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Have You Explored These 2,000-Year-Old Rock-Cut Caves Near Pune?

    Lonavala, Pune

    What Is It?

    Located near Lonavala, Karla and Bhaja are a group of well-preserved Buddhist rock-cut caves, that date back to the second century BC.

    How Do I Get There?

    While Bhaja caves are situated at the village of Bhaje in Maval district, which is about an hour-and-a-half from Pune via Mumbai-Pune highway (see route details here), Karla caves are about 20 minutes away from Bhaja via Ekvira Devi road, and you can check the exact route here.

    What Is So Awesome About It?

    Perched at a height of 400 feet above Bhaja village, the Bhaja Caves is an architectural magnificence of 22 rock-cut caves, built to perfection by Buddhists between second century BC and second century AD.

    As we climbed about 170 steps to reach the top, we noticed extraordinary carvings depicting women in elegant classical dance positions, playing instruments that looked like a tabla. One of the most significant highlights of these caves is the stupas. In fact, we hear Chaityagraha, in cave 12, is possibly the first apsidal hall in India with a horseshoe-shaped vaulted ceiling, supported by 27 columns. There are multiple inscriptions in the caves that depict Lord Buddha in symbol and drawing form. Some of the inscriptions also have names of monks who once stayed at Bhaja Caves.

    Before we finished our little tour at Bhaja, we stopped by the inner sanctum of the last cave, filled with intriguing inscriptions and beautiful sculptures, including dancing couples, warriors, kings in chariots and more.

    Next, we headed to Karla Caves, which is about 8 kilometres from Bhaja. The main entrance is a stupendous stone column with four lions. We hear one of the largest rock-cut prayer halls is present at Karla, and once housed two 15-feet tall pillars, out of which only one continues to exist till today. The main chamber of the cave is supported by 37 pillars and adorns gorgeous carvings throughout

    Anything Else?

    If you’re visiting Karla-Bhaja, try and also stop by the iconic Bedse Caves (approximately 40 minutes from Karla via Pavananagar-Kamshet Road) that has a quaint monastry and a small stupa.

      Lonavala, Pune