Till then I had not heard about Kanheri Caves “कान्हेरी लेणी” (in Marathi) until I entered the remarkable Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is a giant protected space and spread over 103 Sq. Km. between the suburbs of Mumbai and Thane.
Just take a cab or taxi directly to National Park, but the tickets and then your journey to Kanheri Caves starts which are located around 6 km from the entrance. I had my snacks and energy drinks with me as it’s going to be a long journey which I completed through a bus ride.
The word ‘Kanheri’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word “Krishnagiri” which exactly means black mountain. Kanheri caves are basically a faction of rock cut monuments, carvings, artworks that embellishes the Buddhist sculptures and effigy’s from the era of 1st century of Before Christ’s birth to 10th century of Anno Domini that decorate their basalt developments.
There are a total of 109 caves which are connected through an intrinsic water canal and most of the caves are the monk’s viharas. The Caves were like a University place where Buddhist monks used to convey addresses on religious writings and fundamental good esteems that one ought to take after.
The main caves to watch are the first 3 caves. Cave 1 is an unfinished cave but it does not contain any inscription or sculptures. The pillars made were almost similar to those of Elephanta caves.
Cave 2 consist of a vihara and three stupas where these stupas are restricted in their different chambers. These are some fine piece of architecture which defines various projections of Buddha. I wondered how those times would be when the disciples or monks would be studying, listening to stories or learning the philosophy of life.
Cave 3 This is remarkably the best of first 3 caves. It’s known as The Chaitya cave which has a large spacious courtyard and stood on enormous pillars. A stone screen separates the verandah from the courtyard. On the sides of the walls there is a colossal statue of Lord Buddha.
The inside of The Vihara or we can call it the Prayer Hall consist of 34 Pillars which were quite similar in fashion but some of the pillars are incomplete or maybe ruined. There is a stupa at the arcuated end of this hall which is almost 5 metres tall. The courtyard pillar and hall’s interior pillars were carved at the same time as there is much similarities in symbols present.
All the caves were made for different purposes whether in form of impaired sculptures, paintings, inscriptions or manuscripts. Nearly 51 legible inscriptions and 26 epigraphs are found at Kanheri and one can find unfinished painting of Lord Buddha on the ceiling of cave number 4. It gave me goosebumps when I visited the entire arena.
Almost all the region of caverns are accessed by rock carved foot path and at other places there are steep inclined paths which makes it impossible to climb sometimes, it really is a hardcore journey. Moving to top part of the mountain was one of the better experiences one can have. The entire view of monks water canal system can be seen and we get a spectacular view of the park’s landscape.
Trekking is what comes to mind when one hears about Kanheri. The two-hour trek to the caverns takes you through the timberland zones in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The slopes on which the Kanheri Caves are found are effortlessly safe and is a generally straightforward landscape for both tenderfoot and prepared explorers. The view is very hypnotizing as well, with all the greenery joined with spouting waterfalls close-by making this nature’s darling. If you are fortunate you might get a sighting of the fauna at the animal park.
Reaching towards the end of the journey is I carried with me a part of the great Indian history and many stories to share with my family and friends.