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Karla Caves

The Karla caves are also known as Karle caves or Karla cell. This complex ancient Indian rock cut Buddhist shrine was built into the rocky hillside of Sahyadri hills over two very long and different periods – over a period of a thousand years between the 2nd century BC - 2nd century AD and from the 5th century AD - 10th century AD.

This shrine is located in Karli, 60 kms off the Pune Mumbai highway at Lonavala in Maharashtra. It is believed that this Buddhist shrine was built near an ancient trade route. This not only helped Buddhist to become affiliated with commerce and trade, but also helped them house traders and traveling venders. This ancient monument is now under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Although not as extensive as the Ajanta Caves, the Karla caves houses some of the biggest chaityagriha or prayer halls in India. This ancient monument is said to have been strategically located in a region of Maharashtra clearly marking or defining the country into North and South.

The chaityagriha’s are said to have been the inspiration to many a Kings in the designing of their majestic throne rooms and what’s more; the strategic placement of this Buddhist shrine helped Buddhist monks gather together in large numbers unprecedented for their time and celebrate their religion.


These caves are associated with a sect of Mahasamghika Buddhists popular for their wealthy patronage. This section of Buddhists was popularly known to have settled around the hill shrine. Some parts of this beautiful Buddhist shrine which once housed large and magnificent pillars, along with many monks in its chaityagriha’s has now been converted into a temple for goddess Ekveera.

One of the large pillars was removed and the large chaityagriha was converted into a temple. The goddess Ekveera is worshiped mostly but the people of the Koli community of Mumbai


The Karla caves are a complex rock cut shrine, which are approximately 45 meters long, 14 meters high and 13 meters wide. Some of the most notable features are the high ceilings and arch shaped doorways. The carvings on the walls are of both men and women, along with huge lions and elephants. These carvings on the inside and outside are designed to look like woodcarvings, giving it a rich and exuberant finish. The central pillars resemble that of an Ashokan pillar. The walls and pillars have interesting and informative inscriptions along with intricate designs, ridges and patterns. This old and magnificent cave shrine speaks volumes about the advancement in technology and capability of ancient India.

The Gateway to Karla Caves

About 12 KM from Karla Caves is the beautiful hill station Lonavala within the Pune district. This hill station is connected to both Pune and Mumbai by viable and well-kept roads. Both Mumbai-Pune expressway and Mumbai–Chennai highway run across Lonavala.

Lonavala is famous all over India for the traditional hard candy Chikki. It is 622 meters above sea level and can be the perfect vacation spot if enjoying ancient architectural beauty and the pleasant hill country is a priority. Lonavala is a twin hill station along with Khandala. This beautiful hill country enables one to visit not just the breath taking Karla caves but also the Bhaja and Bedsa caves. Some other places to visit are the Lohagad fort, the Visapur fort and the Tungi fort.


By Air

The nearest airport is the Pune International airport at Lohegaon, 61 kilometers away.

By Rail

The nearest railway station is 62 kilometers away. It is the New Panvel East railway station at Navi Mumbai.

By Road

The Pune - Mumbai national highway will lead one directly to the Karla caves. Although many ghat roads are available, the safest bet is to take the highway. One can park the vehicle and is required to climb approximately 250 – 300 steps to enjoy the beauty of the Karla caves. If climbing higher up is an option, one can view the first and oldest set of cave shrines carved into the hillside.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

The Karla Caves can be visited throughout the year but the best time would be from October to February.

Winters (November to February)

Provide a very pleasant climate with minimums touching down to 10 °C. It is best to visit the Karla caves early in the winter season or much later in the winter, i.e. November, early December or late February. This time would be ideal to visit the caves as the weather conditions would be the best.

Summers (March to May)

Are hot with the average temperature ranging between 35 °C and 25 °C and with maximums touching 42 °C. This weather makes it difficult to walk around and explore the caves. It is best to avoid the peak summer months of April and May.

Monsoons (June to October)

Provide a welcomed relief to the hot climate. Although a welcomed relief, it is wet and very rainy. The Caves are open all year round and can be beautiful to visit during the monsoons; but if getting wet is not your forte, it is best to avoid this season.

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Best Time To Visit Rajasthan 1
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