Deep, dark and mysterious -- there is a secretive lure to ancient caves that eludes the brightness of sunbeams and radiates ancient history. Maharashtra, home to the largest number of caves in India, snuggles within its awe-inspiring Sahyadri Range caves of all sizes, shapes and hues. From ancient rock-cut ones to ones with intricate sculptures that have housed reigning deities since time immemorial, these caves are fascinating archeological legacies.
Walk into the aura of times forgotten, eras lost in the passage of rites of yore. Testimony to the fact that the land has always been benevolent to a variety of different religions, whose monks made these caves their homes and shrines.
The Elephanta caves, on an island 11 km from Mumbai, are proud to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site as also those of Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad which boast of the glorious architectural experiments for Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks and devotees. The creation of the World Heritage Monuments at Ajanta, started in 2nd century BCE and was completed only in the 5th - 6th century CE, tracing the entire journey of the evolution of Buddhist architecture.
The Kanheri caves, around the outskirts of Mumbai, hidden in the lush green hills, are considered to be very important to understand the development of Buddhism in Western India. The interesting sculptures of Yaksa figures on the walls of the Pitalkhora caves in Aurangabad also pay tribute to the master craftsmanship of legends.
The Bhaja and Karla caves date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE too. Just like the Pandavleni caves near Shahada which were created for the Jaina monks and devotees.
Today, the Maharashtra state government is in a continual process of preservation of these historic deep, dark rock –cut caves.