The Kuda Caves are in Janjira hills facing the Arabian sea. It is known by the name of the village with the same name from the Raigad district. The natural surrounding and architectural designs of these caves together give a blissful experience.
The caves at Kuda which are quite close to Murud Janjira overlook the Arabian Sea and are among those that provide the dual pleasure of being set in beautiful and natural surroundings and of academic interest in terms of their architectural design. Kuda, a sleepy village in district Raigad, 21 km southeast of Mangaon and 130 km from Mumbai on the Mumbai-Goa highway, has a group of 26 caves carved in a low hill on the sea coast, thereby making them caves with a view.
The Kuda caves are among the few Buddhist caves excavated during the 3rd century CE, and make for an interesting study. They were first reported in 1848 but had largely remained unknown to the outside world because of the creek of Rajapuri which one had to cross to visit them. Now that communications have improved and there are buses from Mumbai to Kuda, the caves are visited more frequently. The caves are quite close to Mandad, which can be identified with ancient ‘Mandagora’ referred to by Roman writers as a port on the west coast. Ancient bricks and pottery have been found at Mandad, indicating its 2,000-year-old antiquity. It was probably the headquarters of the Mandava family, the Mahabhojas of the Satavahanas. The Kuda caves have been excavated in two levels; 1-15 in the lower and 16-26 in the upper level. They belonged to the Hinayana faith when stupa worship was in vogue. The images of Buddha were added later in the 6th century CE.
The 26 Kuda caves consist of four chaityas (prayer halls), a close examination of which reveals their evolution. Epigraphs and inscriptions on the walls and pillars give details of donors. The Chaitya 1 marks further development and resembles a temple with a hall (mandapa), vestibule (antarala) and the stupa shrine (garbhagriha). The new feature is the vestibule joining the wall with the stupa shrine. The vestibule has benches along its walls. The record engraved on the back wall of the verandah states that the donor was Shivabhuti, the son of Sulasadata and Utaradata. He was a writer to Mahabhoja Mandava Khandapalita, son of Sadageri some Vijaya, together with his wife, Nanda. It is noteworthy that the donor himself was the writer, which explains its beautiful calligraphy. Chaitya 6 is the largest and the best chaitya at Kuda, and is also finished properly. Stylistically the sculptures at Kuda are in the Satavahana tradition typified by the Karla examples, but are rather coarse in treatment. Yet they are marked by elegance, and are not as earth-bound like those in Kanheri’s Chaitya 3. This chaitya was the last to be excavated at Kuda.
Apart from the Chaityas, among the other caves one is a mandapa, while the remaining 21 are viharas. They are altogether different in conception than the earlier viharas comprising rooms on all sides of a square hall or open space. The reason is not far to seek. The political instability and economic decline owing to loss of long distance trade with the West resulted in decrease in patronage. The new vihara was therefore a modest structure consisting of one or two rooms with a verandah at the front and a cell in the wall for meditation. They were small single room units, devoid of any ornamentation. But all said and done, Kuda caves stand as a mute testimony to the flickering glory of the Satavahanas.
Distance from Mumbai: 130 kms
Raigad District, Maharashtra, India
The Kuda caves are on the western fragment of the hill around the stream of Mandad. The caves are very close to Mandad, an ancient site of ‘Mandagora’ referred to by Roman writers as a port. The caves were carved during the initial centuries of CE and Buddha images were added later in the 6th century CE.
The site has 26 Buddhist Caves patronised by the local king, his family, nobles and traders. The prosperity arrived in the locality due to Indo-Roman trade in the early years of the Common Era. Most of these caves are carved out in basaltic rock and can be dated back to the 2nd-3rd century CE. Buddhist Sculptures depicting the Sacred Buddhist Trio and some episodes from the life of the Buddha are dated to the 6th century CE. Early sculptural panels in the caves dated back to the 2nd-3rd century CE give glimpses of the early regional art.
Kuda caves consist of four Chaityas (prayer halls), epigraphs and inscriptions. The rest of the caves are the residential structures meant for Buddhist monks to stay. The viharas are modest structures consisting of one or two rooms with a verandah at the front and a cell in the wall for meditation. They are small single-room units, devoid of any ornamentation. An inscription in cave 11 is accompanied by the depiction of the Hippocampus (seahorse) as a sacred symbol. The site has many water cisterns that must have been used to store water for the residents of this monastery.
The scenic site of Kuda was located in the vicinity of a prosperous port and on the trade route linking it with the commercial centres on the Deccan Plateau.
Caves are on a hill near the village of Kuda, 21 KM Southeast of Mangaon and 130 KM from Mumbai on the Mumbai-Goa Highway.
The prominent weather in the Konkan region is rainfall, the Konkan belt experiences High Rainfall (ranges around 2500 mm to 4500 mm), and the climate remains Humid and warm. The temperature reaches up to 30 degrees Celsius during this season.
Summers are hot and humid, and the temperature touches 40 degrees Celsius.
Winters in Konkan is the comparatively milder climate (around 28 degrees Celsius), and the weather remains Cool and Dry
Things to do
Apart from visiting the caves, one can visit the creek and a river nearby. The Murud Janjira fort is approximately 25 KM from Kuda. A visit to Janjira fort can be accommodated on the same visit if planned in advance.
Nearest tourist places
- Tala Fort (15.1 KM)
- Murud Janjira and tombs of Siddhis in Murud or Khokhari Tombs (20.7 KM)
- Diveagar Beach (40 KM)
- Kashid Beach (43.5 KM)
- Kolad- (34 KM) one can enjoy adventure sports like river rafting, kayaking, river crossing and ziplining.
Special food speciality and hotel
Seafood is a speciality in the region as it is near the coastal area.
Accommodation facilities nearby & Hotel/ Hospital/Post Office/Police station
There are plenty of hotels and homestays available in the Konkan region. A hotel might give comfort and luxury, a homestay with the hospitable locals give a genuine experience of the local culture. Recently, service apartments are also widely available in this region.
Visiting Rule and Time, Best month to visit
There are no rules for visiting caves. One should follow standard rules like no tampering with the place, no littering and keeping the sanity of the site.
Summers are hot and humid hence it can be avoided to plan a visit. The best period to visit Kuda caves is June to February.
Language spoken in area
English, Hindi, Marathi