Bhaja Caves - Since 2nd century BC
The more you go into the history of India, the better knowledgable you become.
I recently shifted to Pune and was very excited to stay here for a good number of years, for the sole reasons that this part of the country has so much to offer in terms of exploration. Just when I started my internet exploration of real world, I came across this marvel - Bhaja Caves - Ancient Buddhist Caves since 2nd century BC! Yes, you read that right, BC- Before Christ!
These Buddhist excavations are a small series of very early Hinayana (Theravada) caves dating back to 2nd Century BC and containing 29 excavations. The most important or significant excavation is the "Chaitya" which has timber fitted ceiling, plain octagonal shafts with inward rake. The Stupa is also magnificent consisting of cylindrical base supporting a tall domical body.
Once you step inside this giant hall like structure, try to visualize and take yourself back in the ancient era where monks would come and meditate amidst these hills, inside these caves. I bet you will not be able to think of any other place as quiet and peaceful as this one.
The caves also has inscriptions which gives insights on the ancient writing
Ofcourse, novices like us cannot interpret or understand, but can definitely appreciate the work of ASI to excavate and maintain it!
Walk along the sides of these caves and you will find the other excavations too. There are 29 of them and if you are interested in history, should visit all of them. It may look same but it surely gives that grandeur image of those times. Another important sighting is the lining up of the Stupas. These are the relics of the monks who stayed here. The names of those monks are inscribed in some of them.
There are many sculptures of Indian Gods and Goddesses as well indicating the strong influence of Hinduism in this area.
How to Reach?
These are approximately 70km from the city of Pune and in the direction of Lonavala. Drive by your car or motorcycle is the best way to reach as it also shows you the beautiful surroundings. Do note that the caves are a at a height and you have to climb a lot of steps! Thankfully, there is a water container at the top to quench your thirst. It is natural mineral water, so do not worry about that!
The entry ticket is Rs. 25 which can also be paid by Paytm. You need to upload your ID proof in order to do so.
Overall, it has been an amazing day trip. I wish there was some guide too for those who want to get into the history more to understand the significance of these caves.
Here is a sneak peak of the caves: