Maharashtra one of the historically rich states in India. It houses some of the oldest rock cut structures. One such rock cut structure is present in the capital city of Maharashtra, Mumbai namely Kanheri Caves. The term Kanheri is derived from the Sanskrit term Krishnagiri which means Black Mountain. This ancient structure is present in the western outskirts of the city.
More about Kanheri Caves
Kanheri Caves consist of paintings and inscriptions dating from the 1st century BCE to the 10th century CE. In addition to this there also exists Buddhist sculptures and reliefs in here. The serene location of this place on the island of Salsettea enhances the beauty of the place. It is located in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The cave is located on a hillside and can be accessed by rock cut steps. The entire structure is carved out from basalt rock. Kanheri Caves is a collection of 109 caves which is indeed a spectacular sight.
Design and elements of the Kanheri Caves
Kanheri Caves are unique in the sense that they have been built in due course of time and one can see the difference between the very structural designs of the caves. The older ones are relatively plain. Each cave in here has a stone plinth that used to function as a bed. These caves were Buddhist viharas which were used by Buddhist monks for living, meditating and studying.
In addition to this these caves house some very prominent Buddhist stupas. There exists a congregation hall which houses a huge Buddhist Stupa or shrine and this very structure id supported by strong pillars which represent the strength of this structure. There also exists rock cut cisterns and water tanks for storing water.
Kanheri had become an important Buddhist settlement on the Konan coast in the 3rd century CE. When the Kanheri Caves were converted into permanent monasteries the walls and ceiling of this structure were painted with Buddhist iconography and the walls were carved with the intricate reliefs of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. The most distinctive feature of Kanheri Caves is the Avalokiteshwara.
The existence of so many cave sand that too in such a planned manner is testimony to the fact that this group of caves indicates the presence of a well-organized establishment of Buddhist monks. The segregation of the caves on the basis of their size and shape for particular purposes like the larger ones were used as congregation halls were monks used to assemble for combined prayers or discussions. Kanheri became a university centre by the time it came under the Maurayan and Kushan Empires.
A Tourist’s Guide
Kanheri Caves are six miles away from Thana in Mumbai and two miles north of the Tulsi Lake. Tulsi Lake is an artificial facility recently made in order to cater to the water demands of the area around Kanheri Caves.
Kanheri Caves are open on all days of the week. Entry is not ticketed here. One can go and visit this place throughout the year. The nearest railway station from Kanheri Caves is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal which is 42 km away. The nearest airport is Mumbai Airport and it is at a distance of 26 km from here. Since, it is situated on an island one has to take a ferry in order to reach this historical marvel. The caves are situated atop a hill and thus one has to climb a series of rock cut steps in order to reach the main structure. Most of the adjoining hills in this region are covered with forests but the hill on which Kanheri Caves are housed consists of sparse forest area.
If you are planning to stay at Mumbai for a day or two then finding hotels won’t be a problem too. One can book hotels in different locations in the city both online and offline.
Kanheri Caves are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city of Mumbai. History enthusiasts as well as lovers of ancient monuments come to explore the beauty of this place. One also gets a wonderful opportunity to click some unique pictures of the panoramic landscapes that this place portrays. Many followers of Buddhism and Buddhist monks visit this place. The intricately carved statues of the Buddha are a fair sight. When in Mumbai one must visit this place.