Bhaja Caves or Bhaje caves is a group of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to the 2nd century BC located in Pune district, near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The caves are 400 feet above the village of Bhaja, on an important ancient trade route running from the Arabian Sea eastward into the Deccan Plateau (the division between North India and South India). The inscriptions and the cave temple are protected as a Monument of National Importance, by the Archaeological Survey of India per Notification No. 2407-A. It belongs to the Hinayana Buddhism sect in Maharashtra. The caves have a number of stupas, one of their significant features. The most prominent excavation is its chaitya (or chaityagrha – Cave XII), a good example of the early development of this form from wooden architecture, with a vaulted horseshoe ceiling. Its vihara (Cave XVIII) has a pillared verandah in front and is adorned with unique reliefs. These caves are notable for their indications of the awareness of wooden architecture. The carvings prove that tabla – a percussion instrument – was used in India for at least two thousand years. The carving shows a woman playing tabla and another woman, performing dance.
The caves are located on the Dekkan Plateau, near an old caravan route about halfway between Mumbai and Pune and only about 3 km from Karli ; they are best reached from the small local railway station in Manavli in about a 30-minute walk.
About the history of the cave monastery, d. H. over construction time, founders, craftsmen, regional importance, etc., no written evidence exists; Short inscriptions were discovered on only two vaulted rafters in the main hall and in the cistern, of which the first two date to the second century BC. Be dated. The dating of the earliest caves ( vihara ) and the main hall ( chaitya ) in the 3rd and / or 2nd century BC. Chr. Is thus based essentially on stylistic comparisons with the neighboring Buddhist caves of Karli and Bedsa.
The Bhaja Caves share architectural design with the Karla Caves. The most impressive monument is the large shrine — chaityagriha — with an open, horseshoe-arched entrance; according to the Archaeological Survey of India, the chaityagrha is the most prominent aspect of the caves, and one of the earliest of the type. The chaitrya has unique reliefs from Indian mythology. Other caves have a nave and aisle, with an apse containing a solid tupa and the aisle circling round the apse, providing the circumambulation path.
Chaitygraha has some Buddha images. A cistern inscription shows the name of a donor, Maharathi Kosikiputa Vihnudata, from the 2nd century AD. A wooden beam records two more inscriptions datable to the 2nd century B.C., which indicates caves have been there for at least 2200 years. Eight inscriptions are found in the caves, some giving the name of the donors.
The sculptures feature elaborate headdress, garlands, and jewellery; they might have originally been painted in bright colors but later covered with plaster. Characteristic for early Buddhism, initially the caves had symbolic Buddha representation. After 4 A.D. Buddha was painted in physical form as well.
Near the last cave is a waterfall which, during the monsoon season, has water that falls into a small pool at the bottom. These caves also provide important proof regarding the history of the Tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, since carvings from 200 BCE show a woman playing tabla and another performing a dance.
The large apsidial worship hall ( chaitya ) with its largely preserved wooden false vault is the core of the Buddhist cave monastery of Bhaja; it is subdivided into a broad central nave and two narrow aisles by 27 slightly inclined octagonal pillars, which have neither bases nor capitals. The entire room is about 17 m long and about 8 m wide; he has no Bauzier. The carved out of the rock high vault is z. T. more than 2000 years old teak beams underlaid. The standing in the apse area of the hall – also worked out of the rock and about 3.50 meters high – stupa is barely articulated, but is still exaggerated by the fence enclosure ( harmika ) of a formerly existing honor umbrella ( chhatri ). Due to the presence of a side aisle bypassing the stupa that was common for Buddhists was possible both directly and indirectly. Possibly, however, (at least in the early days of the monastery) the near circumvention and the touching of the stupa was reserved only for monks or other high-ranking persons.
The remaining caves of Bhaja are mostly – communal – living caves ( viharas ) with cut out of the walls small sleeping chambers in which sometimes the raised stone beds can be seen. Some of the caves may have been used (later) as hostels for pilgrims and passing merchants, whose alms and donations were always welcome, because in the wider area of the monastery there were only a few small villages whose inhabitants did not live the daily life Could ensure supply of the mendicants or wanted. The operation of the monastery had to somehow be maintained and financed.
A notable part of the monument is a group of 14 stupas, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation. The stupas are relics of resident monks, who died at Bhaja, and display an inscription with the names of three monks, Ampinika, Dhammagiri and Sanghdina. One of the stupa shows Stavirana Bhadanta means the venerable reverend inscribed on it. The stupa particulars show the name of the monks and their respective titles. The stupas have been carved very elaborately and two of them have a relic box on their upper side. Names of monks have been titled with Theras.
It is irregular vihara, 14 feet square, has two cells on each side and three on back side. The chaitya window is ornamental all over cell doors. ploughman’s wife, Bodhi, gifted this Vihara as her name is inscribed on cell door.
Rail pattern ornament, broken animal figures, verandah is on frontal side. It is similar to Cave VIII at Pandavleni Caves.
The chaitya at Bhaja Caves is perhaps the earliest surviving chaitya hall, constructed in the second century BCE. It consists of an apsidal hall with stupa. The columns slope inwards in the imitation of wooden columns that would have been structurally necessary to keep a roof up. The ceiling is barrel vaulted with ancient wooden ribs set into them. The walls are polished in the Mauryan style. It was faced by a substantial wooden facade, now entirely lost. A large horseshoe-shaped window, the chaitya-window, was set above the arched doorway and the whole portico-area was carved to imitate a multi-storeyed building with balconies and windows and sculptured men and women who observed the scene below. This created the appearance of an ancient Indian mansion.
Chaitya is 26 feet 8 inches wide and 59 feet long, with semi-circular apse at back, and having aisle 3 feet 5 inches wide, separated from the nave by 27 octagonal shaft. 11 feet 4 inches height. The dogoba is 11 feet diameter at the floor. This resembles the Kondana Caves. The pillar has 7 different symbols of Buddha shown in floral form, buds, leaves, fan.
This seems to be destroyed may be it would have been wood architect during ancient times. It is 30 feet long and 14.5 feet deep. Rail pattern is observed, a few cells at the back and a bolt door system are observed here.
This cave is facing towards northern side 6 feet 8 inches wide and 25.5 feet deep, with 7 cells. Stone benches, square windows, stone beds—are observed in the cells.
It can be reached by stairs to the south of Cave XIV. It is a small vihara 12.5 wide and 10 feet deep. It has two semi-circular niches and a bench on right side.
This façade has 3 Chaitya arches and the rail pattern.
It is a small vihara 18.5 feet long and 12.5 deep, with 5 cells, one of the cell has a bench in it. It has two inscriptions in it one of which is damaged. Cell door inscription describes “the gift of cell from Nadasava, a Naya of Bhogwati.” One more inscription over two wells in one recess describes “a religious gift of cistern by Vinhudata, son of Kosiki, a great warrior.”
It is a monastery with a verandah. The door has guardian figures on both sides. This cave has Surya riding a chariot and Indra riding on an elephant.
The viharas were also carved out of the rock in laborious work. Most of these caves form inside a large square common room with adjoining small sleeping cells. The walls, ceiling and floor of the main room were smoothed as much as possible, the cells, however, – except for the stone Liegestatt – only roughly worked. Space and cells were originally completely unadorned; In later times, however, sometimes small stupas or Buddha images were worked out of the rock chambers and slabs and walls were stuccoed and painted. Some of the small cells (for example, in Cave 5) have ornate entrances – perhaps intended for high-ranking monks or visitors and guests alike.
Reliefs in Cave 19
In Vihara Cave No. 19 there are two exceptional reliefs – and certainly later (3rd / 4th century AD) – made reliefs (see link), the two opposing (?) Maharajas (turban), possibly but also the Vedic sun god Surya (left) and the Vedic main god Indra (right); they were the earliest surviving depictions of the two Hindu gods throughout India. Noteworthy, but not unusual, is the fact that Hindu figures can be seen in a Buddhist monastery – both religions existed in India for centuries in peaceful coexistence.
The left of the two – unfortunately not well preserved – reliefs may show Surya on his drawn by four horses sun chariot, which is worked like an antique uniaxial chariot. The visible forearm of the main character is in a cuff; the reins hang down slightly. Below the horses lies a curved, bulky, thick figure with a barely recognizable head – perhaps a defeated opponent or a demon. The hair of the god is covered with a tattered turban; drooping earrings and a double spiral garland around the neck make up the jewelry. On the left of the main character, a servant holds a fly whisk in his hand. Between this figure and the god is a screen – as well as a sunshade as an honor or national emblem.
The relief to the right of the door entrance may show the god Indra, brother of Surya, riding on an elephant, which grabs a tree with its trunk; a person seems to fall headfirst. Below the elephant and in front of it is to recognize a multiplicity of humans – whether accompanying sequence or fleeing opponents is unclear. In his right hand Indra holds an elephant rod ( ankus ), with which the animal commands were transmitted. With his left hand he has a flower garland hanging from the neck; He wears a cuff around his wrist. Head and ear jewelery are similar to the Surya figure on the opposite side. Behind Indra sits a servant with a flag and with palm fronds, which were used as air fans; He is wearing a strange shredded skirt around his waist. The door frame is involved in the scene; in front of the right foot and below the left foot of the elephant, a tree bordered by a fence ( harmika ) can be seen. The intricately knotted turban of the god is reminiscent of similar headgear of portraits of the vedika fence on the stupa of Bharhut ; these become the 2nd century BC. Dated.
From a natural stone wall worked out is a simple Jali window, which belongs to the earliest preserved specimens of its kind and certainly contributed only little to the exposure of the room behind it, but rather meant purely purely decorative. The frame is slightly profiled; The two-level window filling follows – not preserved – wooden or woven models. Comparable – though closed – wall motifs can be found in the living cave ( vihara ) of the nearby cave monastery of Bedsa .
Most researchers tend to believe that Bhaja’s Chaitiya Hall is the oldest of its kind in India. The sloping pillars and the wooden false vaulting point to earlier freestanding wooden structures whose existence can be assumed to be certain, but of which nothing has survived.
Only a short distance from Bhaja (3 and 12 km) are the Buddhist cave monasteries of Karli and Bedsa .
Source From Wikipedia