating and significant caves are cave numbers 3, 10, 18 and 20. While cave 3 is a massive vihara with 16 cells and amazing sculptures, cave 10 is even grander and more beautiful. It contains inscriptions about donations that were made by Ushadatta sometime around 120 AD. Cave 18 is a 'chaitya' with a particularly elaborate facade and is the oldest cave in the entire group. It contains beautiful, intricate carvings and a stupa.

These aesthetic caves are home to shrines, cisterns, rare inscriptions, carved figures of Buddha and icons of some of the Jain Teerthankaras. One can also find sculptures that represent the kings, farmers and merchants while the rich iconography depicts a beautiful amalgamation of the Indo- Greek style of architecture.

The site also boasts of an excellent and ancient water management system. Several water tanks are also located here and were skilfully chiselled out of a solid rock.

Best Time To Visit Pandavleni Caves

The best time to visit the Pandavleni Caves is during the months extending from July until February. This is because the scenic beauty gets enhanced during this time and the place looks even more attractive and enchanting.

How To Reach Pandavleni Caves

The place is commonly visited from the Nashik CBS Bus Station. A journey to the Pandavleni Caves from here takes about 3 hours. From Nashik, there are auto rickshaws and buses available, which will drop you to the Pandavleni Caves. The caves on the hilltop can then be reached by trekking for about 20 minutes on a path that is well built with steps.

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