India: Cave Sites

Saspol Caves

  • 13th -15th – Buddhist
  • Walls though are plastered with clay and covered with bright colored paintings.

Tabo Caves

  • Buddhism

Baraber Caves:

  • Ajivika monks -261 BC
  • Pupun River + Pahlgu River
  • monolithic granite cliff during the reign of Ashoka
  • 4 caves here , 3 at Nagarjuni Hills
  • mentioned in “Mahabharatha” under name “Gorathgiri”
  • Caves: Lomas Rishi, Sudama, Visva Zopri, Karan Chaupar

Nagarjuni Caves

  • Nagarjuni Hills – 230 BC
  • Ajivika Monks
  • By son of Ashoka – Dasaratha
  • Caves: Gopi, Mirz Mandi, Vedathika Kubha

Bhimbetka Caves:r

  • Raisen District inside Ratapani WS
  • Period:
    • Upper Paleolithic: linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals, such as bisons and boar beside stick like human figures.
    • Mesolithic: Smaller size, animal+ human+ weapons
    • Chalcolithic: Reveal the association, contact, and mutual exchange of requirements of the cave dwellers of this area with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains.
    • Early Historic: schematic and decorative style and are painted mainly in red, white and rarely green depicting riders, religious symbols, tunic-like dresses, and the scripts of different periods
    • Medieval: geometric, linear and more schematic, paintings of Brahmanical gods like Ganesh and Natraja appear
  • Popular: Zoo Rock”, depicts elephants, sambar, bison and deer(Meso)
  • Raw material source: Barkheda

Bagh Caves:

  • 9 rock-cut monuments, – southern slopes of the Vindhyas in Bagh town of Dhar district in MP
  • 4th – 6th CE
  • Out of 9, 5 survive – all viharas
  • Sandstone rock, near stream Baghani
  • Murals- executed in Tempera
  • Cave 4: rang mahal – includes painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani, Mushroom paintings
  • Dono confuse with (Bhaja-maharshtra)

Udayagiri Caves- Vidisha MP

  • Chandragupta II
  • Hindu


  • Buddhism

Jogimara Cave

  • Pre-Buddha
  • Located at Sarguja CG
  • Reach through natural tunnel – elephant can pass wide –
  • Roof – human figures, fish and elephants.
  • There are two layers of paintings in it. The Original paintings are of expert artists but the upper layer has been done by incompetent artists
  • Also has the first documented messages of love in the world – written in Brahmi Script.
  • Nearby has Sita Bengra Cave – ancient Theatre (may be oldest)

Kutumsar Caves

  • Located inside Kanger Valley NP –CG -Jagdalpur
  • Known for Stalactite & Stalagmite formations
  • Other similar Caves: Kailash Gufa, Dandak Caves

Udayagiri and Khandagiri near Bhubaneswar

  • Udaigiri -18 Caves, Khandagiri – 15
  • Carved by Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela, belong to earliest Jain rock-cut temples
  • Contains Hathigumpha inscription
    • Kharavela, king of Kalinga (circa 209 – after 170 BC)
    • consists of 17 lines of deep incised Brahmi script

Ravana Chayya- Sitabinji

  • Hindu
  • circa 4 – 6 c. AD, painting circa 7th c. AD

Elephanta Caves:

  • 5th -8th AD – 5- Hindu, 2 -Buddhism
  • Elephanta Island –Thane Creek
  • solid basalt
  • The great Cave – Shiva
    • Sculpture: Trimurti in madapa
    • Flanked by culptural groups called Ardhanarisvara on its left and Gangadhara on Right
  • Also has Stupa –made of bricks + 2 buddhist caves

Kanheri Caves

  • Inside Sanjay Gandhi NP
  • Buddhist – 1st BC -9th AD
  • 109 Caves
  • Cave3:Large Chaitya – adorned with mithunas– love pairs characteristic for the art of Kushan period
  • Depiction of Avalokitesvara from Kanheri is especially famed – in Cave 41this Bodhisattva is shown with eleven heads. This weird sculpture symbolically shows that 10 Bodhisattva heads lead to the final one – Buddha head thus symbolising gradual ascent to enlightement.
  • numerous inscriptions – 51 legible and 26 epigraphs – Brahmi Script
  • One inscription is significant historically as it tells about the marriage of Satavahana ruler Vashishtiputra Satakarni with the daughter of ruler Rudradaman I.

Karle Caves:

  • 2BC – Buddhism


  • 22 Caves – 200 BC
  • Buddhist – Cahitya, Viaharas, & Rock-Cut Stupa
  • valley of Indrayani River

Kuda Caves:

  • Jhanjeri Creek
  • 1st century BC – 3rd century(Hinayana) AD, 6th – 7th c. AD (Mahayana)
  • Buddhist
  • 26 rock-cut caves and 11 rock-cut cisterns

Thanale Caves

  • 3rd – 1st century BC
  • Buddhism

Pandav Leni Caves:

  • Initially Jain, later Buddhism
  • 1st century BC – 3rd century AD, 8th – 12th century AD
  • Located midway – Trirashmi Hill
  • Sculptures of Jain Thirthankaras – Vrishabhdeo, Veer Manibhadraji and Ambikadevi.

Pital Kora Caves

  • Buddhism
  • 250 BC -4th AD

Junnar: Pune, Maharshtra

  • Trade center In 1st AD – this town was located on a trade route leading from Satavahana capital Paithan to the rich ports at Arabian Sea
  • Sivaji Birthplace
  • Rock Cut Temples around Junnar:
    • East:
    • North: Lenyadri Caves
    • West: Tuljalena Caves
    • South: Shivneri Caves
    • South-East: Manmod

Tuljabai Hill Caves:

  • 11 – Caves
  • Buddhist monks (viharas) with unusual round shrine – chaitya.
  • 1-3rd AD
  • Cave 3: Hindu goddess Tulja.

Shivneri Caves:

  • 50 rock-cut Buddhist monasteries of Hinayana school
  • 1-3rd AD


  • Also called as Ganesh Lena
  • 40 Rock-Cut Caves
  • 1-3rd AD
  • Later, 1 cave Buddhist — > Hindu, Ganesh
  • 2 Large Chaitya+1 small Chaitya rest viahars

Manmod Caves:
Buddhist, Jain, Godess Ambika
Ravana Phadi Caves – Aihole

  • Hindu- Shiva
  • 550 AD- Chalukya
  • Ardhanari
  • Vishnu in his Varaha incarnation. On his arm is sitting goddess-Earth – his wife Bhūmī. Ceiling of this chamber has three large circles carved with Vishnu and Garuda, a lotus and Indra on his mount. Beams are carved with flying apsaras.

Badami Caves:

  • Early Chalukya dynasty, Pulakesi I –est. capital Vatapi now Badami
  • Ravine badami- artificial lake Agastya tirtha reservoir
  • Hindu, Jain
  • 4 Cave temples
    • 1st Shiva: Shiva Parvati, Natraja


  • 2nd Vishnu: Trivikrama – with one foot on Earth and another – directed to the north, Varaha, Krishna
  • 3rd Vishnu: mural of Brahma there is a lotus medallion, standing Vishnu, Vishnu with a serpent, Vishnu as Narasimha, Varaha, Harihara and Trivikrama avatars


  • 4th Jaina: Tirthankara Parshavnatha with a serpent at his feet, culpture of Jain saint Mahavira in seated pose (often mistaken for Buddha) and standing Gomatesvara with creepers twisted around his legs.
  • Simple exterior but their interiors – Ornate finishing
  • Also has Inscriptions – in Kannada writing and in Kannada and Sanskrit languages
  • 1 particular
    • 700 AD
    • 10 lines in Kannada writing, both in Kannada and Sanskrit languages.
    • About Kappe Arahatta, local saint and heroe

UNDAVALLI CAVES, near Vijayawada

  • Vishnukundina kings – 420 – 620 CE
  • Initially Buddhist later converted to Hindus
  • 4 Storied caves
  • Ground floor- Monastery like
  • 2nd floor: a huge, 5 m long statue of Lord Vishnu in his Padmanabha aspect shown in reclining posture.

Armamalai Cave

  • Jain
  • Three shrines – trikūta.

Sittanavasal Cave

  • Jain
  • 1st c. BC – Eladipattam, 7th – 10th c. AD – Arivar-Koil
  • Eladipattam served as a site of very severe penance – kayotsarga(meditation in standing posture until salvation) and sallekhana (fasting until death).
  • Arivar-Koil – Frescos – made in Pandyan period – 9th century AD.
  • Samava-sarana

Thirunandikkarai Caves
Jain, Hindu
7th -8th AD
Murugan Temple in Thiruparankundram.
Malayadipatti – Vishnu Temple
Heliodorus pillar

  • 113 BC
  • Vidisha, near Sanchi Stupa
  • By Heliodorus, a Greek ambassador of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas to the court of the Shunga king Bhagabhadra.
  • Two Inscipritions:
    • The first inscription describes in Brahmi script the situation of Heliodorus and his relationship to the Shunga Empire and the Indo-Greek Kingdom.
    • Second inscription describes in more detail the spiritual content of the faith supported by Heliodorus:


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