Bhaje Caves, Revisited

The last time I’d visited the Bhaje Caves, it was rather early in the morning so the gates were still locked and the place, deserted. Of course, I’d found a little space under the gate through which I’d squeezed through, but I hadn’t been able to do justice to the caves by spending enough time there – because unfortunately for my husband, the tiny space under the gate didn’t come with the promise of ‘one size fits all’.

This time, I went with friends, in November. We reached the caves at around 10am, so thankfully, the ticket counter was open, as were the gates.

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We parked our car at Bhaje village and trudged up the stone stairs built along the hillside and leading up to the caves. The caves are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, for which they charge 5 Rs per entry ticket.

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A plaque at the entrance gives some insight into the Bhaje Caves. It reads, “The Buddhist excavations at Bhaja are a small series of very early Hinayana (Theravada) Caves datable to the 2nd century BC to 1st century AD and consist of 29 excavations. Perhaps one of the oldest Buddhist religious centers in the Deccan, it is hence significant to the development of cave architecture.”

A quick read later, we wandered in different directions until we all decided it would be exciting to climb some crude, slippery steps along the side of the caves, leading to what I might refer to as the first floor of the cave complex. We found two viharas with stone beds there.

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Coming down the stairs was a lot scarier than going up!

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The Chaitya (prayer hall) and the large stupa within it are by far the most impressive elements of the Bhaja Caves.

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Here’s a picture of us trying to look zen  – and not quite succeeding!

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We found numerous viharas on either side of the main chaitya, with stone beds and rock cut windows.

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An interesting feature I’d missed the last time was a cluster of stupas, found a short distance away from the main caves.

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Close to this, we found a narrow flight of stone steps leading up to a roughly rectangular cutout in the hillside, bearing inscriptions.

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Beyond the cluster of stupas were few more caves, one of which contained carved figures. It also presented photo opportunities for the lot of us!

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The other caves at the far end seemed somewhat incomplete.

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We got a sweeping view of the area from the height of the caves. Lohagad fort could be seen in the distance as well. It’s an easy trek from here to the fort.

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It was almost noon by the time we were done looking around and clicking Facebook-worthy pictures, and the sun beating down on us wasn’t very helpful in our climb downhill.

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We stopped for lemonade and guzzled it down without paying any heed to the water that went into it’s making. We were still alive the next day, so I’m guessing the water was okay.

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From here, we headed to Pavna Lake. But that’s another story for another day.

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