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» Kanheri Caves - 3rd Century AD Buddhist Art and Culture ...

Kanheri Caves Excursion Kanheri caves are a Buddhist monastery situated inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali on the western outskirts of Mumbai city. These caves are a group of ancient rock-cut monuments founded in the Krishnagiri forests of yore. Kanheri Caves encapsulate the Buddhist influence on art and culture in India being chiseled out on substantial basalt-rock extensions.
The caves as permanent monasteries were carved out of the rock to include intricate reliefs of Buddha and Bodhisattvas carved into the walls. Most of the caves have Buddhist viharas meant for living, study and meditation. The larger caves or chaityas were halls for congregational worship lined with intricately carved Buddhist sculptures, reliefs and pillars. The rock-cut stupas were for religious gatherings.

Location: The location of the caves is 45 km from central Mumbai and 10 km from Borivali railway station and they open for tourists at 7.30 a.m. The 7 km road from the Park entrance to the caves goes through scenic woodlands of the sanctuary providing a fascinating experience amid the natural surroundings making you forget the din and jam of the huge city close by.

History: References to Kanheri are found in the epic Mahabharata as a learning center of repute that Arjuna visited on his way to Somnath in Gujarat. History states that the Portuguese ruled areas around Kanheri until 1534 and the Marathas ruled from 1760. Later the area came under British regime in 1774.  Inscriptions at Kanheri caves reveal that in 3rd century AD it was an important Buddhist settlement along the Konkan coast. Graffiti in Kanheri Caves puts it on the tourist map since the 16th century!

Sightseeing: The site has 109 Buddhist caves inside the dark rock atop the 1500 feet high ravine that were cut by hand in the 2nd to the 9th century A.D. As a full-fledged and famous learning center of Buddhism it can rightly be described as a university, based on the sophistication of the sprawling site.

Reckoning the number of caves constructed in a single hill, Kanheri remains the largest such Buddhist site in India. Its history spans from as late as 11 century AD to as early as 3rd century BC. That makes it a unique site in India having witnessed the rise and decline of the spread of Buddhism in India.

It can take anything from two hours upwards to cover the site on foot.

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While many of the important caves are easily accessible, visiting all the caves in Kanheri would mean undertaking some serious trekking under the sun. The entire complex contains more than a hundred tiny cells, spartan and bare, cut into the flank of a hill, each fitted with a stone plinth that served as a bed for the inmates.

The congregation hall supported by huge stone pillars contains the dagoba, a kind of Buddhist shrine. Also when you pick your way up the hill you will see the channels and cisterns that are remnants of an ancient water system that channeled rainwater into huge urns. Kanheri is said to be probably the only clue to the rise and fall of Buddhism in Western India.

Nearby Places of Interest: Apart from the Buddhist caves where monks practiced their austerities the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is an inherent place of interest for nature lovers.  Notable as one of the few national parks in Asia to exist within metropolis limits, it is one of the most visited parks with the distinction of being the largest urban park in the world. The rich flora and fauna of the Park attracts more than 2 million visitors yearly.

Shopping: There is not much by way of shopping inside the Park, but water, soft drinks and few eatables are available at the entrance of the caves. Since some climbing is a necessary requisite it is best to carry water and replenish yourself on hot days.
Leisure Activities: Kanheri caves offer picnickers a good getaway, especially during the rainy season. The hilly terrain of the caves creates several large and small waterfalls. The road from the entry point of Sanjay Gandhi National Park to Kanheri caves is intercepted at several locations by small rivulets where families can enjoy a lazy weekend get-together.

To Reach from Mumbai: Kanheri caves located inside the forest can be done in a day's trip. Catch any suburban train to Borivali to reach Kanheri at the entrance of the park. The caves are five kms from the entrance with hourly bus transport available to the caves. If you bring your private vehicle you can drive through the park to the foothills of the cave entrance.

Best time to visit: Kanheri caves look very different depending on the season you visit. During and after monsoon it is completely green with small waterfalls. But in the summer the entire park is dry and black caves appear stark on the terrain. On a clear day you get to see Mumbai city from the top of the hill.

Hotels: Mumbai has many hotels in a range of choice available all over the huge metropolis. You can book rooms in luxury, mid-range and budget hotels depending on your pocket. The suburbs of Mumbai that house quite a many attractions and sightseeing options have plentiful accommodation that you can choose for yourself.  Many hotels provide special services for sightseeing itineraries and taxi bookings to allow for smooth stays.