Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

A photograph of Bhaja Caves in Pune, India
Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

I was in Pune on work last week and managed to free up sometime (by starting pretty early in the morning!) to see a few of the local sights. Bhaja caves was one of two old Buddhist cave temples I visited during the week. The cave temples are said to belong to the Theravada stream of Buddhism and date back to the 2nd century BC.

More images, including a panorama of the complex, inside.

A photograph of Bhaja Caves in Pune, India
Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

The Bhaja cave temple is a complex of around 29 excavations. It is said to be one of the oldest Buddhist religious centers in the Deccan region. From an archeological point of view the temples are important in terms of the development of caves architecture. Bhaja caves and the nearby Karla caves are found near Lonavala which sits on one of the major ancient trade routes between the Arabian Sea and the Deccan region, the division between North and South India.

A photograph of the carvings at Bhaja Caves in Pune, India
Carvings at Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

The main attraction in this complex is the twelfth cave which contains a Chaitya and a prayer hall. Its got a large horseshoe shaped entrance and a number of pillars holding up the arched ceiling. An aisle  circles the prayer hall and the Chaitya. Although the entrance to the main prayer hall is open now, it was once covered by a wooden facade. Reliefs of Indian mythological characters, a feature that Bhaja caves are famous for, can be seen on either side of the entrance of another cave.

A photograph of the stupas at Bhaja Caves in Pune, India
Stupas at Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

Most of the other caves seem to have been used for accommodation. Seven of these caves contain inscriptions which describe their benefactors, one dating back to the 2nd century AD. Another cave contains 14 small Stupas. 5 of these are inside the cave while 9 can be found outside the entrance. This area has been identified as a cemetery and some of the stupas have been inscribed with the names of early Orthodox Buddhists.

A photograph of the main hall at Bhaja Caves in Pune, India
 The Main Hall at Bhaja Caves - Pune, India

The panorama of the complex was made up of  53 individual images. Taking the photographs for the panorama was not easy as the ledge on which the temple was built is quite narrow. As a result I wasn't able to move back as much as I wanted to, to take the photographs. However, out of sheer luck, I did time the visit well as I made it to the temple at sunset and had good light to work with. I also had the whole place to myself which helped with the photography.


   
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