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Kanheri Caves

📍 Kanheri Caves, MaharashtraView map ›

🗓 Best Time To Visit:June to February

⏰ Open Hours:7:30 AM to 5:30 PM

🏞 Things To Do:Explore caves, Visit Buddhist shrines, Photography, Hiking

💰 Budget:Indian Nationals: INR 15, Foreign Nationals: INR 200

👥 Traveller Types:History Buffs, Nature Lovers, Photographers, Adventure Seekers

🔖 Known For:Largest number of cave excavations in a single hill, Ancient Buddhist sculptures and carvings, 109 Caves

🚄 Distances:From Mumbai Airport: 22.4 km, From Mumbai Central Railway Station: 32 km

🎒 Tips:Carry water bottles, hats and sunscreen. Wear comfortable shoes for hiking.

♿ Accessibility:Not wheelchair friendly

📷 Photography:Allowed

🚗 Parking:Available at the entrance

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Kanheri Caves: A Guide To The Ancient Buddhist Rock-Cut Monuments In Mumbai

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into a time machine and travel back to the ancient times of India? Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore. You can experience it for yourself by visiting the Kanheri Caves in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Kanheri Caves are a group of over 100 rock-cut monuments carved out of basaltic rock. They are located in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, about 40 km from the city center of Mumbai. They date back to the 1st century BCE and span over a period of more than 1000 years. They are one of the finest examples of the history, culture and art of Buddhism in India.

In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about Kanheri Caves and why you should visit them. So, let’s get started!

History of Kanheri Caves

The word “Kanheri” comes from the Sanskrit word “Krishnagiri”, which means “black mountain”. This is because the basaltic rock that forms the caves has a dark color. The caves were originally called “Kanhagiri” or “Kanhari”, which later became “Kanheri”.

The caves were carved by Buddhist monks and followers as a place of worship, learning and living. They were part of a larger network of trade routes that connected India with other parts of Asia. The caves served as a center of Buddhist education and culture, attracting scholars, pilgrims and merchants from various regions.

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The caves reflect the evolution of Buddhism from the Hinayana sect to the Mahayana sect. The Hinayana sect followed the original teachings of Buddha and emphasized on individual salvation. The Mahayana sect developed later and introduced new concepts such as bodhisattvas, compassion and universal salvation.

The earliest caves belong to the Hinayana sect and date back to the 1st century BCE. They are simple and austere, with no images or idols. They consist mainly of chaityas (prayer halls) and viharas (monasteries). The chaityas have a circular dome-like ceiling with a stupa (a hemispherical mound) at the end. The viharas have cells for monks to live and study.

The later caves belong to the Mahayana sect and date back to the 5th century CE. They are more elaborate and ornate, with images and idols of Buddha and bodhisattvas. They also have podhis (water cisterns) that collect rainwater for drinking and bathing. The podhis are carved with intricate designs and inscriptions.

The caves also have epigraphs (writings on stone) that record the donations made by various patrons such as kings, queens, nobles, merchants and monks. The epigraphs reveal the names, titles, professions and origins of the donors, as well as their religious beliefs and affiliations. They also provide valuable information about the social, economic and political conditions of the time.

The caves were in use until the 10th century CE, when Buddhism declined in India due to various factors such as invasions, conversions and competition from other religions. The caves were abandoned and forgotten for centuries, until they were rediscovered by British explorers in the 19th century. Since then, they have been restored and preserved by various authorities such as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Also check out: Revisit history with these five 1000+ year old caves in Mumbai!

Architecture of Kanheri Caves

The architecture of Kanheri Caves is remarkable for its diversity and complexity. The caves are spread over an area of about 6 km2 on a hillside that slopes from east to west. The caves are arranged in four groups according to their elevation: lower group, middle group, upper group and topmost group.

The lower group consists of caves 1 to 53 and is located at the base of the hill. These are mostly Hinayana caves with simple chaityas and viharas. Some notable caves in this group are:

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Cave 3:

This is one of the largest chaityas in India, measuring 28 m long, 12 m wide and 15 m high. It has a wooden facade that is decorated with carvings of animals, humans and floral motifs. It also has a large stupa that is surrounded by pillars and sculptures of Buddha and bodhisattvas.

Cave 11:

This is a vihara that has 16 cells and a central hall. It has a unique feature of a circular window that allows natural light to enter the hall. It also has a stone bed with a pillow for the head monk to rest.

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Cave 34:

This is a Mahayana cave that has a shrine with an image of Buddha sitting in the lotus position. It also has paintings of Buddha and bodhisattvas on the walls and ceiling.

The middle group consists of caves 54 to 65 and is located at a higher level than the lower group. These are mostly Mahayana caves with images and idols of Buddha and bodhisattvas. Some notable caves in this group are:

Cave 41:

This is a chaitya that has a wooden facade that is similar to cave 3, but smaller in size. It also has a stupa that is adorned with sculptures of Buddha and bodhisattvas. It also has paintings of scenes from the life of Buddha on the walls and ceiling.

Cave 54:

This is a vihara that has 16 cells and a central hall. It has an image of Buddha sitting on a lion throne in the hall. It also has paintings of Buddha and bodhisattvas on the walls and ceiling.

The upper group consists of caves 66 to 98 and is located at the highest level of the hill. These are mostly podhis that collect rainwater for drinking and bathing. Some notable caves in this group are:

Cave 67:

This is one of the largest podhis in India, measuring 34 m long, 17 m wide and 7 m deep. It can store up to 400,000 liters of water. It has carvings of animals, humans and floral motifs on the walls and rim.

Cave 81:

This is a podhi that has an inscription that records the donation made by a monk named Buddhaghosha. The inscription mentions that he was from Sri Lanka and that he came to Kanheri Caves to study Buddhism.

The topmost group consists of caves 99 to 109 and is located at the summit of the hill. These are mostly small caves that have no special features. They may have been used as meditation chambers or storage rooms.

You may also like to read: Bored In Mumbai? Go Beyond The Ordinary And Spend The Weekend Cave Hopping

Things to See and Do near Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves are not only a historical and cultural attraction, but also a natural attraction. They are located in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is one of the largest urban parks in the world.

The park covers an area of about 104 km2 and is home to various flora and fauna. Some of the things to see and do near Kanheri Caves are:

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Sanjay Gandhi National Park:

This is a must-visit place for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The park has over 1000 species of plants, over 250 species of birds, over 40 species of mammals, over 30 species of reptiles and over 150 species of butterflies. Some of the animals that can be spotted in the park are leopards, deer, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, peacocks, eagles, woodpeckers and hornbills.

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Global Vipassana Pagoda:

This is a modern Buddhist monument that was inaugurated in 2009. It is located near Gorai Creek, about 15 km from Kanheri Caves. It is inspired by the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar and is built as a tribute to Buddha and his teachings. It has a dome that is 96 m high and can accommodate up to 8000 people. It also has a museum that displays relics of Buddha and his disciples.

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Essel World and Water Kingdom:

These are two amusement parks that are located near Gorai Beach, about 18 km from Kanheri Caves. They are popular destinations for families and children who want to have fun and entertainment. Essel World has various rides and attractions such as roller coasters, ferris wheels, carousels, bumper cars, haunted houses and ice skating rinks. Water Kingdom has various slides and pools such as wave pools, lazy rivers, rain dance zones and aqua play areas.

How to Reach Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves are easily accessible by different modes of transport, such as bus, train, auto-rickshaw and car. Here are some of the options to reach Kanheri Caves from Mumbai:

Bus:

You can take a bus from Borivali Station (East) to Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The bus number is 188 and the fare is Rs. 20. The bus frequency is every 15 minutes and the travel time is about 30 minutes. From the park entrance, you can either walk or take a mini bus to Kanheri Caves. The mini bus fare is Rs. 5 and the travel time is about 15 minutes.

Train:

You can take a local train from any station in Mumbai to Borivali Station. The train fare depends on the distance and the class of travel. The train frequency is every 10 minutes and the travel time varies from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the station. From Borivali Station, you can either take a bus or an auto-rickshaw to Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The bus fare is Rs. 20 and the auto-rickshaw fare is Rs. 100. The travel time is about 30 minutes.

Auto-rickshaw:

You can hire an auto-rickshaw from any part of Mumbai to Kanheri Caves. The auto-rickshaw fare depends on the distance and the traffic conditions. The average fare is Rs. 500 and the travel time varies from 60 minutes to 120 minutes depending on the location.

Car:

You can drive your own car or rent a car from any service provider in Mumbai to Kanheri Caves. The car fare depends on the type of car and the duration of rental. The average fare is Rs. 2000 per day and the travel time varies from 60 minutes to 120 minutes depending on the location.

Tips for Visiting Kanheri Caves

Here are some useful tips and suggestions for visiting Kanheri Caves:

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- The best time to visit Kanheri Caves is between October and March, when the weather is pleasant and dry. Avoid visiting during the monsoon season (June to September), when the caves may be slippery and muddy.

- The timings for visiting Kanheri Caves are from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, every day except Monday. The entry fee for Indian nationals is Rs. 15 and for foreign nationals is Rs. 200. The entry fee for Sanjay Gandhi National Park is Rs. 65 for adults and Rs. 25 for children.

- Carry water and snacks with you, as there are no shops or restaurants inside the caves. However, you can buy food and drinks from the vendors outside the park entrance or near the beaches.

- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, as you will have to walk a lot and climb stairs to explore the caves. Also, carry a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

- Hire a guide or buy a guidebook to learn more about the history, culture and art of Kanheri Caves. The guides charge around Rs. 300 per hour and the guidebooks cost around Rs. 50.

- Respect the sanctity and cleanliness of the caves, as they are a heritage site and a place of worship. Do not litter, graffiti, smoke or make noise inside the caves.

We hope this guide has given you enough information and motivation to visit Kanheri Caves in Mumbai. They are a treasure trove of ancient wisdom and beauty that will leave you spellbound and enlightened.

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Kanheri Caves Reviews

Kanheri Caves had been one of the places on my wishlist for a while and I was looking for someone to go there with. After planning the visit to the caves a week in advance (and seeing the plans fall through) my friend Adwait decided that a last minute plan will be the best way to ensure its occurrence. Considering that most of the people back out in the last moment of the trip, we managed to achieve a record: roping in 4 others - my classmate Neeti, Adwait's classmates Dhairyashil (or Dhairya, as we called him) and Aishwarya, Aishwarya's flatmate Milky tagged along as well. The impromptu-planning-phase for the trip turned to be a lot more successful than we thought... A WhatsApp group and a couple of hours of trolling each other later, we decided to rent a bicycle each and cycle to the caves. As almost everyone found travelling by trains pretty convenient, we decided to meet up at Borivali station at 7.45am and take rickshaws to the entrance of the park together. But as I was running late, I decided to join all of them at the main entrance of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). My dad was sweet enough to offer me a ride, and mom didn't mind an early morning drive either. My sister was the awesomest of the lot - with completely dishevelled hair she was the first one out the door, in her pyjamas, a half-drunk mug of coffee in her hand. The weather was just perfect for trekking, or at least it appeared so in the beginning - partially cloudy and windy. Most importantly, it wasn't too hot. Although we missed a turn and had to take a longer route, we reached just in time, at about 8am. Well, Kanheri Caves lie in the interior of SGNP. One can either choose to cycle, or trek or take the bus which goes right up to the base of the caves. The route from the entrance of SGNP is about 5.5 kilometres long. "Kumbhkaran" Adwait smirked at me as we walked to the bicycle rack. We found that the bicycles enough for only half of us. Sighing, we decided to walk instead. The walk felt lengthy - even though we walked for about an hour, we barely made it halfway. Taking a short water break, we resumed our journey. On our journey we came across people selling chana chaat (boiled chickpeas with vegetables and spices), fruits and vegetables. Briefly stopping to grab a little bit of chaat and a few slices of kairi (raw mango), we resumed our journey. We talked about everything under the sun - CGPAs, placements, crazy experiences, ideas for future treks and what not. We came across a Jain temple on the way and decided to pay it a visit on our way back. We did see quite a few people ditching their bicycles for a short walk or for selfies.
What happens when a group of medical students arrive at their seminar venue only to know that it has been postponed? Yes, they decide to explore the city. Amazing trips are never planned. Such was visiting Kanheri caves. A delight for the young and old alike, Kanheri caves are an ideal place in Mumbai for one day picnic. THINGS TO DO You can jog, trek, enjoy the waterfalls during the rains, do a photoshoot or simply adore the ancient architecture and Buddhist sculptures. LOCATION Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, Mumbai. The caves are located within Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Sanjay Gandhi National Park is easily accessible via Western Railways services from Borivali Station. You can reach the park using local transport (auto-rickshaws, trains, taxis or buses) from station or bring your own vehicle. Once at the national park, you can either trek to the Kanheri Caves or opt for paid/own transport within the park. TIMINGS : 7:30 am to 5pm. CLOSED on Mondays. TRIP DURATION : 3-4 hours ENTRY FEES : To be paid at Park entrance and cave complex. BEST TIME TO VISIT : It's a wonderful place to visit all round the year. Monsoon are the best as the rocks on which the caves are build turn into mini waterfalls. TRIP COST : 500 rs per person. (Including travel and food. Price may vary.) TIPS FOR VISITING KANHERI CAVES : 1. To avoidcrowdits best to visit early morning. 2. Beware of monkeys. 3. Wear appropriate footwear when visiting during monsoon since the rocks get slippery. 4. Don't litter and maintain the sanctity of the place at all cost.
The largest Buddhist caves not only amongst the caves in Mumbai, but in entire India, Kanheri caves are situated in the environmentally protected zone of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali suburb of northern Mumbai. Kanheri being the erstwhile university during 1st century BC to 11th century AD, has not 1 or 2 but a total of 120 plus discovered caves spread across a large area in the hills of SGNP. Caves here include Chaitya halls, Viharas, stupas as well as massive carved figures of Buddha which are a famous picnic spot for Mumbaikars. This place turns even more magical in monsoons when the greenery takes over this entire area with many small- large streams and waterfalls come gushing down these historic caves best accessed from Borivali station (East) of Mumbai's western local railway line. Elephanta caves:
Kanheri Caves is a major attraction inside Borivali National park located 7 km further down. The Buddhist caves date back to 4th century BC and have been very well maintained. The caves look spectacular, although as visitors, we were hungry for more information about the history of Kanheri caves. There was very little information available at the entrance to Kanheri and once at the site the caves are merely numbered. Lack of information makes the viewing very monotonous. Yet, one cannot take away the fact that the caves are beautiful and picturesque. The rock cut caves are sculpted over the cliff and it is an assured breathtaking view during monsoons along with waterfalls and the expanse of the forest.
A day trip in Mumbai , this is very easy to find where to go so we found out SGNP [ SANJAY GANDHI NATIONAL PARK ]'s Kanheri caves. People who live in Mumbai , they have atleast ones visited this place in their life, and if you did not then after reading this post and seeing the images you must visit to the places.
Photos of Kanheri Caves
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