Karla Caves, Lonavala | View Images, Timing & Reviews

Karla Caves, Lonavala Overview

Lonavala and its tiny neighbour Khandala are full of small delights in terms of architectural wonders and points of religious and historical significance. Being a part of the hinterland, and a hill station, it always has some hidden treasures that are largely unspoiled even with the spate of rampant commercialism that is now hitting the region.

Visiting Lonavala and Khandala is also an easy and accessible delight. The weather is always a couple of degrees cooler than Mumbai and Pune which makes for more pleasant and windy conditions especially during the monsoons and the winters. It is also just an hour and a half worth of pleasant driving from both Mumbai and Pune and is largely equidistant between the two bustling cities.

One such architectural delight and archaeological wonder are the Karla Caves in Lonavala. The Karla Caves Lonavala are carved from a rocky hillside, and stand to be amongst the oldest discovered Buddhist cave shrines not just in the region but in India.

The Caves are located on the Pune-Mumbai highway at a small village hemlock called Karla, and if sources are to be believed, these are only a few among scores of other caves unearthed in the Sahyadri Hills. The history behind the Caves is sensational. They were carved out almost 2000 years ago, into a range of extensively decorated rooms including a collection of beautiful Chaityas (halls) and Viharas (monasteries) reflecting upon a journey of the past, and narrating some incredible architectural prowess.

The Karla Cave steps are filled with mythical folklore. They are a 150 step route to reach the gates of a Buddhist temple made entirely of pillars which has only been recently excavated but has withstood the test and trials of time before it. Also known as Veluraka in the olden times, the caves house a humongous 15 meter pillar along with a temple dedicated to Goddess Ekveera.

If ancient sources are to be believed, the caves were of great importance to the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism before they became relevant to Hinduism. The caves house a Buddhist monastery which is believed to have been built there around the 2nd century BC. One can spot a major ancient trade route near the caves running east from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. It is so because the early Buddhists used to settle the monasteries close to the major trading routes in order to provide shelter to travelling traders. Owing to its historical significance, the cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Karla Caves Portfolio

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Tips for visiting Karla Caves

Thanks to it being a protected site there is a time within which the Caves can be visited. The Karla Caves timing for visits starts at 9 am and one can enjoy the mythical marvels within the site till 6pm in the evening. Entry for Indian nationals is just Rs 15 while if you are accompanying a foreigner, he or she will have to pay Rs 300 to enter. Do take out enough time to sample the beauty of the architecture in the caves and give yourself at least 3 hours to soak in all the marvellous sites and stories that you will soon be in store for.

The area surrounding the caves is well stocked with food and beverage vendors and one can easily grab a fairly local and rustic yet delicious bite to eat in the surroundings. Vegetable and corn fritters, noodles boiled to perfection with a hint of spice and tea, coffee and soft drink vendors will be a dime a dozen and you can quite literally take your pick. Depending on the season that you visit, there will be some fresh fruit vendors who sell berries which are a welcome relief especially after you are done admiring the caves and walking about the site. So the next time you are in Khandala and Lonavala and wish to do something genuinely touristy, head over to the caves to spend a lovely day with family and friends. Until then keep travelling and don’t forget to make loads of happy memories!

How to reach Karla Caves

To reach Karla Caves, Lonavala station is the nearest. You can catch a train for Lonavala from Pune or Mumbai. Once you get down at Lonavala railway station, to reach Karla Caves from Lonavala station is very easy. You can get the local buses that take you to the Karla, as mentioned before or can hire auto.

FAQ’s

 

Who built Karla caves?
This Great Chaitya cave, the largest in South Asia, was constructed and dedicated in 120 CE by the Western Satraps ruler Nahapana.
How many steps Karla caves?
Reaching the Karla Caves requires a walk up 350 steps from the base of the hill or nearly 200 steps from the car park around halfway up the hill.
What is Chaitya and Vihar?
Chaitya were prayer halls, with pillars on both the sides and Stupa placed at the end. Whereas viharas were places where Buddhist monks stayed for some time during rainy season. These were generally on story building, but at some places multiple storied viharas have also been found.