Location: Near Pune, Maharashtra
Height: 3567 ft.
Recommended Season: Any time except summer - Best season is Monsoon
WHAT TO SEE DURING TREK?
Karla caves is not that tough to trek. This 2000-year old caves have lots of Buddhists architecture. Karla was built in 2nd century BC. These caves are the best-known examples of the rock cut caves in Maharashtra. These caves are mostly Buddhists monasteries. Having largest cluster of Chaitya caves, Karla Mountains are old as to 160 BC. The mountain has appropriate terrain for a rock climber to reach up to the top. Such types of architectures can also be seen at Sahyadris and Bedsa caves. These Buddhist caves served as monasteries.
Among the oldest Buddhist rock-cut cave shrines in India, Karla caves are located about 60 km from Pune. Built into a rocky hillside, the cave complex is located on the Pune-Mumbai highway at Karli near Lonavala.
According to inscriptions found in the complex, Karla’s ancient name was Veluraka. The caves are believed to be among the scores of other caves excavated in the Sahyadri Hills. Bhaja, another centre of Buddhist activity, is eight km south of Karla.
The caves stood near a major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. The early Buddhists used to locate their monasteries in natural geographic formations close to major trade routes which also helped in providing lodging for travelling traders.
Though not as elaborate as Ajanta and Ellora; Karla’s chaityagriha is the grandest and the largest of all such monuments in India. The Karla complex consists of 16 rock cut excavations of which cave 8 is the chaityagriha. The chaityagriha is the most prominent and dominates the other excavations.
Chaitya Hall: The largest such hall in India, it is 37.87 m deep from door to back, 13.87 m wide and 14.02 high. Sculptures of both males and females, as well as animals can be seen in the hall.
The stupa at the rear of the chaityagriha was the object of worship. Huge lion pillar stands in front of the chaityagriha. The pillar resembles the Asokan pillar.
Within the Bedsa Caves, it has very unusual feature that is mass of rock. It is on the front side of the Chaitya, because of this main façade gets hide. There are 2 pillars in the entry, which create a very effective impression of the earlier locations of the worship. There are sculptures of the animals and crowns on the pillars, which is very much similar to the popular caves which are known as Sanchi Stupa. The caves are architecturally very rich and beautiful but bad thing is that these caves are not maintained properly.
By Air: Nearest Airport: Pune Airport, 62 km away, By Rail: Nearest Railway Station: Lonavala Station and from there take the taxi, By Road: Take taxi or bus from Pune to Lonavala.