Karla Caves & Bedse Caves - Buddhist Architectures

Karla Caves and Bedse Caves both are located in the Maval taluka of the Pune district. These are the Buddhist caves that were excavated during the 1st century BC. Both Karla cave and Bedse cave have an association with Satavahana Dynasty.  

The article will discuss in detail the Karla cave, Bedse Cave 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.

Karla Caves 

  1. Karla Caves are just 8 kilometres from the Bhaja caves.
  2. These caves were excavated from 1st century CE to 5th – 6th centuries CE.
  3. Karla Cave is the largest Hinayana Buddhist chaitya (temple) in India.
  4. Karla caves is one of the most famous Buddhist rock-cut cave sites in India with only 15 caves within.
  5. The main Chaityagriha is one among the largest in India. It is important from architectural, sculptural and inscriptional points of view. 
  6. Great Chaitya at Karla, is the largest rock-cut chaitya in India, measuring 45 metres (148 ft) long and up to 14 metres (46 ft) high.
  7. The Grand Chaitya has massive pillars that have figures of males and females, mounted on animals such as lions, elephants, etc. It also has a stupa in the centre.
  8. Outside the Chaitya, there are two 15 metres high pillars, only one of them survives today. Four Lions adorn the top of the pillars. 
  9. There is a temple to a local goddess right at the entrance of the main Chaitya (A shrine of goddess Ekvira).
  10. The sculptures in Karla cave can be seen in the verandah as well as on the pillar capitals inside the chaitya griha. 
  11. Many sculptures of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas were also carved in the verandah after the 5th century CE. Some traces of the paintings belonging to the 5th – 6th centuries CE can also be seen on the pillars in the hall.
  12. Many pillars in the hall bear inscriptions in Brahmi script and Prakrit language, which mention the names of the donors and the places from where they had come.
  13. Many traders and Satavahana rulers made grants for construction of these caves.
  14. There are also some long inscriptions written by the royal families of the 1st – 2ndcenturies CE. 
  15. Karla is the best example of rock-cut architecture, which is believed to carve out from a living rock. Some of its 2000 year-old wooden beams are still alive. 
  16. The rock-cut cave shrines of Karla are protected under the Archaeological Survey of India – ASI.

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

Bedse Caves

  1. The Bedse caves are considered an important stage in the development of Buddhist cave architecture in India. These are a group of Buddhist rock-cut monuments some 9 kilometres from the Bhaja caves.
  2. Bedse caves were constructed during the reigning period of the Emperor Ashoka; when Satavahana rulers were also expanding their hold over Deccan, Andhra and Western coast of India. 
  3. Bedse caves have historical importance. The Kalinga war fought by Ashoka changed the life of this great ruler. He was so filled with remorse and grief stricken that he decided to shun violence and never to take up arms. To atone for this great mistake Ashoka embraced Buddhism and built numerous Buddhist monasteries for praying and the Bedse caves is one of them.
  4. The Bedse Caves were excavated in the 1st century BCE. 
  5. There are two finished and two unfinished Buddhist caves at Bedse caves along with some rock–cut cisterns and a memorial stupa.
  6. The two main caves of Bedse comprises – Chaitya or a prayer hall housing a large stupa and a Vihara or the monastery.
  7. The chaitya griha is carved with a stone screen and a verandah has tall pillars with beautifully carved images of animals and riders. The entrance of the caves is constructed by pillars and columns adorned with sculptures of horse, bull, elephants and deities.
  8. The vihara at Bedse cave is unique for its apsidal plan and vaulted roof.  The Buddhist monks lived in these viharas to shield themselves from rain; hence, they slowly came to be known as the Rain Caves.
  9. These caves have water tanks beneath them to provide a natural cooling effect with water from the springs.
  10. The inscription on the door frame of a cell in the courtyard of the chaitya griha records a donation of a person from Nashik. There are a few traces of paintings on the pillars of the chaitya griha. 
  11. Apart from the two major caves, the complex houses several small caves and a cave solely built for the purpose of meditation.

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 Karla caves and Bedse Caves 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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