Top Caves in India
You may have enjoyed vacations in the most beautiful cities and islands. Have you ever wondered of spending a few days of your holidays exploring the dark corners of caves in India! Well, it must be sounding quite different yet is quite an amazing idea. Know more about caves in India and you will plan a trip by the time you finish reading about them all!
We actually know so little about caves but you will be surprised to learn that there are diverse types of caves - from mysterious caves, rock cut caves, historical and ancient caves and temples inside these caves, there is a lot to explore!
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
- Albert Einstein
Fascinating Facts about Caves in India
Everything you will know about caves is indeed fascinating! There is a mix of adventure, spirituality, mystery and yes, history about caves. Let us present a few of them -
- Caves in India are maintained by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI).
- Some caves are more than 1000 years old and you will be amazed to witness their architectural excellence!
- Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad are cut out from the volcanic lava of the Deccan plateau!
- Elephanta caves were known as the Gharapuri or the Places of caves in ancient times.
- The oldest painting in the Bhimbetka cave is more than 12,000 years old!
- The 'National Cave Research and Protection Organization, India' has been formed to help protect the caves of India.
- Most of the caves in Aurangabad are Viharas. There are around 12 caves here.
- Kutumsar Caves is known to be the second longest natural cave in the world.
- The longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent has been discovered in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district.
- Indian Caves listed in the World's longest cave map are all from Meghalaya! These caves include Krem Liat Prah, Meghalaya, 30397 m, Krem KotSati (21530 m), Krem Tyngheng (21250 m) and Krem Umthloo-Synrang Labbit (18181 m) - all in Meghalaya (Jaintia Hills).
Top Caves in India
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, MaharashtraAjanta and Ellora
are the most famous caves in India. standing towards North of Maharashtra. In
Ajanta (all Buddhist caves), there are 29 caves dating back to the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD in Jalgaon city in Maharashtra. There are ancient paintings on the walls such as those of Boddhisattbvas, Padmapani, and Avalokiteshvara. There are Jataka tales, flying apsara, image of Buddha which look enchanting.
, there are 34 caves which date back to 6th and 11th centuries AD. Caves in Ellora depict signs of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. Ellora caves start from the point where Ajanta caves end.
Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim has mentioned about these caves in his writings. He visited India in the period between 629 and 645 AD. You know about Chalukya, Kalachuri, and Rashtrakuta periods from these caves. The location of these caves is actually what was the ancient trade route between Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and the west coast.
Actually, 12 caves which lie southward are Buddhist caves while 17 in the middle are the Hindu caves. 5 in the North direction are Jain caves. Kailasa temple is in cave number 16 which is world's largest monolith since the gateway, assembly tower etc. are cut out from a single rock. Ellora caves also comprises of image of Vishwakarma, who was the patron saint of Hindu craftsmen. Have you Heard about Ellora Festival which is held in March every year!
Famous artists perform classical music and dance. This festival is organized by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation.
Elephanta Island Caves, Maharashtra
Off the coast in Mumbai, stands the Elephanta caves
- seven of them carved out of a single rock! These ancient caves belong to an era dating back to 450 and 750 AD! In the main cave, there are big sculptured panels depicting Hindu deity Lord Shiva.
Elephanta caves are located on the Elephanta island and is about 10 kms. from Gateway of India. These caves find mention on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were included in the list in 1987. The Elephants caves date back to the times of Shilhara Kings who belonged to the 9th and the 12th century. Some believe that prince of Chalukya dynasty Pulkesin II, raised the shrine of the Lord Shiva for celebrating his victory. Historians are of the belief that these caves were built by the Kalchuri King Krishnaraja in 6th century AD.
The caves were named as Elephanta caves by the Portuguese. Earlier they were known as Gharapuri. Many statues were destroyed by the Portuguese. However, still you will be marvelled by the excellent architecture, beautiful sculptures and art seen in the caves.
Inside the caves, you will see portico's, grand halls, courtyards and shrines! There is also a lingam of Lord Shiva. Maheshmurti is yet another exotic thing to see here as it depicts Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. On the left side of the Maheshmurti is the Ardhanarishvara - Lord Shiva as both male and female. A sculpture of Shiva depicts the Ganges flowing from his hair. Lord Shiva is seen as Yogisvara - king of yogis who is seen seated on a lotus. Lord Shiva can be seen as Natraja too. Well, a lot to discover in these caves! Isn't it?
Badami Caves, Karnataka
Here, you will get to see four cave temples. They are dedicated to Lord Shiva, two temples of Vishnu and one Jain temple. 5th century Agastyatirtha Tank is nearby and so is the lovely Bhutanatha Temple.This rock cut cave is made up of red sandstone and built on a hill.
These caves were built during the reign of Chalukya Empire in the 6th century. Pulekeshin I (Chalukya Ruler) discovered these caves. There are cave temples and many monuments here. The architecture seen here is that of North India and South India Nagara style. The Jain caves was completed 100 years after all other caves were built! You will love to see images of Lord Mahavira, Lord Parsvanath (with serpent on his feet), Padmavathi and Tirthankaras. Another famous cave of Karnataka is Aihole cave.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
Udayagiri is also referred to as the 'Sunrise hills'. These are ornately carved caves where Jain aesthetics lived once. You must see the 'Tiger Cave' and Khandagiri cave here. The entrance of tiger cave looks like a tiger's mouth! The Queen's Palace Cave has Jain symbols and battle scenes to take you back to ancient times. Khandagiri cave is just across the road and you must surely visit there too.
Tabo, Himachal Pradesh
Located in Spiti valley, these caves stand on a high altitude. Local Buddhist Lamas find these caves perfect for meditation. This is a Buddhist monastery, located on a high altitude with dozens of caves, large and small.
Caves of Meghalaya
Anyone will enjoy cave expeditions in Meghalaya as there are many, many caves here. Mawsmai Caves in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya are situated in the place which receives the highest rainfall in India! Yes, Cherapunji in Meghalaya. These are limestone caves located in the vicinity of Nohsngithiang Falls.
Other caves in Meghalaya include Siju, Mawmluh, Mawsynram, and Liat Prah (the longest cave in India). There are expeditions from Shillong and other tour packages.
Caves of Jammu and Kashmir
Two famous caves are worth the mention --- Shiv Khori near Ransoo (in Shivalik hills) is a kilometre long.
- Shiv Khori: It is located 110 kms. north of Jammu. Shiv Khori is 1 km. long with natural Shiv lingam made of stalagmite at the end of the cave. Pilgrims visit this cave during Shiv Rathri in February/March.
- Amaranth caves: Another cave is the Amaranth caves on Mount Amaranth. The shrine in a temple here is composed of ice! Visit these caves in the month of July-August. It is 140 kms. from Srinagar in Kashmir. You will love to see Amarnath caves and temple which is a famous Hindu shrine. Here, the Shiv lingam is composed of stalagmite and ice. Amarnath Yatra is conducted in the months of July/August.
Undavalli and Mogalarajapuram Caves, Andhra Pradesh
These ancient caves in Vijayawada belong to the 7th century. There are shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu in these caves. Although these caves are in ruins now, you will find it an interesting visit. Mogalarajapuram caves are in a dilapidated condition. The caves are located on top of a hill facing the Krisna river.
are associated with the Vishnukundin Kings of AD 420-620 and dedicated to Anantapadmanabha and Narisimhaswami. People believe that these caves were used by Buddhist monks for contemplation. Also, it is a popular belief that Madhava Reddy, during his reign as the subordinate under the Reddies of Kondaveedu gifted the caves to the temple of Anantha Swamy.
The caves depict rock cut architecture of Buddhists in India. The best part of these caves is --- 5 meter long statue of the Lord Buddha in the reclining position! Then there is the sculpture of the Lord Vishnu built out from a single granite block! Amazing!
Trichy Rock Fort Temple and Pallava Caves, Tamil NaduTrichy Rock Fort Temple
was built by Nayaks of Madurai. It was the Pallavas who first cut small cave temples into the southern face of the smooth rock. It is built on the top of a hillock. There are ancient sculptures carved inside the caves here. There are captivating ancient sculptures inside these caves.
Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Bihar
These are also known as Mahakala caves. Buddhist temples can be seen in the caves here. People believe that Buddha spent many years meditating here before leaving for Bodhgaya for meditation. Buddhists love to come here and spend spiritual time, basking in the serenity of the place.
Borra Caves, Ananthagiri hills, Andhra Pradesh
These are natural caves which have originated from Gosthani river (Araku valley) flowing through these caves after flowing over limestone area. These caves are more than 150 years old! British geologist William King Gorge discovered them in 1807. Borra caves
or 'Borra Guhalu' are full of stalagmite and stalactite formations. Some look like Shiv Parvathi, crocodile, mushroom, church etc. as you can imagine! There are also crystal white calcium stones in various forms. The best part is that these caves have been illuminated well with halogen lamps and mercury lamps.
Tribal people believe in a myth that when a cowherd lost his cow, he started looking for it. The cow had fallen down through a 60 feet hole but was safe! When he went up to his cow, he found these caves. There is also a 'Shivalingam' and an idol know as Kamadhenu inside these caves. Other famous caves in Andhra Pradesh are Belum caves
and Undavalli caves. Read more
on other caves of Andhra Pradesh
Bhimbetka Caves, Madhya Pradesh Bhimbetka Caves
have been named after Bhima of Hindu Epic Mahabharata. The name 'Bhim-bet-ka' means Bhim sat down. Dr. V.S. Wakankar of Ujjain, an archaeologist, found these caves in 1958. For excavation, it took nearly 17 years!
These caves are surrounded by sal and teak forests. Can you imagine the number of caves here? Well, around 838 caves spread across an area of 1850 hectares. These are the oldest caves in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Paintings belonging to diverse periods range from the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Chaleolithic, Early historic and Medieval.
The beauty lies in the fact that scenes from everyday life, animal fighting, honey collections, lions etc. Locals call these caves as Dant or Toli because they compared these caves with demon's teeth and believe that demons have drawn the paintings inside the caves.
Nellitheertha Cave, Nellitheertha, Karnataka
The cave is about
200 metres long and dates back to 1487! Although the entrance is large,
you have to reach the other end of the cave on your knees only! The cave
is closed for 6 months (from October to April). But this cave is
considered sacred for its spiritual ambience. People believe that sage
Jabali performed penance here to appease Goddess Durga should kill the
demon Arunsura. Durga killed Arunsura at Kateel, which is the famous
temple town near Nellitheertha cave.
Drops of water in the shape
of Gooseberries (amla) keep dripping inside the cave. The lake inside
is composed of these drops! There is also a natural Shiv lingam here.
Hey! beware! You will find wild life here comprising of snakes,
scorpions, porcupines and thousands of bats. However, if you maintain
silence, they won't disturb you either! Still ready to explore these
caves? Well, you must be really adventurous to do that!
bathe in the holy pond here. The name Nellitheertha comprises of two
words - means amla and theertha means the holy water. The cave is open
for 6 months for tourists. For rest 6 months, rishis perform prayers
and penance here. Mud inside the cave has great healing powers and
devotees carry some of it home!
Pataleshwar cave, Pune, Maharashtra
out from a single huge rock, this cave belongs to the 8th century.
There is a temple here known as Pataleshwar cave temple which is
dedicated to Lord Pataleshwar (God of Underworld). The sound of the
temple bells is unique! The cave is located on Jungli Maharaj Road in
Shivaji nagar. The temple depicts rock cut architecture.
The Cave looks quite
similar to that of Elephants caves. You will love to see the shrine of
Lord Shiva with Nandi. There are huge pillars, good sitting arrangement
for visitors, ornate carvings on black rock, a museum. In the museum,
there is a grain of rice with 5,000 characters inscribed on it!
Rock Cut Caves in India
Rock cut caves refer to natural caves which have been carved from single large rocks. These are built amidst dense jungles. In India, most of the natural caves include Hindu Cave temples. Rock cut caves comprise of Vaishno Devi caves and temple, Amarnath caves and temple, Varaha Cave temple, Badami Caves (Karnataka) and Bagh caves (Madhya Pradesh) among others.
Rock Cut Caves in Maharashtra include Ajanta Caves and Ellora caves, Karla and Bhaja caves, Kanheri caves and Elephanta caves.
Other Caves of India
Bagh Caves, Madhya Pradesh
These are rock cut caves located in Vindhyachal ranges in Madhya Pradesh. These are famous for paintings and also referred to as 'Rang Mahal (Palace of Colours). Other caves in Madhya Pradesh are Bhimbetka caves and Udaygiri caves situated in Vidisha.
Barabar Caves, Gaya district, Bihar
These caves are located on twin hills of Barabar (4 caves) and Nagarjuni (3 caves). Other caves in Bihar are Sudama caves and Sonbhandar caves.
Edakkal Caves, Wayanad, Kerala
These caves are located on Ambukuthy Hills. These are natural caves. Edakkal means 'the stone in between'.
Varaha Cave, Mahabalipuram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Located in Mahabalipuram near Coro Mandel coast of Chennai, the temple here is dedicated to 'Varaha', that is, Lord Vishnu. This cave, also known as Boar Cave, finds place in the UNESCO World Heritage group of monuments. Other famous caves in Tamil Nadu are Narthamalai cave and Sittanavasal cave.
Jogimara Cave, Chhattisgarh
You have to reach here through a natural tunnel named as Hatipal. There is yet another cave here --- Sitabenga cave located on Ramgarh hills near Ambikapur in Surguja district. Other caves in Chhattisgarh are Kailash Gufa, Dandak caves and Kutumsar cave in Kanger valley National Park.
Other caves in India where you can visit are Ghorawadi Caves, Kanheri Caves, Mandapeshwar Caves, Nellitheertha Caves and Pataleshwar Caves.
Caves in India with Religious Significance
There are caves in which stalagmite formations of Shiva Linga have been formed in limestone caves. There are many caves where Buddhist monks rested and meditated. Locals start worshiping the idols formed in the ancient caves and due to myths attached with each one of them.
Amarnath Temple caves, Vaishno Devi Mandir, Badami Cave temples, Hulimavu Shiva cave temple, Mahakali Caves, Mandapeshwar Caves, Pandavleni Caves are some caves in India with religious importance.
Visiting caves will be an altogether different experience. You can select a few famous caves and experience the calmness and enigma of these caves!