I've been to Sanjay Gandhi National Park thrice so far. Once just to see the park itself. Twice to visit Kanheri Caves, but both the times in vain. Once I ventured at about 4:00 and came to know that the caves is 6km from the main gate and the bus service had stopped for the day. Yes, that day I tried walking for a few km before I gave up hope to reach Kanheri before sunset and went back. Another day I reached much earlier, but then it was a Thursday. So? So, the weekly off of the bus service is on Thursday! No point to try walking again, I returned.
This time, I made sure I was there at 9 am and I made sure it wasn't a Thursday. 9 am, the first bus trip, and finally I was at Kanheri Caves. Somehow, I didn't do a internet look-up for Kanheri Caves and I had seen Elephanta caves and had expected Kanheri in similar lines. What awaited me there was much more mind blowing. Its indeed kinda nice when you venture to a place without knowing what to expect. Only disadvantage in that is you might end up missing some spots. Its not always you get to go to a place twice, is it???
Well, Kanheri Caves is a bunch of caves, 109 to be precise and all Buddhist. No, I couldn't visit all 109? Anyone done? I might have seen some 30+ caves. Many had given up after some 10 caves. The caves were dug up & sculpted in assorted eras from 1st C BC to 10th C AD. Unlike Elephanta here the disturbances in the form of thrift shopping was almost nil. The only shops here were of raw mangoes, palm fruits, star fruits etc. Nothing else!
The bus dropped me at the base of a flight of stairs. Again not as bad as Elephanta, max here could be some 50+ stairs. An entrance ticket & the caves start. The first 4 were next to next and they were great, or so did I think till I reached to further ones!
The caves here are a blend of the art & architecture of Hinayana & Mahayana sects of Buddhism. The caves 3, 11, 34, 41, 67, 87 & 90 are the most important architecturally with their granite relief sculptures and an unfinished fresco in one. Buddha in human form, as Bodhi tree, as foot prints and many more representations are here on the Hinayana Phase of Buddhism. The caves have more than 100 inscriptions that talk about the donors esp. The donors list includes monks, goldsmiths, traders, politicians etc. Also some inscriptions talk about the post Satavahana kings including Vasishthiputra Satakarni in Cave 5, Yajna Satakarni in Cave 3, Mathariputra Shakesena in Cave 74, Chitikulananda Sataranni in Cave 66. Frescoes are in Cave 34.
The first cave was a 2 storied one. There were a few pillars beneath and a room over a very high platform. No, I couldn't even climb the platform. It would have been atleast 4 ft high.
The 2nd & 3rd caves had 2 stupas. Behind the 2nd cave's stupa in the back wall, was a panel of seated Buddha on lotus, surrounded by 2 fan bearers and 2 flying beings and 2 beings holding the lotus stem.
Around the stupa in the 3rd cave were vast and several panels. On the left wall were 14 seated miniature Bodhisattvas.
On the back wall were multiple panels of Standing Buddha surrounded by several celestial beings, assorted standing Buddhas & Bodhisattvas and some were broken.
On the right wall were 4 standing Boddhisatvas.
The 4th cave had room inside. Near the door was a small relief panel having seated Buddha and fan bearer beside.
The 5th cave was a huuuge one! Just outside were 2 pillars on either sides.
The pillars had some relief images of different Bodhisattvas and Nagas and stupas.
Further inwards were huge panels containing inscriptions. Further in the cave actually started.
On the walls on either sides of entrance were reliefs of 2 couples. Loved their hair styling so much!!! On either side walls were huuuuge standing Buddhas, reminded me of Gomateshwara of Sravennabellagola.
I was so particular to get some real good shots of those Buddhas and I laid down and took some worm's view shots. There were a couple of visitors who were foreigners who were looking at me pretty weird for what I was doing!
Inside the cave were about 10-12 pillars on wither sides. Right at the centre was a stupa. The ceiling was a curved one. Atop each pillar was a scene depicted a story of Buddha's life.
Ok, now this is going too much with too many pics... Lets continue in Part 2...
TO REACH THERE:
In Mumbai aka Bombay, India
By Local Train: Western Line (Both Slow and Fast) – Borivali Station
Then take auto to reach Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Mumbai autos run in meter fare.
From the entrance of the National Park, 5 cabs and a van keep shuttling to & fro Kanheri.
These cabs & vans are Govt. run and have per head fixed rate.
You could take in your own vehicle too. However autos & cabs are not allowed.
Entrance ticket for yourself & for the vehicle to be purchased at the National Park's gate.
Entrance ticket to Kanheri to be purchased at the caves' gate.
Dedicated to my Mom & Pop