The Lomas Rishi Cave, also called the Grotto of Lomas Rishi, is one of the man-made Barabar Caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills of Jehanabad district in the Indian state of Bihar. This rock-cut cave was carved out as a sanctuary. It was built during the Ashokan period of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BC, as part of the sacred architecture of the Ajivikas, an ancient religious and philosophical group of India that competed with Jainism and became extinct over time. Ājīvikas were atheists and rejected the authority of the Vedas as well as Buddhist ideas. They were ascetic communities and meditated in caves such as Lomas Rishi.
The hut-style facade at the entrance to the cave is the earliest survival of the ogee shaped “chaitya arch” or chandrashala that was to be an important feature of Indian rock-cut architecture and sculptural decoration for centuries. The form was clearly a reproduction in stone of buildings in wood and other vegetable materials.
According to Pia Brancaccio, the Lomas Rishi cave, along with nearby Sudama cave, is considered by many scholars to be “the prototype for the Buddhist caves of the western Deccan, particularly the chaitya hall type structure built between 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE.
Inside the entrance, after a short tunnel, there are two rooms, which is standard in the Barabar Caves. First is a large hall, entered at the side and rectangular in shape, which functioned as an assembly hall. Further inside is a second hall, smaller in size, which is an oval-shaped room with a roof in the form of a dome. The interior surfaces of the chambers are very finely finished.
Lomas Rishi Cave is carved into the hard monolithic granite rock face of Barabar hills, flanked to its left by the smaller Sudama cave. The site is close to the Falgu River, and Barabar Caves Information Centre is close by. The Cave is 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Gaya in Bihar, an eastern state in India and about 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) from Ajanta Caves. It is distant from other major archaeological sites related to art and architecture; for example, it is about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Mathura and about 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi) from Gandhara.
During the reign of Mauryan emperor Ashoka, Lomas Rishi Cave was excavated and gifted to the Ajivikas monks. It is dated to the 3rd century BCE. Additional caves followed in the same granite hills, all in the 3rd century BCE, based on the inscriptions found in the caves. The other six caves are (i) Karna Chaupar, (ii) Sudama Cave, (iii) Vishmitra Cave, (iv) Gopi Cave, (v) Vapiyaka Cave, and (vi) Vadathika Cave. The last three are on the Nagarjuni Hill east of the Barabar Hill.
Burgess, in his cave temple survey of 19th-century, considered the Ajivika Lomas Rishi cave to an anchor milestone for cave chronology. According to Pia Brancaccio, the Lomas Rishi cave, along with nearby Sudama cave, is considered by many scholars to be “the prototype for the Buddhist caves of the western Deccan, particularly the chaitya hall type structure built between 2nd century BCE and 2nd-century CE. According to Vidya Dehejia, the Kondvite chaitya hall is a direct descendant of the Lomas Rishi cave, and other Buddhist cave-based vihara monasteries followed. The Lomas Rishi doorway, states James Harle, the “earliest example of the caitya arch”, later to develop into the gavaska (ogee arch in European Gothic architecture), a feature that later became “the most ubiquitous of all Indian architectural motifs”.
According to Arthur Basham, the elephant and other motifs carved at the entrance caitya arch and the walls of the Lomas Rishi cave are those of Ajivika, and this taken with the inscription of Ashoka gifting the cave to them, suggests they were the original inhabitants. They abandoned the caves at some point, then Buddhists used it because there are the Bodhimula and Klesa-kantara inscriptions in this cave’s door jamb. Thereafter a Hindu king named Anantavarman, of Maukhari dynasty, dedicated a Krishna murti to the cave, states Basham, in the 5th or 6th century. This is evidenced by the Sanskrit inscription found on the arch.
E. M. Forster based the important scene in the “Marabar Caves” in his novel A Passage to India (1924) on these caves, which he had visited.
The facade of the rock-cut cave is in the form of a thatched hut supported by timber struts and has a doorway that is intricately carved to replicate timber architecture. Its eaves are curved and the finial is in the shape of a pot. The ornamentation on the “curved architrave” consists of carvings of elephants on their way to a stupa-like structure.
The facade carved in the cave is shaped like a straw hut supported by a beam structure and has a door to replicate the architecture of beams. its eaves are curved. The ornaments are “curved architrave” consisted of carved elephants on their way to stupas. Two rooms are located inside the tunnel. One is a large, rectangular living room, which functioned as an assembly hall. Inside there is a second room, smaller, containing a dome-shaped roof.
Source From Wikipedia