A surprise visit to Karla Caves

In many of my travels, I have come across instances when a sudden change of plan results in me going to an altogether new place. Such an abrupt change of plan are not always welcomed by me but upon visiting the place, I end up feeling grateful for getting a chance to do so. One such instance occurred when my wife and I were on our way back from Daman.

Our trip to Daman was cut-short from a 3-day trip to an overnight trip as there was nothing much to see or do. Daman had some beautiful churches from the times of Portuguese rule and an old fort. We finished visiting all the places of interest in Daman and were left wondering what else to do. As we started our journey back to Pune, we were looking at different options available for us to visit however, nothing worked out. We both were very disappointed and thought there was nothing else to do but quietly return to Pune. Just then, our cab driver who was a local suggested a place to us. He said the place was en route to Pune and we would be easily able to visit the place and return to Pune. This was “Karla Caves”. As mentioned above, I was not very excited or enthusiastic about taking this detour especially after the disappointment that we faced in Daman. However, with much reluctance we decided to listen to our driver and went along to visit this rather unknown place.

Soon, we took a short mountainous ride and reached a spot from where we had to do a short trek to reach the Karla cave complex. Already I was not very enthusiastic about this and now I had trek in the sun. I was not at all happy about this. Surprisingly, my wife was very excited about visiting this place. So, after gradually trudging along, we finally made it to the cave complex. As we entered the complex, I wasn’t instantly awed by the place. All I saw was a mountain that had some cave like formations in the shape of rooms.

room like structure carved within the mountains

But as we moved in, the place gradually started to take shape and that’s when I realized that this place is no less than an architectural marvel. Built within the rocks of the mountain, I was simply awed by what looked like the main gallery. As we entered the gallery, I could see a series of pillars on both sides with a central structure that resembled a stupa. This gallery had this giant pillar outside and in between the two were many beautifully carved statues of ancient gods and demigods. The entire structure looked very similar to Ajanta & Ellora caves that I had seen in pictures.

giant pillar outside the main gallery

the main gallery with a stupa like structure

a series of pillars inside the gallery

beautiful sculptures on the monument wall

ancient sculptures

The place had a distinct Buddhist touch to it. As we explored further, my eagerness to know about the places started to increase and I was gradually feeling lucky to have visited the place. We were amazed to note that the complex was actually multi-storied. A flight of stairs led to the first floor, where there were many small rooms. We were told that these were ancient classrooms for the Buddhist saints who came for their education here. We spent the next 2 hours exploring every nook and corner of the place.

flight of stairs leading to the first floor

While coming out of the cave complex, I read the information about the Karla cave complex. I came to know that the complex was built around 6th century AD and belonged to certain sect of Buddhism. The Archaeological Survey of India had declared this complex as a national monument owing to its age and exposure to deterioration.

the ASI board

Having visited such an ancient monument, I felt blessed. Thanks to my wife, who kept pushing me while I was in no mood to take the trek to this complex, I did not miss such an ancient marvel.

Karla caves can be reached by road from Pune and is located on the old Pune-Bombay highway. As it is a national heritage therefore, the place is quite famous and is easy to find.

4 Comments

  • Gita AM says:

    Very nice post. I always dismissed Karla as a nondescript place not worth going to but after having read your report, I shall make it a point to visit. Also it is so close to Mumbai!

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks Vasanth…
    It is very difficult to become positive about something you are not initially happy about…Kudos for that…I am sure it is an amazing place…

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    So many marvels in our country! Never even heard about them. I feel so ignorant.

    The caves seems undoubtedly inviting to explore more and to learn more about them. I can understand your reluctance but I can also understand the change of mind after entering the cave complex.

    Thanks Vasanth for the trip.

  • @manish, you are welcome
    @Gita and Vibha, thanks for your comments.
    I am glad that you guys liked the post and especially in Gita’s case, it has made her change her opinion about Karla caves. Having said that, i feel blessed to be a part of this forum where i get an opportunity to share my travelling experiences with the world. and like i said in my post that this was not the first time when my initial reluctance to visit a place was completely replaced by joy of having visited the place in the end. the other experience that i could fondly remember was my surprise visit to Langza in the spiti valley. I have written about it in my other post called “ride to kibber”.

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