If you are interested in discovering beutiful caves, Lonavala is a right place for you. The great caves such as the Elephant Caves, Karla Caves, Bhaja Caves, Ajanta & Ajanta and Ellora Caves made Lonavala an exciting place to visit.
Lonavala is known as the Jewel of the Sahyadri in Maharashtra. It is located in the western slope of Sahyadris Hills at an altitude of 625 meters. Its name was derived from the word Lonavali. It is a Sanskrit word which refers to its surrounding caves. Lonavala has a very pleasant climate which made it the most popular weekend destination.
Lonavala houses the five popular caves namely the Elephant Caves, Karla Caves, Bhaja Caves, Ajanta & Ajanta and Ellora Caves. These are part of the eco-tours that attract many adventure tourists the whole year round.
Elephant caves are situated close to the metropolitan city of Mumbai. It is known as Puri and later became Ghapuri. It is the capital of the coastal kingdom and the cave shrine of Lord Shiva. The cave can be reached 10 km away from the Gateway of India.
History says that the Portuguese are the first who took possession of Elephant Island. They named it after the statue of an elephant to which they first landed. The 60,000 square feet area cave was excavated during the sixth century. There are "rock cut" temples found here as old as 5th century. Internal spaces, images and columns are also found inside the temples.
The entire place is a monument where rock surfaces are finely finished and unfinished. The cave also consists of courtyards, a main chamber, shrines and a natural rock mass above the temple.
The eastern and western entrances are one of the three gates that mark the axis of the temple. There are 20 pillared halls and a preserve Shivalingam. Tourists can reach the caves by a 15 minutes boat ride.
Karla Caves is an ancient Buddhist cave since 160 BC. It is believed to be the biggest among the Chaitya Caves. It is a 600 feet stiff high to the top with 15 meters wide. These caves show evidences about the Buddhist ideologies. This is through stupas and inscriptions.
As you enter the cave, there are sightings of lion pillars, huge elephant forms that represent Gautan Buddha as well as a small temple of Ekvira Devi. The Chaitya hall has 37 octagonal pillars with a feature of a façade screen made of teak wood. It has a base structure similar to a water jar and the entrance is adorned with a horse shoe arch.
Visiting Karla Cave would take a 12 km drive towards Pune and a left turn passing to MTDC's Holiday Home. Another 3 km drive down the narrow road is the route to get into Karla.
Bhaja Caves are located at the center of Lohagad Fort and Visapur Fort. These caves are mush smaller with a Chaitya style. Tourists should take a 250 feet climb to get into the caves. There are 18 rock cut caves as old as since the 2nd century. The first cave is the place of the master architect and ten were reserved for the viharas for priests. The other seven caves have an inscription concerning its donors. A beautiful waterfall is seen at the end.
The cave houses many sculptures like a prince seated on an elephant, a prince of chariot, three-armed warriors and dancing couples. There are also carved figures of Gods and Goddesses.
Tourists who want to visit Bhaja caves should reach Malavali station via a further drive of about 3 km to Bhaja village. A local train to Malavali station is also available.
Ajanta & Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ajanta and Ellora Caves are located near the Aurangabad city. It is the early repository of Indian architectural custom, having 34 caves at Ellora and 29 caves at Ajanta. The caves became a world-heritage site with a preserved artistic legacy for the next generations. Adjanta is 99 kms away, while Ellora is 30 kms from Aurangabad respectively.
Adjanta caves were discovered during the 19th century at the semi-arid Sahayadri hills. The 29 Adjanta caves have a rich collection of stories about Buddha reincarnations. It was built as a private retreat for Buddhist monks and it houses some of the divine sculptures of Buddha preachings. There are also wall paintings of Boddhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara and Padmapani.
However, the 34 Ellora Caves are dedicated to Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. It is carved during 350 AD to 700 AD at the basaltic hill side with facades and artistic interiors.