Barabar Hills embraces the cluster of four caves, together called Barabar Caves. These four caves are Lomas Rishi Caves, Sudama caves, Vishwakarma Caves, and Karan Chaupar caves. This cluster of Barabar Caves lies around 40 km from Bodh Gaya, in the state of Bihar in India.
The article will discuss in detail the Barabar caves hills and their four clusters which are an important part of the UPSC Syllabus.
Information on Barabar caves especially the Lomas Rishi Cave and Sudama cave is important for the Art and Culture section of the IAS exam.
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- Barabar caves comprise the Lomas Rishi Cave, Sudama Caves, Vishwakarma Caves and Karan Chaupar Caves.
- Barabar hill caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves.
- These caves are carved out from a monolithic granite rock.
- Barabar Caves are situated in the hilly area near Makhdumpur, 25 km south of Jehanabad district, Bihar.
- Barabar caves can be dated back to the 3rd Century BC to the times of the Mauryan Empire (322 BCE -185 BCE).
- Barabar Caves were constructed by emperor Ashoka for the use of Ajivaka ascetics, Hence, it is renowned as the place of origin of the Ajivika sect.
- Barabar hill caves are Buddhist caves. One can also find a few Hindu and Jain sculptures.
- Two kilometers from Barabar hills caves (comprising 4 caves) lie the Nagarjuni Hills (comprising three caves). Since both of them are believed to be from the same time frame, together they are called ‘Satghar‘.
- Baba Siddhnath Temple, also known as the Shiva Temple and originally known as Siddheshwar Nath Temple, is located at one of the highest peaks in the range of the Barabar Hills. This temple is said to have been built during the reign of the Gupta Dynasty.
- The exciting echo effect is a common feature of all the Babrabar caves.
Additionally, candidates can also read about the following Buddhist caves for comprehensive details on cave architecture:-
Details regarding other monasteries and Cave Architecture in Ancient India are compiled in the linked article.
Lomas Rishi Caves
- These are the man-made Barabar caves located on the southern side of Barabar hills and are also known as the Grotto of Lomas Rishi.
- The rock-cut Lomas Rishi Cave was carved out as a sanctuary.
- It is the earliest survival of ogee-shaped Chandrashala or Chaitya Arch which was an important feature of sculpture decoration and Indian rock-cut architecture for centuries.
- The arch-like façade of Lomas Rishi Cave is an exact replica of the wood and thatch huts of monks.
- Two rooms make up the Lomas Rishi Cave. Inside the entrance, after a short tunnel, there is a large hall, entered at the side and rectangular in shape, which functioned as an assembly hall.
- Further inside is a second hall, smaller in size, which is an oval-shaped room with a roof in the form of a dome. The interior surfaces of the chambers have a remarkable glass-like polish are very finely finished. This is a standard structure in the Barabar Caves.
- The cave provided a prototype for the larger Buddhist Chaitya halls that are found in Maharashtra such as Ajanta or Karli caves and were very influential to the tradition of South Asian rock-cut architecture.
- During the reign of Mauryan emperor Ashoka, Lomas Rishi Cave was excavated and gifted to the Ajivikas monks.
- Ajivikas were an ancient religious and philosophical group of India that competed with Jainism and became extinct over time. They meditated in caves and rejected the authority of the Vedas as well as Buddhist ideas.
- At the entrance Chaitya arch and on the wall of the cave one can see the inscription of the elephant and other motifs. There are no inscriptions of Ashoka on the Lomas Rishi Cave.
- After Ajivikas, Buddhists used the Lomas Rishi Cave because there are the Bodhimula and Klesa-Kantara inscriptions in this cave’s door jamb.
- The Sanskrit inscription on the arch evidence that a Hindu king of the Maukhari dynasty, Anantvarman dedicate a statue of Krishna to the cave.
Aspirants can check out the related links given below to do comprehensive preparation of upcoming exams –
- Sudama caves are located on the left side of the Barabar hills and adjacent to the Lomas Rishi Caves.
- Sudama cave is probably the first cave in the Barabar cave group to have been dug as described by an inscription fund on its entrance.
- Sudama cave was dedicated by Emperor Ashoka as evidenced by an inscription in Brahmi using his protocol name (Priyadarsin, “He who brings joy”) found in the entrance of the cave.
- The entrance to the Sudama cave has a shallow entrance porch, leading to a rectangular passageway.
- The ceiling of the Sudama cave is arched. It has a vaulted circular chamber with a rectangular mandap within it.
- The inner walls of Sudama caves represent a technical feat. It creates a mirror effect due to the perfectly flat and polished granite surface.
- The wall between the two chambers has a central doorway, and a curious upper hemi-spherical section that is curved and bowed towards the center to represent the roof of the local bamboo and thatch beehive huts.
- Like other Barabar caves, two rectangular rooms make up the formation of Vishwakarma Cave. The room is entirely open to the outside, a sort of elongated porch.
- It is also known as Vishwamitra caves.
- This cave is accessible by the “steps of Ashoka” carved into the cliff.
- Vishwakarma cave was offered by Ashoka to Ajivikas during the 12th year of his reign.
- It is the only cave in the series not consisting of post-Ashoka inscriptions. Candidates can go through Ashoka Inscription- Rock Edicts on the linked page.
- While Vishwakarma cave was consecrated by Emperor Ashoka in 260 BC, after 7 years, he dedicated Karan Chaupar cave a short distance from the Vishwakarma cave.
Candidates can check the links provided below to assist their exam preparation –
Karan Chaupar Cave
- Karan Cahupar is on the Northern side of Barabar hills.
- It contains an inscription of Ashoka dating from the 19th year of his reign.
- The inscription, located at the entrance to the cave, speaks of the Buddhist practice of retirement (Vassavasa) during the monsoons.
- The inverted swastika with an upward arrow at the end of the inscription suggests that this cave of the four Barabar Caves was reserved for Buddhist monks.
- A mound decorated with later Buddhist sculptures is also near the entrance giving evidence that the cave belonged to Buddhists.
- The cave has a rock-cut bench at one end. It consists of a single rectangular room with polished surfaces.
- In the entrance hall, an inscription from the Gupta period mentions “Daridra Kantara” (“The Cave of the Beggars”).
The facts about the four Barabar Caves i.e. Lomas Rishi Cave, Sudama Cave, Vishwamitra Cave, and the Karan Chaupar Cave given in the article will help candidates prepare for the UPSC Prelims and Mains exams.
UPSC Preparation related links –
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