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Indian History and Art & Culture

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    11th May, 2022

Context

The ASI recently demanded that the district administration remove the encroachments near Ekvira Devi temple which is close to Karla caves.

About

About Karla Caves:

  • Location: Situated around 8 km from Bhaja, near Lonavala. 
  • The rock-cut Buddhist Karla Caves believed to date back to the 1st century BC.
    • The rock cut architecture, such as the Petra in Jordan, are structures that are created by cutting into sheer rock faces.
  • It is believed that in the 2nd century BC – mid 2nd century AD there were carved thousands of caves in Sahyadri Hills (Western Ghats) for all Buddhist communities.
    • Part of Karla Caves have been created later – in the 5th – 10th centuries AD.
  • They are remarkable because they have the biggest and best-preserved prayer hall in India.
  • The Karla Caves were once a Buddhist monastery and consist of 16 excavations/caves.
  • Most of the caves belong to the early Hinayana phase of Buddhism, except for three from the later Mahayana phase.
  • Chaityagriha: Main Cave: The main cave is the huge prayer/assembly hall, known as a chaityagriha, that's believed to date back to the 1st century BC.
    • It has a magnificent roof made out of carved teak wood, rows of pillars decorated with sculptures of men, women, elephants, and horses, and a large sun window at the entrance that deflects rays of light towards the stupa at the rear. 
  • Viharas: The other 15 excavations are much smaller monastery living and prayer spaces, known as 

Dynasty

  • These amazing caves were started by ancient Buddhists more than 2,000 years ago: carbon-14 dating, inscriptions, and architecture style indicate that the oldest cave here has been created sometime around 120 BC, during the Satavahana dynasty.
  • Temples carved in the natural cliff were especially well suited for Indian conditions and prescriptions of Buddhists – they were cool in summer, pleasant in winter, and spiritually were part of nature.

Architecture

  • Karla Caves represent the highest achievement of Indian rock-cut architecture of the time and are one of the earliest examples of ornate and richly decorated rock-cut temples in India.
  • The earlier caves were made by the more ancient branch of Buddhists – Theravada Buddhists.
  • Back then images of Buddha were not used in temple architecture. Later – Mahayana Buddhist temples from the 5th to the 10th century – include statues of Buddha.
  • The architecture of earlier cave temples in many respects repeats the elements and construction of wooden architecture.
  • Karla Caves are characterized by large horseshoe-shaped windows lighting the interiors and vaulted interiors.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

  • ASI, under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological research and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.
  • It administers more than 3650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • Its activities include carrying out surveys of antiquarian remains, exploration and excavation of archaeological sites, conservation and maintenance of protected monuments etc.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham- the first Director-General of ASI. Alexander Cunningham is also known as the “Father of Indian Archaeology”.
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