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Digging into the caves of Buddhist Monastery - Karla and Bhaje


Around 50 kilometers from Pune, aloof  in the middle of Paddy fields and Ghats, a small road head towards a hill top where one of the oldest Buddhist caves are located. These shrines came into existence  within the period of 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. The place,definitely made for prayers by Buddhist monks  corroborated by Stupa kind of structure in its main hall.Not very far away and dated around  the same time,are the caves  of more celebrated  Ajanta and Ellora.



We climbed  around 500 steps before reaching the cave site. Karla and Bhaje are situated on different hill tops but the kind of architecture and model does replicate. There are around 16 caves out of which cave 8 is main hall and only accessible to visitors. It is believed these caves are of Mahayana Buddhism. The Caves used to act as Buddhist monastery. There are pillars on both sides of the hall and a stupa is present at the end of hall. On some pillars,engraved writings in Pali language can be seen however  no translation is available . Above every pillar,is present, a paired statute of scantily clad mithuna couples  which shows our past has those sensuous behavior in public which is considered now as taboo. The Caves are two floor structures which has a grand gate and when you enter through it, rock cut elephants welcome you which again establish their association with Buddhism as it is considered in Buddhism that Buddha was born as an elephant in his previous incarnation. The sculpture consists of Buddha, elephant and Mithuna couples.There are other caves as well which are mainly small rooms and perhaps used by Monks for their stay.


Just in front of the main hall gate, a temple is present which is dedicated to goddess Ekveera, a deity of Koli (fisherman) community of Maharashtra. Mainly people you find in the Cave complex are devotes to Goddess Ekveera,with a few exception of history enthusiast.

Bhaje caves is located around 7 kms from Karla. The architecture of Caves is quite similar to Karla, the difference we found was instead of rock cut pillars like Karla, Bhaje caves has wooden structures in its main hall which is quite unique because wooden architecture is not found in any such similar caves. There are many smaller stupas in its complex which is considered relics of Buddhist monks.
Buddha gave emphasis on Bheeksha for its followers and these Monks used to practice his sayings and lived in  most remote places of country. Karla and Bhaje are few of its kind. The place has beautiful architecture and sculptures but it is entirely unknown to the outside world.


Comments

  1. There really is so much to do in Maharashtra, but I've only been to Mumbai, Nashik and Shirdi... I'll need to get back there some time!!

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