It is no secret that India is a fascinating country. Of the variety of things that make it so fascinating, its history ranks first. Its history that is glorious, bloody, tainted and unflinching. It is this mystical history that is seen in every nook and cranny of India. One of the most intriguing ways in which this history manifests itself is through the various caves that one can find here. If a magical glimpse through a shimmering veil into our past is what you seek, this is the map that leads you right to it! By Quoyina Ghosh
No discussion about caves remain complete without the mention of the legendary Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra. Deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site, these caves date back to around 2nd to 11th century AD and to this very day, they stand tall as the greatest of rock-cut architectural wonders. Ancient walls adorned with various fascinating scripture paintings and rock cut structures, these caves are bound to leave one breathless. With about 30 caves of Ajanta, all of which are said to have Buddhist roots and 34 of Ellora, which have in them Buddhist, Jain and Hindu roots, these offer us a fascinating glimpse into what once used to be. It is said that these caves were built by ‘sorcery’ and seeing as they are located in a panaromic horseshoe shaped mountainous region, it is no wonder!
2. Tabo, Himachal Pradesh
Dotting the hills in Spiti Valley right across from Tabo village are these caves that were historically used by Buddhist monks as both chambers to meditate in and to seek refuge in against the bitter cold winds. What’s beautiful is that, to this day, you’ll find vibrant prayer flags in those caves. A symbol of how the monks are keeping up with traditions and using these ancient caves! Who knows? A visit to these remote caves atop Spiti Valley and you might just end up finding the secret of life!
3. Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Bihar
One of the holiest sites in India for Buddhists, this cave is the place where Gautum Buddha spent a lot of his time meditating. It is here that he is said to have realised the significance of the middle path in the journey to attain enlightenment! Today, one can find various statues of Buddha inside these cave temples as a way of commemorating him. But what truly sets these caves apart is the undeniable aura of pulsating tranquility all around it. No wonder it’s so popular!
About a 10 km water ride away from Mumbai, one comes face-to-face with the fascinating Elephanta Caves that has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The seven caves house a variety of Shiva statues, in his many postures and forms and have been standing tall from about 450 AD (no big deal!). While it’s age is astounding, what is truly fascinating is that these caves are carved out of one rock!
5. Undavalli Caves, Andhra Pradesh
Architects, awaken for we’ve reached Undavalli Caves! A fine examples of rock-cut architecture, these caves are a truly astounding sight for everyone let alone architects! Discovered around 420-620 AD, this is a monolithic structure that was said to be dedicated to the Vishnukundi kings of the past. Built out of sandstone and standing on the banks of the river Krishna, try and close your eyes for a second there, breathe it all in and who knows? The past might just reveal it’s mystic self to you!