Mumbai, Pune ad Lonavala, these places have something in common that it gives you a great excursion and a chance to witness the historic town of Karli, also called Karla which is mainly famous for Karla caves, and the Buddhist temple complex which are among the first elaborate and lavishly designed Indian rock-cut temples and at that time was the zenith of Indian rock-cut architecture.
These caves are just as beautiful as Ajanta and Ellora, although far less well-known. So, anytime you are passing by the Mumbai Pune expressway, mark your presence here to witness the architectural and aesthetic accomplishments of Karla Caves which had a profound influence on the advancement of Indian art.
Karla is situated close to Lonavala, off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. It is around 60 km from Pune and makes up one of the best excursion options from Pune, Mumbai, and Lonavala in Maharashtra.
Why Karla caves was built?
When Buddhists learned about trade and business, they tended to place these caves in favorable geographic locations that are also closer to the major trading routes. This is how trade through the Karla caves in Maharashtra flourished. At the moment, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has control over the cave complex.
The caves were built during the course of two eras. The first phase lasted between the second century BC and the second century AD, and phase 2 lasted between the fifth and tenth centuries AD.
The 16 caves and excavations that make up the Karla Caves were formerly Buddhist monasteries. With the exception of 3 from the later Mahayana phase, the majority of the caves date back to the early Hinayana period of Buddhism.
The Chaityagriha, a sizable prayer and meeting hall, is the primary cave and is said to have been constructed in the first century BC. It boasts a stunning teak wood-carved roof, rows of pillars adorned with sculptures of people, animals, and horses, and a sizable sun window at the entry that directs light onto the stupa in the back.
The other 15 excavations are viharas, which are significantly smaller monastic dwellings and prayer areas.
The architectural beauty of Karla Caves:
The Chaitya Grihas are located in eight of the 16 rock-cut excavations that make up the Karla Caves. These caves have a spectacular construction and house one of India’s most stunning and expansive Chaitya Grihas. From the front door to the back, the greatest Karla cave measures 37.87 m in depth, 13.87 m in width, & 14.02 m in height.
This cave is decorated with several magnificently decorated rock-cut columns, and the detailed carvings provide a touch of culture. Pali language is used in many inscriptions inside caves. There are multiple columns that further combine to make a semi-circular ceiling just behind the alley. This serves as the main religious symbol in this place.
It’s interesting to observe that there aren’t many Buddha statues in the caverns. Instead, statues of elephants and couples predominately cover the main halls outside walls. At the entryway, there is also a large pillar with lions on top that is similar to the lion pillar built at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh by Emperor Ashoka to commemorate the location of Buddha’s first lecture after attaining enlightenment.
When to visit and ticket price:
Karla Caves are open to visitors from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm every day. Summer or winter season is the best to visit Karla Caves. The entry ticket to visit Karla caves is INR 5 only.
How to reach:
The closest train station to Karla Caves is Lonavala. From Pune or Mumbai, you can board a train towards Lonavala. 350 stairs from the bottom of the slope or over 200 steps from the parking lot about halfway up the hill must be climbed to get to the Karla Caves.
If coming from Pune or Mumbai, the best alternative is to either take a taxi or the state transport bus that runs often between Mumbai and Pune and Lonavala and from Lonavala to Karla.