September 9, 2008

Lonavala, and Karla Caves


Known as the Jewel of the Sahyadhris, Lonavala is at an altitude of 625 m asl while its twin town, Khandala, is slightly lower. The place has cool and pleasant weather through most of the year. Around 1811 the British developed Lonavala and Khandala as hill resorts.

Monsoon paints the Sahyadri region in different hues of green. The scenery everywhere was that of verdant hills and gentle valleys with pristine woods and many beautiful cascading waterfalls.

I caught the evening train from Dadar and reached Lonavala railway station 130 kms away in approximately two hours. A late evening autorickshaw ride reached me to the MTDC resort in Karla.

The resort is spread over quite a large area and has many cottages and a small water park. River Indrayani flows touching the boundaries of the resort. I could not find much of activity at the resort except finding a few people dining at the restaurant and generally chilling out in the lovely weather. I have been to better resorts elsewhere, however, the cottage I was assigned was sufficient for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Prime attractions in Lonavala and Khandala are many. The ones I chose to visit were:

1. Karla Caves


Karla Dweller

The first thing on the agenda in the morning, after a good breakfast, was to proceed towards the historic Karla Caves, about 12 kms away.


Path to climb to the Karla Caves

With clean and crisp air enveloping me, I particularly enjoyed the 40-45 minute climb up the hill offering scenic views of Lonavala and Khandala in the distance.

A scene from atop

Upon reaching the top at Karla caves, the first impression that I got was that the place was not maintained well. I am not sure if part of the mess around was because of the monsoon season.

Entrance to the Chaitya

The rock cut caves built in 80 BC is a good sight but I was kind of surprised to find that the structure was almost blocked at the entrance of the principal cave by a temple named after goddess Ekveera.

Entrance, with Temple to the right

The caves of Karla, being the largest of the Buddhist caves in the country, reminded me of the rock cut caves of Udaigiri in Madhya Pradesh, and those at Petra in Jordan though the beauty of the latter is quite different.

Rock cut art

Close to the entrance of the main hall, Chaitya, stands a huge pillar with lion carvings similar to the ones I found in the Asoka Pillar in Sanchi.

Pillar

The outer walls of the cave have walls outlined with carvings of couples and elephants.

Chaitya Griha

What I found remarkable about the main cave is its arched roof supported by wooden beams. In spite of it being more than 2000 years old, the wooden roof has survived the onslaught of elements and seemed to be in amazingly good condition. It was a pleasant feeling at the Chaitya because of the effect that natural light created there. The diffused light and shadows created a sense of solemnity to the place.

Main Hall

~~~

While descending, I admired the verdant hills and thought of the proximity of this place to Mumbai. Just a couple of hours travel away from bustling Mumbai and it’s so easy to land in a place of rolling hills abounding in peace and tranquility!

to be continued...

Related Post: Singing in the Rain


16 comments:

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Splendid pics!

The caves might not be well maintained,but the charm that radiates from them cannot be dusted by time.

Thanks for the visual treat dear :)

indicaspecies said...

Sameera,

Thank you. The impressive caves and the art work within it is in moderately good condition.

What I had meant is the place outside (approach area) could have been kept in a neater condition. For e.g., visitors can see carelessly planted metal pipes, hose strewn around, a tank or well filling with rubbish, untidy barricades etc. A bit of planning, style and designing of the available area would have gone a long way in giving the place a smart appearance and due credit to those lovely caves.

I'm glad you liked the pictures.:)

Lakshmi said...

fantastic pics..I liked the rock cut art and the main hall...by the way, I have just completed my 100th post and I would really appreciate it if you could drop in ..thanks

Cuckoo said...

This is not fair. :(

I have been to both the places & not yet spoken about it. And after reading your wonderful article, I don't think I should even try for it. Kidding, ok?

The pics are wonderful.

I agree with you on maintenance & cleanliness of the caves. When we went, it was stinking as if the inner smaller rooms were converted into urinals. I had a Belgian friend with me and she had covered her nose for the entire length that we stayed there.
The place is also loitered with cows & dogs.

Indrani said...

This is amazing, the picture of the pillar and the rock cut art... all of BC period. Keen to see more.

indicaspecies said...

Lakshmi,

Thank you. Heartiest congratulations on your 100th post. I had a look at it. It's a beautiful post.:)

indicaspecies said...

Cuckoo,

I think when I went there, the rain water cleared most of the mess, and it was not bad as you describe. Yet I feel for the treasure that the place houses, it should have been maintained well.

Delhi Metro, Goa, Lonavala, Karla ...did we happen to be in those places around the same time?;)
Write, little bird, write on Karla Caves. You would have your own travel account and it would be nice to read about it. Glad you liked the pictures, thanks.:)

indicaspecies said...

Indrani,

Yes, more than 2000 years old. For me the Chaitya was amazing. More on other places in and around Lonavala to follow shortly.:)

Priyank said...

Nice refresher of the place I visited atleast a decade ago. The urine stench is primarily from bats and street dogs, not humans. Lonavala is phenomenally beautiful during mountains :)

indicaspecies said...

Priyank,

Of course you've been there. It's close to Amchi Mumbai.;)

You are absolutely right, my friend. Lonavala and its surroundings are green, beautiful and soothing in the monsoons. (I didn't read mountains:P)

Arun said...

Aw! So you did make it to Valley of Flowers.. cool :)

indicaspecies said...

Arun,

I did, and not just VoF but a few other places in Garhwal as well. I intend to start writing a bit about it shortly.

Thank you for your visit here, and welcome back from your Himachal and Leh, Ladakh trip.:)

Shantanu said...

Great pictures! I visited Karla Caves much before I bought my first digital camera. So, the only those memories are available are in my (old-fashioned) album. :)

And yes, they have done a bad job in maintaining the place.

indicaspecies said...

Shantanu,

Thank you.

''Old-fashioned album'' store memories the best way possible.. haha!

Visual Creations said...

hay thanx dude photo pahun ch jaychi eccha jhali ahe ani jayche pakke kele ahe...superb pics n information

lonavala khandala tour package said...

Enjoy all the photographs, The whole place is covered with a thick blanket of fog early in the morning; this is how the day begins here. Really a fantastic place.