A cultural tour to Kanheri Caves
The word kachori is a term used from the Sanskrit language ‘Krishnagiri’ which means black mountains. The Kanheri Caves is a group of caves and mountains cut out of rocks within the forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It stands on the western verge of Mumbai upon the Salsette Island. The rock contains inscriptions of Buddhist sculptures starting from the first century BCE to the tenth century CE. Created out of Basalt rock there are 109 caves in the cave complex. The design is adorned and simple being a very old cave as compared to other highly decorated elephant caves. Each stone pillar in the cave contains a Buddhist shrine. By the end of the 3rd-century Kanheri Caves became a Buddhist settlement with Buddha carvings on the walls of the cave cum monastery.
Most parts of the caves was basically used for Buddhist teaching, living, meditating, and studying. The large ones carved intricately with Buddhist stupas are meant for worship. Usually, this religious place was formed with the purpose of teaching the moral values we should follow. Monastic used to produce lectures on religious texts. These caves were the house of the monks who strictly maintained discipline and lived a simple life, the purpose being salvation. There were so many Buddhist viharas who had trade connections with Ujjain, Nashik, Sopara, Kalyan, and Paithan. Because of this, Kanheri is regarded as the most valuable center for Buddhist education.
The kachori occupied a huge area and each and every cave is the living room of a monk. There is a stone podium in each of the caves that is used as a bed by the monks. The huge hall houses a Buddhist image of ‘Dagoba’. Group worship and religious meetings are held in this hall. Spiritual nature is modified when we come close to nature and kachori gives us the opportunity to get in touch with nature.
In cave 3 there is a colossal Buddha statue and Chaityagraha. There is a large Avalokiteshvara (representing compassion) in cave no. 2. The ceiling of cave 34 is painted. Some of the inscriptions are without dates but donations from kings’ names revealed the period of such inscriptions. There are 51 inscriptions along with 26 epigraphs. Devanagari, Pahlavi, and Brahmi inscriptions could be spotted here.
The entry fee to enter the cave for Indians is 5 INR and for foreigners, it is 100 INR. The visiting hours start from 7:30 in the morning till 5:30 in the evening. Photography is allowed and most are seen to take pictures of the inscriptions and stupas. The caves are opened on all days of the week except Mondays.
How to reach
The Kanheri Caves are located towards northern Mumbai. The nearest railway station is Thane. You can reach there if you board the train from Churchgate going to Borivali. That will take a maximum of one hour. Auto rickshaws are available direct to the park. You can drive your own vehicle or else walk to the cave. Otherwise, buses and cycle rides are available to reach the cave from the national park gate. The bus charges 66 INR for a two-way journey. You need to get 5 km inside from the main entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi national park.
What to see
There is much to see in the Kanheri caves. You would be spellbound to view its natural beauty and you would feel like you have come to a totally different world. The surrounding is made in such away from the city life into the caves of the jungle. Life inside the cave is something you would like to experience. Trekking and trap zing is done by the tourists. The cave enclosed by the forest stands on hilly terrain, due to which you can spot some minor waterfalls nearby. The location is perfect for a small picnic with natural water bodies and rivers around.
When to go
The best time to visit the Kanheri Caves is from September to March. The climate during this period is very pleasant and cool which is suitable for going for a tour in Kanheri caves. Some nearby hotels to stay are Taj Santacruz, Trident Bandra Kurla, and Zara dormitory.
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