Chronologically this Chaitya Cave No 12 comes to number 2nd position.
It is just impossible to take one more step by Nafisa now. She is walking since early morning to get a shelter and now it could be after 2 hours of sunset. As now its summer so last ray of sun used to stay longer. Nafisa, originates from Persia. Her family is there but she came to southern Asia for treading. This is the 2nd time she has came to this wealthy country. Last time she enjoyed lots the sailing on the Arabian Sea so, she has chosen this summer to visit again the India. But, there is setback this time due to the large of dakait on this state. Her co-merchants have been taken different route to go norther part but she like this plateau, the barking deers, the birds of this regions so decided to stay alone for few days. But she couldn’t imagine that this kind of sudden attack can be made some one.
She lost all most everything except the marvellous blue diamond. She is tried and need a shelter until she recovers herself from the injury. Last time she missed the chance to visit the cave where the bhudhhist monks used to stay. It is her hope that she can be safe at this cave. And indeed, her self believe is true. She got her desired chance to spend some days in the Bhaja cave and she donates her blue diamond for the development of the caves property and decoration. The time was an evening of summer at 2nd century CE.
Just imagine you are in a time travel zone, now it’s the monsoon of 2019 but when you are seeing the rock-cut caves suddenly you have notices that something is different around you. The people are wearing yellow robe and the caves are clean and live with the human touch. You can’t get their language, the air too pure, your mobile-watch are not working, a completely unknown bird chirping is coming through…
But the sharp noise of a blowing horn bring back you to the present. Actually in the surrounding areas of Lonavla a huge number of rock-cut caves of dated back to 1st century BCE are situated. Here len refers to resting places in stone and aveli means a series, it’s the derivates of the name Lonavla.
Bhaja Cave is one of them. It is a group of 22 rock-cut architecture caves dating back to the 2nd century BC located in 13 km off from Lonavla, Maharashtra.
The caves are located above 400 ft from the Bhaja village on an important ancient trade route running from the Arabian Sea eastward into the Deccan Plateau. You have to climb 150 stairs to get the view of the caves.
Now all the cave with the inscriptions are protected as Monument of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
As I mentioned in my 'rock-cut cave phase-I: @Budhaleni' that all the rock-cut caves were designed in such a way where a Chaityagriha (Worship room) will be in the mid of the cave series. It is believed that the walls are polished in the Mauryan style. The Chaitya is approximately 26 feet wide and 60 feet long and the dogoba is 11 feet diameter at the floor which resembles the Kondana Caves. A cistern inscription shows the name of a donor, Maharathi Kosikiputa Vihnudata, dated 2nd century CE.
The Cave No. 12 is in Chaitya form, the large shrine or stupa is designed with an open, horseshoe-arched entrance and the whole portico-area was carved to imitate a multi-storeyed building with balconies and windows which has unique reliefs from Indian mythology. The entrance is well ornamented with carves but as it is 2nd in the positioned of rock-cut cave formation so the decoration is lesser than the afterwards cave alike Budhaleni, Karla.
Might be these have originally been painted in bright colours alike Ajanta cave painting, but later covered with plaster. These caves are notable for their indications of the awareness of wooden architecture.
The pillar has 7 different symbols of Buddha shown in floral form, buds, leaves, fan. A wooden beam records two more inscriptions datable to the 2nd century BC, which indicates caves have been there for at least 2200 years.
All the caves have a well water management system and during monsoon it can be seen that the water flows into a small pool at the bottom.
The carvings prove that Tabla (that time called as Pushkara); an Indian percussion instrument, which was used in India for at least 2300 years ago, disproving the centuries-held belief that the tabla was introduced to India by outsiders or from Turko-Arab. The carving shows that time woman used to play tabla and another woman performing dance accordingly.
On the right side of the Chaitya cave you can noticed a group of 14 stupas as monument are present, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation.
The inscriptions on these stupas are showing 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. 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.
The Cave No. 6, is irregular vihara, has two cells on each side and three on back side. Ploughman’s wife, Bodhi, gifted this Vihara as her name is inscribed on cell door
The Cave No 19, is a monastery with a verandah. Both sides of the door has a guardian figures of Surya riding a chariot and Indra riding on an elephant.
How to reach at Bhaja Cave: I prefer the local train as it is too cheap and faster. The Pune-Lonavla local train is going in every hour. Buy a ticket of 15 INR, get down at Malvali station and from the station the cave is 1.5 km off.
You can walk the distance or get an auto rickshaw from just the outside of the station and as monsoon is peak crowded season they can charge more around 150 INR for one side travel.
Think about it, otherwise you can visit the cave via car too. The distance from Pune to Malvali village is 45 km. Might be you will get a trouble to car parking as during monsoon-weekends the crowd is too high.
You need to buy a ticket to visit the caves. For we, the Indians it is only 25 INR but if you are a foreigner you have to pay quite more, 300 INR.