Ghoravadi Caves, Pune, Maharasthra

high-definition creative commons photographs from the Ghoravadi caves, which were originally Buddhist meditation dwellings, but have now been taken over and converted to Hindu shrines, together with some further information.

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The Ghoravadi Caves

The Ghorawadi Caves near Pune are estimated to have been excavated around 3rd-4th centuries CE. There are around 17 caves set around one hill not far from the Pune-Mumbai highway, which is now a popular pilgrimage centre for Hindus, who have taken over most of the caves, and established shrines in them to various gods. The place is also known locally as the Ghoravadeshwar Caves.

There is no Chaitya hall, and the settlement seems to have mainly been used for meditation-type caves. The first cave we visited had been a vihāra, with a hall at its centre, that may have housed a small chaitya at one time, but now has a Shiva linga and yoni, and seems to be the central place for the pilgrims.

Around the hill are various other vihāras, a number of which have been turned into Hindu shrines, despite clear signs stating they are protected monuments. On one the cave wall has crude carvings of Hindi deities, which cannot be very old.

One of the most elaborate of the occupied caves has very old carved Asoka-type columns alongside the vihara cell-doors, but this is now quite obscured by tinsel decorations and modern posters stuck to the walls with sellotape.

The view from some of the vihāras was striking, and offered a breathtaking vista over the surrounding countryside, which is now dotted with residential and industrial buildings. Some of the caves remained inaccessible to me, as it was too dangerous to climb, and on the way down I slipped and took the skin off hands and feet.

The Countryside and Hills

The Caves

 

Bell and Flowers

Description from the Poona Gazetteer of 1885 [1]

(slightly re-edited, with additions from various sources)

Garodi [i.e Ghorawadi] Hill, about ten miles south of Talegaon-Dabhade, has, at 450 to 500 feet above the plain, a few early Buddhist caves of about the beginning of the Christian era. The first cave, which is high up in the scarp and now almost out of reach, faces south-west by west. It consisted apparently of a single cell of which the front has fallen away. The second cave is a little lower and includes a vestibule (29' x 9' 9" x 8'8") with four cells at the back. Between each pair of doors are two pillars attached to the wall, half octagons with water-pot bases and animal capitals with elephants, lions or tigers over each. The capitals support a projecting frieze of the rail pattern. Along the ends and back, under the pillars, runs a bench two feet broad by one foot and seven inches high. The cells within are plain. The cave has been Brahmanised and in the third cell from the left is a linga with a small bull or Nandi in the vestibule and a lamp-pillar and tulsi altar outside. On the side post of the cell door a short roughly cut inscription records the visit of a devotee and is dated 1439.

North-west at some distance from the second cave is a dry cistern, and still further along is a small cave that has apparently had a wooden front with four upright posts fitting into sockets in the rock above. In the left end is a recess and in the back a door leading into a cell. A few yards beyond is a rock-cut well and near the well is the fourth cave. The front of this fourth cave is entirely gone. To form a new front a thick wall has been built a few feet farther in than the original with two round-arched doors. The hall has four cells on the right, two in the back besides a shrine recess and three on the left, a fourth being entirely ruined. In the shrine recess was a relic shrine or dagoba, its capital as in the Kuda caves being attached to the roof. The relic shrine has been cut away to make room for a small low Shaiva altar or chaurang. Over the fourth cave to the left is a cell, on the left end of the front wall of which is an inscription in Andhra or Deccan Pali letters (A.D. 100). The inscription, which is cut in five lines on a surface full of holes and flaws, may be translated:

To the perfect one. The charitable gift of a dwelling cave or lena by Siagutanika, wife of Usabhanakā, a Kunbi (by caste) and ploughman, living in Dhenuka-kada with her son Nanda a householder, with (?)

Crossing the ridge which joins the hill with another to the west of it are two other small caves, both monks' cells of no note and difficult to reach.

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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