Located at Pune, near Lonavala (Maharashtra), Bhaja Caves, also known as Bhaje Caves dates back to 2nd century BC. These rock-cut caves stand straight at a height of 400 feet above the village of Bhaja after which it is named. The significant features of this Bhaja Caves, the Stupas are really eye-catching and reveals a lot about Indian history during its time. Bhaja Caves is a must go for the people planning a trip to Maharashtra.
The most prominent sculpture of this cave is the Chaitya or Chaityagrha which reveals about wonder wooden architectures during those days. The Chaitya is a monument of wooden architecture with a vaulted horseshoe arched entrance as declared by the Archaeological Survey of India. It is one of the earliest amongst its types. The sculpts inside the cave reveal the use of tabla about 2000 years ago in Indian culture. Chaitya has Buddha reliefs along with unique reliefs from Indian mythology. A wooden beam inside the cave is inscribed with the names of donors of those times along with two more dates from 2nd century B.C. The cave at the end has a picturesque waterfall from which water during monsoon fills a small pool at the bottom of it.
The Eye Catchers
A group of 14 stupas of the Bhaja Caves, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation is the breathtaking landscape of this place. These stupas are the creations of the monks, who lived in the caves and died at Bhaja and display an inscription with the names of three monks, Ampinika, Dhammagiri and Sanghdina. The stupas mainly display the names of the monks and their respective titles. The stupas have been carefully and elaborately carved such that two of them have a relic box on their upper side. Names of monks have been titled with Theras.
As mentioned earlier, the Bhaja Caves is comprised of a number of caves.
One of them is an irregular vihara, about 14 feet square, having two rooms on each side and three on the rear part. The chaitya is decorated with ornaments all over the doors.
Rail pattern ornament, broken animal figures, the verandah is on the frontal side looks similar to the Pandavleni Caves.
The chaitya at Bhaja Caves is one of the earliest surviving chaitya hall, constructed in the second century BC. It has an ‘apsidal hall with stupa’. The columns slope inwards in the imitation of wooden columns that are most probably necessary to keep a roof up. The ceiling was faced with a wooden facade which has completely perished now.
Rail pattern is noticeable, a few cells at the back and a bolt door system are found at the back.
This cave facing north is about 6 feet 8 inches wide and 25.5 feet deep, with 7 cells. Stone benches, square windows, stone beds are the key features of these cells.
It can be reached by stairs to the south of this cave. It is a small vihara 12.5 wide and 10 feet deep having a couple of semi-circular niches and a bench by its side.
There is another cave which looks like a small vihara. It is 18.5 feet long and 12.5 deep, with 5 cells, one of the cells has a bench in it. It has two inscriptions in it one of which is damaged. Cell door inscription portrays “the gift of the cell from Nadasava, a Naya of Bhogwati”. There is an inscription over the two wells in a recess describing “a religious gift of cistern by Vinhudata, son of Kosiki, a great warrior.”
The final cave or the last cave is a monastery with a verandah. The door has guardian figures on both of its sides. This cave has Surya riding a chariot and Indra riding on an elephant.
All in all, Bhaja Caves is one of the oldest caves of India and one of the most important heritage monument portraying Indian Culture and art form dated back to 2000 BC.