The Great Chaitya in the Karla Caves, Maharashtra
Map showing the location of Karla Caves Map showing the location of Karla Caves
Location Karli, India Maharashtra, India
The Karla Caves, Karli Caves, Karle Caves or Karla Cells, are a complex of ancient Buddhist Indian rock-cut caves at Karli near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The shrines were developed over the period – from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The oldest of the cave shrines is believed to date back to 160 BC, having arisen near a major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan.
The group at Karla is one of the older and smaller of the many rock-cut Buddhist sites in Maharashtra, but is one of the best-known because of the famous "Grand Chaitya" (Cave 8), which is "the largest and most completely preserved" chaitya hall of the period, as well as containing unusual quantities of fine sculpture, much of it on a large scale.
Many traders and Satavahana rulers made grants for construction of these caves. Karli's location in Maharashtra places it in a region that marks the division between North India and South India. Buddhists, having become identified with commerce and manufacturing through their early association with traders, tended to locate their monastic establishments in natural geographic formations close to major trade routes so as to provide lodging houses for travelling traders. Today, the cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.