Pune gets ‘fresh’ Buddhist caves

The caves are very basic, with no carvings or sculptures, and have platforms carved out of stone to be used as resting places By: Sandeep Kolhatkar

The caves are very basic, with no carvings or sculptures, and have platforms carved out of stone to be used as resting places
By: Sandeep Kolhatkar

Pune Mirror | Apr 29, 2015, 02.30 AM IST

Amateur archaeologist discovers three caves upon a hillock at Khed Shivapur Baug village, which were probably used as dormitories by monks and tradesmen.

Vikram Marathe was on a regular trekking trip to Khed Shivapur Baug village, 20 km from the city, when he stumbled upon a cave at one of its hillocks. The 40-year-old Indologist searched the entire hillock and found two other similar caves — these ones with stone platforms. Two extensive years of research later, with valuable insights from the Deccan College, he realised that he had discovered three ‘brand new’ Buddhist caves.

Pune has a fair share of relics from the Buddha-era — the Karla caves, the Bedse caves and the Bhaja caves, apart from the rock-cut beauties of Lenyadri. These new finds will only add to the eclectic list. According to researchers from Deccan College, the caves had been built during the first or second century AD and are situated at the hillock near the village. Marathe, who has a degree in Fine Arts and works as a professional designer in the industrial sector, has done his Masters in Indology. He has been working in the field of archaeology for the past 15 years and was instrumental in finding trade routes in various parts of the state.

“I have a special penchant for trekking and, during one such trip to the Khed Shivapur area a couple of years ago, I discovered a cave at the south side of the hillock,” he said. While measuring, it was revealed that the cave was six feet high. There were also provisions made for fitting doors at the cave, which meant there had been a door once at the main entrance. “While inspecting the entire hill, I came across two other caves, which had stone platforms that had probably been used for sleeping or resting,” Marathe added.

During his study of the caves, he also approached Deccan College and learnt from researchers there that the caves were like Chaitya Gruhas and must have been built for travellers, pilgrims and Buddhist monks to stay during the night and meditate. Dr Shrikant Ganveer, a senior researcher from Deccan College, who has been working on caves belonging to the Buddha era, said the caves at this particular location have a special significance in Buddhist history.

“It clearly indicates that the monks who used to go to monasteries and caves at Karla and Bhaja near Lonavala, rested in these caves at night or when weary of travel. Since these were just small dormitories, there are no carvings or sculptures on the walls. It’s very basic, with just elevated platforms carved out from the stone so that monks and travelers can sleep,” Ganveer added.

Geographically, these caves had been built at a very strategic location as the area connects Pune to Shirwal, Karad and Kolhapur, he claimed. “If you see the locations of these caves, you will find that these were carved out from the hillock, at a certain height from the surface, for the safety and security of monks and other pilgrims,” Ganveer explained.

Deccan College vice chancellor Dr Vasant Shinde, who has done research on the Satvahan rule and its archeological significance in and around Pune, informed that these caves marked the routes taken by monks.

“A majority of the monasteries were built during the Satvahan rule in the first century. In the same period, care was taken to build small gruhas or dormitories for monks and tradesmen, who used to travel by these routes,” he said, adding, “There is a need for more excavation in the area as there are possibilities of more such caves and other structures cropping up, which can throw more light upon the area’s Buddhist antecedents.”

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