For ancient history lovers and admirers of its architectural marvel, Karla caves in Lonavala, Maharashtra is a good place to visit. It is one of the oldest Buddhist caves in India with magnificent artistic sculptures adorning its interiors. The caves are also known by Karle caves or Karli caves.
As per the study of historians, the cave was constructed in 2 phases, one from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD and the other from the 5th century AD to the 10th century.
The climb up the Karla caves
You need to scale up 250 steps to reach the entrance of the caves. The route beside the caves has once served as an important caravan route for merchant trading in the past. There is a ticket counter at the entrance to purchase the tickets.
The intrinsic architecture of the Karla Caves
The caves consists of grand and large monuments called Chaityas, huge pillars, old inscriptions, and several figures carved out of stone. The largest of the Chaityas is located in the central hall, measuring 14.02 meters high, 13.87 meters wide, and 37.87 meters deep. The hall is adorned by majestic pillars with elaborate carvings on the columns.
Both the right and left sides of the cave entrance have exquisite works of elephant and human figures. The pillars are the replica of the Ashokan pillar with elephant motifs ornating them. You can observe the four lions supporting themselves at the top of the pillars. The different figures of Lord Buddha are found at the left and right panels of the entrance.
The main stupa or Chaitya in the central hall is known as Dagoba. It served as the prayer hall for the ancient Buddhists. It is fabulous to watch how the lights from outside have been synchronized with the architecture so that only the stupa is illuminated. Other parts of the hall are kept comparatively dimmed.
The holy temple of Goddess Ekvira
Just at the entrance of the cave, is the temple of goddess Ekvira. The goddess is specially worshipped by the fishermen's community, offering their prayers and seeking her blessings. They normally arrive in groups playing drums and chanting the holy name of goddess Ekvira.
Few Tips for visiting the Karla Caves
1. Cooperate with the security guards as they are quite helpful
2. You have to open your shoes to enter the caves as a customary ritual
3. Do not throw food packets, water bottles, and other papers at the cave premises. There are dustbins and trash bins for the same.
4. Wear sunglasses and caps and apply sunscreen lotion to protect against the sun's rays
5. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes as you need to travel up 250 stairs and then climb down the same number
What is the best time to visit the caves?
It is recommended to visit the caves during the summers and winters. The timings are from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
How can you reach Karla caves?
If you are staying at Lonavala, then the best way to reach the place is to hire a cab or drive your car.
Karla caves are a testimony to the excellent skills of the ancient artisans. The inherent sculptures and the walk carvings will surely astonish you.
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