Bhaja Caves - Buddhist Architectures

Bhaja Caves are the best example of Buddhist cave architecture in India. They are located on a hill village Bhaja in Pune district near Lonavala, Mumbai. Bhaja Caves can be dated back to the 2nd century BC and are among the oldest caves in Western India.

The article will discuss in detail the Bhaja caves or Bhaje Buddhist caves and their architecture which forms an important part of the UPSC Syllabus.

Additionally, candidates can also read about the following Buddhist caves for relevant details-

  1. Ajanta Caves & Ellora Caves
  2. Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri Caves
  3. Kanheri Caves
  4. Elephanta Caves
  5. Barabar Caves – Lomas Rishi Caves, Sudama Caves, Karan Chaupar Caves and Vishwakarma Caves

Details regarding other monasteries and Cave architecture in Ancient India are available on the linked page.

Bhaja Caves

  • Bhaja Caves belong to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. It is a group of 22 rock-cut caves that are 400 feet above the village Bhaja.
  • Bhaja caves are estimated to have been created approximately 2,200 years ago, around 200 BC.
  • The cave location is on an important ancient trade route running from the Arabian Sea eastward into the Deccan Plateau.
  • The Bhaja Caves share the architectural design with the Karla Caves. They are famous due to their ornate facades. Read in detail about the Karla caves and Bedse Caves on the linked page. 
  • One of the significant features of Bhaja cave are the stupas that are 14 in number placed in a huddle. They are considered to hold relics of some of the monks who lived and died in Bhaja caves. Two of the stupas have a relic box on their upper side while all the stupas are carved very elaborately.
  • Out of these 14 stupas, five are located inside and nine are located outside the smaller cave.

Candidates can check the links provided below to assist their exam preparation – 

  • Sculptures in Bhaja Buddhist cave have elaborate headdresses, garlands, and jewellery.  It has some images of animals and inscriptions of names of Buddhist monks, as well as some paintings of Buddha.
  • The cave has a unique Chaitya Griha or prayer hall. It has 27 pillars around the hall with wooden beams fixed on the ceilings. The interesting thing is that the beams on the ceiling are the original ones. It is the most impressive large shrine chaitya griha with an open, horseshoe arched entrance.
  • The chaitya griha demonstrates prototypes of wooden architecture and a vaulted horseshoe ceiling. The wooden architecture demonstrated in the cave is another notable feature.
  • The entire Bhaja cave Buddhist complex has simple rock-cut Viharas called living rooms and water Cisterns. The vihars have pillared verandahs in front and are adorned with unique reliefs. The viharas at Bhaja are carved in two levels. There are a few double-storied viharas too. There is only one vihara at Bhaja that has some sculptural decoration.
  • One of the carvings shows a woman playing tabla and another woman performing the dance, giving evidence that Tabla (or Pushkara then called) was used in India since 2000 years ago.
  • There is a magnificent waterfall close near the last cave, water from which during monsoon season falls into a small pool at the bottom.
  • The inscriptions and the cave temple are protected as a Monument of National Importance, by the Archaeological Survey of India – ASI.

Information on Bhaja Cave is important for the Art and Culture section of the IAS exam. Aspirants can check out the related links given below to do comprehensive preparation of upcoming exams – 

The facts about Bhaja Cave given in the article will help candidates prepare for the UPSC Prelims and Mains exams. 

UPSC Preparation related links- 

UPSC 2021

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