- 58 Kms
- 3 / 5
Location: Near Lonavala
Developed between 2nd century BC and 5th century AD, Karla Caves are a series of ancient rock-cut Buddhist caves situated near Lonavala.
Karla Caves are a series of ancient rock-cut Buddhist caves situated in the town of Karli near the city of Lonavala. Also known as Karli Caves and Karla Cells, these are some of the oldest Buddhist cave shrines located in Maharashtra. Besides being a major tourist attraction, the cave complex is a protected monument under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Karla Caves were developed during the period between 2nd century BC and 5th century AD. Altogether there are 16 caves, and 3 of them are Mahayana caves. The oldest cave shrine dates back to 160 BC and was located near the major ancient trade route that connected the Arabian Sea and the Deccan region. Several traders and Satavahana rulers made grants for the construction of these caves, so that they could be utilized as lodgings for travelling traders.
Historically, Karla Caves were associated with the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism and later with Hinduism. The caves are also the site of a 2nd century Buddhist Monastery. Originally this monastery had two huge 15-meter pillars located just outside the chaitya. However, only one of the pillars remains today, whereas the remaining area houses a temple dedicated to Hindu Goddess Ekveera.
Karla Caves are most famous for the ‘Great Chaitya’ or ‘Cave 8’, which is the largest and most completely preserved rock-cut chaitya or prayer hall in India. Dating back to 120 CE, the intricately carved Great Chaitya Cave is 148 feet long and 46 feet high. It is also the largest chaitya hall in all of South Asia. Several other chaitya caves found in Maharashtra, such as the Kanheri Great Chaitya and Cave 19 at Ajanta were modeled after Karla’s Great Chaitya.
The rock cut walls and 37 pillars in the ‘Great Chaitya’ are embellished with spectacular and detailed carvings depicting Buddha, humans and animals such as elephants and lions. Inscriptions stating the names of donors have also been carved onto the pillars. Natural light enters the cave through a huge semi-circular window and illuminates the umbrella-protected stupa. The cave’s ceiling is made of teak wood. In addition to the Great Chaitya Cave, there are many other beautifully carved chaityas and viharas (dwellings for monks) within this complex.
Karla Caves are worth visiting if you are seeking to get a glimpse into the rich ancient history of Maharashtra. The marvelous Great Chaitya Cave and the stunning sculptures gracing the walls and pillars are absolutely outstanding. The ascent leading to the cave complex is quite steep and the elderly and kids may find it challenging.
- There are several food stalls situated along the path leading to the caves, selling snacks as well as water.
- However, it is always better to carry your own food and sufficient water.
- You will find several good restaurants in the city of Lonavla, which is about 10 km away.
- Mode of Transport : Best way to reach Karla Caves from Pune is by car.
Things to do
- Explore the ancient and remarkable Karla Caves, which are among the oldest Buddhist cave shrines in India.
- Visit the ‘Great Chaitya’ or ‘Cave 8’, the largest and most well-preserved ancient chaitya hall.
- Soak in the calming atmosphere of this wonderful cave complex.
- Marvel at the impressive rock-cut carvings and sculptures that grace the walls and pillars inside the caves.