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All you need to know about Karla Caves
Around 114 km from Mumbai or about 40 km from Pune, in the small town earlier known as Lenauli, and currently known as Lonavala, the Western Ghats houses one of the most impressive rock-cut caves complexes, consisting of 16 caves, in India. Known as the Karla caves, often locally referred as Karli or Karle caves,, is one of the oldest and one of the most beautiful cave complexes, that India has to offer to its tourists. The cave complex has both Hindu and Buddhist ethnic connections, featuring, the Buddhist viharas and Chaityagrhs, and a Hindu temple of Goddess Ekveera also referred some places in India as goddess Renuka.
Historical facts Karla Caves
Carbon dating and rock inscriptions found in the cave complex estimates that the complex was developed over a considerable period of time, from the second century BC to around the 10th century A.D. with the oldest prayer hall (also known as Chaityagrha) dating back to 120 BC. The Karla caves, set a magnificent example of the ancient craftsmanship finesse, with the entire complex barring the first cave been ornately carved, from top to down.
Though less popular, and thus relatively less crowded, the cave complex is no less magnificent than the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves, in terms of architectural excellence, and at times surpasses them. For example, the eighth cave of the Karla cave complex, better known as the great Chaityagrh, features the largest rock-cut Buddhist prayer hall in India measuring around 148 feet long and 46 feet high, with intricate decorations of both human forms and animals.
Architectural Facts of Karla Caves
It is often argued, that in terms of architecture the Karla caves, follows a chronology of perfection beginning with the Kondivite Caves, continuing with the Bhaja Caves, the Ajanta Caves, the caves at Pitalkhora, the Kondana Caves, the Cave number 9 at Ajanta, Cave number 18 at Nasik Caves, the Bedse Caves, to the “final perfection” of the Great Chaityagrh at Karla Caves. Although the architecture follows the pattern which is usual for the architecture and the similar period, the standout in case of the Karla caves is its quintessential vastness. The earlier caves were attributed to a more ancient branch of Buddhism, where the Buddha imagery (in form of statues) was not found. Instead, it is replaced by a stupa.
Beautiful Sculptures and Lighting
The most magnificent Chaityagrha, has beautiful sculptures, often imitating woodwork, in the intricacies and ornamentation on both sides of the central doorway and inside. The carvings mostly describe human forms, lions and elephants, with Mithuna, or women and men in pairs form the dominating art-form in the human carvings. It is also believed that the elephant carvings had original ivory tusks and the walls were covered with murals, however, no evidence, concrete to this respect has been found.
Another interesting feature of the Karla caves, and the ways the lighting source have been carved in. Huge windows have been carved on the rock, in a way so that the hard sunlight is muffled to a proper tone, to soothe the exquisiteness of the sculptures and ornate carvings.
Accessible easily by road from the popular hill station of Lonavala or from Pune, the Karla caves are photographers delight and good for days out