Located in Pune, near Lonavala, Maharashtra, Bhaja Caves or Bhaje caves dates back to 200 B.C. and is a group of 22 enthralling rock-cut caves. One must go 400 feet up from the village of Bhaja, one of the important trade routes that run from the Arabian sea towards Deccan Plateau, to reach this beauty. It is under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India as a National Monument.
History and culture
The stupa is related to Hinayana Buddhism sect in Maharashtra. The significant figure of the cave is the number of stupas, each with its own unique architectural style, but mostly rooted in wooden architecture.
Bhaja Caves is not only historical but also cultural in that it shows that Tabla, a primary instrument in Indian culture, was used even more than two thousand years back.
There is a carving of a woman playing Tabla and another dancing to indicate the history of Tabla.
There are lots of design aspects of Bhaja Caves that goes with Karla Caves. The largest shrine is the chaityagraha and also the most impressive one with an open, horseshoe-arched entrance. It has one of a kind reliefs that belong to Indian mythology, while other caves have a nave and aisle, with an apse containing a solid stupa and the aisle circling round the apse, providing the circumambulation path.
There are also Buddha images instilled in Chaityagraha. Inscriptions indicate the major donor Maharathi Kosikiputa Vihnudata from 200 A.D. (There are other eight inscriptions with names of donors). While one wooden beam records two inscriptions that state that the cave has been there for 2200 years.
A waterfall adds to the beauty of the cave too. During the monsoon season, water falls into the small pool at the bottom.
Among the 14 stupas, five are inside the excavation and nine outside. They are relics of monks who died in the place (Three inscriptions are present with three names: Ampinika, Dhammagiri, and Sanghdina). Along with the monk’s name, their titles are also written on the inscriptions. They have been carved in details and the names of monks have been titled with Theras.
Cave VI: It is irregular, 14 square feet and has two cells on each side and three on the back side. Cell doors are ornamented with chaitya windows. It is said that Bodhi, ploughman’s wife, gifted this vihara since her name is written on the cell door.
Cave IX: There is a veranda at the front, along with broken animal figures across the cave and rail pattern ornaments.
Cave XII: Separated from the nave by 27 octagonal shafts this cave is 26 ft 8 inches wide and 59 ft long. There is a pillar that has seven different symbols of Buddha in floral form, buds, leaves, fan.
Cave XIII: This cave is 30ft long and 14.5 ft. deep, and seems to have been destroyed. We can also see the rail pattern at the back, and also a bolt door system.
Cave XIV: This cave is 6ft. 8 inches wide and 25.5 ft deep with seven cells. We can see stone benches, square windows, stone beds inside the cave.
Cave XV: This cave is 12.5 ft wide and 10 ft deep with two semi-circular niches and a bench. The cave is reached through stairs south of Cave XIV.
Cave XVI: We can observe three Chaitya arches and the rail pattern.
Cave XVII: This cave is 18.5ft long and 12.5ft deep with 5 cells. One of the two inscriptions present in the façade is damaged. The inscriptions states, “the gift of cell from Nadasava, a Naya of Bhogwati”.
Cave XIX: This cave is more of a monastery with a veranda. There are two guardian figures on either side of the door, along with Surya riding a chariot and Indra riding an elephant.