The three pictures below illustrate the interior of ‘Chaityagrigha’, where Chaitya is a Buddhist shrine including a stupa (semi-hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics) and Griha means a prayer hall that houses a stupa. It was a humbling experience to visit these caves. History tells us they were excavated way back in the early 1st Millennium AD, and they have stood the test of time.
The interior of the main cave measures 45 metres in length and 14 metres in height. The curved wooden ribs and longitudinal rafters above look quite magnificent. Their dominant presence and the grandiose architecture takes you back in history as soon as you enter.
The sculptures of men and women, and even that of animals such as lions and elephants feature on the tall pillars. The work is so intricate, it immediately makes you calculate the amount of time it must have taken for the sculptors to carve all of this from a single rock. It’s just unbelievable.
The stupa is the icing on the cake, really. This semi-hemispherical structure is so striking, one would want to sit in front of it and gaze at its wonderful curves and cuts for a while. One can actually go behind it and come out from the other side. Being an object of worship, locals and even tourists go behind it to pray. And when a baby shouts, its voice echoes in the cave, bouncing off the sculptures of those men and women, giving us the impression they have gotten into some vague conversation with each other.
Karla Caves are now protected as a National Monument. It’s a great example of Buddhist style of architecture, and one of the most famous centres of early rock-cut architecture. Do not miss to visit these jaw-dropping ancient caves if you are in Lonavala/Khandala in Maharashtra, India.