>Travel Pictures


Bhaja caves

September 2007

Just across the turnoff to Karla caves on the road from Lonavala is a road leading to the Bhaja caves. While these are even older than those at Karla, since there is no Hindu shrine to attract devotees, these caves are even less visited. We headed up one Sunday morning and had the place to ourselves. It is a bit of a hike, but passing the beautiful scenery on the way made it well worth the exercise!

Dating from the 2nd century BCE, there are 18 caves scattered around, centered on a main chaitya with a large stupa at the end like the one at Karla, although with simpler columns.

In the main chamber, the timbers are reported to be over 2200 years old, and one wonders about the stories they could tell. On every few columns, simple decorations had been carved, sometimes with a hole in the middle.

The really neat thing about this site was the red color of all the exposed mud and rock. 

Combined with the dripping water everywhere, it gave us the impression of being on some exotic location (and made it really fun for the the kids to hike and play). 

 One vestibule had an enormous rock-cut oil candle in the middle of it.

While the carvings were nowhere near as widespread or intricate as those at Karla, at least one of them was simply fascinating - showing a man riding an elephant that was crushing hordes of people underneath. Homage to some ruler's victory?

Breck wasn't too excited when he slipped and fell climbing up a stairway (and mom almost panicked too!), but he was ok once he got back to throwing rocks.
Wandering around the corner from the main entrance, we found an interesting goup of freestanding stupas, about half of them inside a cave and half outside (but now covered by a roof. They reminded me of those alien eggs always seen in horror movies - ready to hatch either their flesh-eating or zombie offspring (depending on the specific genre). They were also silently distinguished, moss covered from a constant stream of rain run off.

All in all, we had a fabulous morning wandering around. As we headed back, we took stock of all the animals we'd seen on the trip - from birds and bees to cows, goats, and horses, through fish swimming in the cave pools and iguana-like lizards eating grasshoppers all the way to the snake dad saw on the way back - we felt pretty happy with our first walk on the wild side in India.

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