Sunday, 5 August 2012

Day Trip to Bhaja Caves

            After a long break, we decided to have a half day trip nearby Pune area. Personally, I wanted to avoid Lonavala because of the crowd so we chose Karle-Bhaja caves.  It is one of the few places less crowded and worth visiting.

Bhaja Cave
Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja Caves

About Karle-Bhaja caves:
            Bhaja Caves (Marathi: भाजा) are a group of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to 200 BC located at Karli, near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The location of Bhaja caves is not far from the location of Karla Caves and these are stylistically similar to the Karla Caves.
            The Karla Caves or Karle Caves are a complex of ancient Indian Buddhist rock-cut cave shrines developed over two periods – from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD, and from the 5th century AD to the 10th century. The oldest of the cave shrines is believed to date back to 160 BC. Located in Karli near Lonavala, Maharashtra, the caves lie near a major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan.

The routes to reach Bhaja Cave is Pune -> Chandani Chowk -> Old Mumbai-Pune highway (Do not take left turn to join expressway) -> Take Left at Karle village -> Cross Malavali railway station and express highway bridge -> Reach Base village Bhaje (Approximately 60km)

Map

During our return journey, we headed towards Lonavala and took Pune – Mumbai express highway.
You can also visit this place by Local train which runs between Pune to Lonavala. Get off at Malavali station and then 2km walk.

5th August, Bhaja caves 2012: (Total Distance traveled: 136 km)
            We (Me and my wife Renuka) started our journey at around 9.45 AM. In morning we decided to go for a half day trip so we started a bit late. Always advisable to start the journey early morning so you can spend more time nearby the caves area. We took a pit stop for fuel on the way and then moved ahead for Bhaja caves. We took the old Pune-Mumbai highway, which by the way makes for an amazing drive. I usually travel to Mumbai/Lonavala by Express highway so the old highway was a good change. Old Highway is in a good condition – it’s smooth and wide. That helped us to reach Bhaje village speedily.
            There are 2 routes on a highway near Karli village. One which goes towards left for Bhaja caves and a right turn takes us to Karle Caves. Both are about 4-5km from the highway. We took left to visit Bhaja caves. Our 2nd pit stop was at Malavali railway crossing where we waited for few minutes so 2 railways can move ahead on their journey. The weather condition was very cloudy with heavy rain shower. Sometimes rain and sun were busy in their hide and seek game.

At Malavali railway Crossing
At Malavali railway Crossing
          
            We parked our car at the base village Bhaje. Many local children asked us for money and they assured us to protect our car. I generally don’t like handover cash to any children so we offered them to have breakfast with us which they refused and ran away. There is sufficient parking space for vehicle and they charge nominal parking charges. We ate vada-pav (Indian Burger) as our breakfast and then moved ahead for caves. The same route takes you to historic duel forts- Lohagad & Visapur. In Rainy season there is a huge waterfall near the parking. We saw a lot of people enjoying themselves in that waterfall. For caves, you have to take stairs. The climb is steep and if you are not regular at exercise, you will definitely need to take at least one break. We were fortunate to have amazing weather on that day.

Waterfall at Bhaje village
Waterfall at Bhaje village

Way to Bhaja caves
Way to Bhaja Caves

Nature view from Bhaja Caves
          
           There is a small entrance fee of Rs.5 for the Bhaje caves, which they utilize in maintaining the caves as the premises are clean and well conserved by the Archeological Society of India. Because of heavy rain, water running on stairs was giving a feel like we were climbing through the waterfall.  The caves show themselves suddenly from one point on, and what you see is some fabulous caves Architecture.

Stair to Bhaja caves
Stair to Bhaja caves & Ticket counter building at left

            The Bhaja caves share the same set of architectural designs as Karla caves. The most impressive cave is right at the entrance, with open, horseshoe-arched entrance part. There are a large prayer hall and several caves that must've served as resting rooms for the monks, complete with a water storage area. The main hall is magnificent and hosts a large stone stupa... as always one wonders how people must have built them in the 2nd Century AD. The best thing is wooden roof which acts as a support for main vihara (Prayer hall). There are upper levels caves where you can reach using some stairs. A notable part of the monument is a group of 14 stupas, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation. These stupas used to be constructed in the memory of the Buddhist Acharyas. You can see the names of these Acharyas carved out on these stupas.

Bhaja Caves
Bhaja Caves

Bhaja main hall Cave
Bhaja main hall Cave

Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja caves
Main vihara (Prayer hall) of the Bhaja Caves
wooden roof which act as support for main vihara
Wooden roof which acts as support for the main vihara
Rest rooms for the monks
Restrooms for the monks

Rest rooms for the monks
Restrooms for the monks
          
           There is a small-medium size waterfall at the end of last cave. There is a proper fencing with a small loophole in it which gives direct access to the waterfall. Because of strong water current, it is very risky to enter into it. It is very difficult to imagine what the ambiance would have been at that time.

Waterfall
Waterfall at the end of last cave
          
          Our next destination was Karle caves so we left this place. There were a lot of local shops selling sweet corns at the base village and really difficult to ignore that for corn lovers. After having delicious sweet corn we moved ahead to Karle Caves. We attempted going there but gave up mid-way as the route was jammed because of traffic. There is a Goddess Ekvira temple which is on the right side of the caves.

For Corn Lovers

Way to Karla Caves.
Way to Karla Caves

Heavy Rainfall
Heavy Rainfall
           
           As we dropped this plan so we decided to visit Karla MTDC resort. We liked the overall ambiance and it can be a nice relaxing weekend halt at MTDC. As we were too hungry so we had food at Manashakti. We purchased some Maganlal Chikki which is famous in Lonavala and then took Pune – Mumbai express highway. Driving on the express highway during monsoon is always refreshing to me. Please follow proper rules while driving on the expressway to avoid accidents.

MTDC Karla
Mumbai Pune expressway
Mumbai Pune expressway
Toll at Mumbai Pune expressway

  • Car Petrol: INR 600-700/- (approx. 8 lit: INR 75/lit)
  • Toll on Old highway (Dehuroad): INR 26/- (One Way)
  • Car parking at Bhaje village: INR 20/- (INR 10/- in summer)
  • Entry fee by Archeological Society of India: INR 5/- per person
  • Sweet corn: INR 20/- per piece
  • Toll (Near Lonavala): INR 26/- (One Way)
  • Snacks at Manashakti: As per order!
  • Toll (Express highway): INR 99/- (One Way)
 Must visit Places which we miss due to lack of Time:
  • Karle Caves and Goddess Ekvira temple
  • Bedse Caves
  • Sunil Kandalloor Celebrity Wax Museum in Lonavala (entry fee INR 100/- per person)
  • Lohagad fort (I have been there many times)
  • Lonavala hill station (I usually avoid Lonavala because of crowd and also because I have been there many times in my college days)

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.
 Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

19 comments:

  1. For tracking lovers Visapur and Lohgad are also good places. I have visited these places, but requires sufficient time and stamina. Yes, Bhaja is nice place and neglected as compared to Karla. Nice blog. Keep on travelling.-GP Ghospurkar

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  2. Nice photos and information!

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  3. A very detailed blog..liked ur simple, informative and straight writing style.
    Plan to visit this Saturday.
    Thanks for the info

    Harshavardhan

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot....Happy Traveling...!!

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  4. The India’s most ancient caves Bhaja, Karla are very good tourist attractions in Lonavala. Everyone have to visit these places who are staying in mumbai & pune the two metropolitan cities close to Lonavala

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks a lot....Happy Traveling...!!

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Thanks for your comment... Please avoid ads/website link in the comment... such post will be deleted

      Regards,
      Pritesh

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  7. There are around 22 caves in Bhaja caves.
    The waterfall seems quite beautiful.
    Are there not any statues of Buddha or other buddhist monks statues?

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  8. Replies
    1. Thanks a lot....Happy Traveling...!!
      Pritesh Kulkarni

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  9. How much time does it take to see around bhaja caves?

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    1. around 1 to 1.30 hours to see in detail else 40 min is enough.

      Pritesh

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  10. I visited yesterday i.e on 22 Oct 2017. Now a days entry to Bhaje village is charged at Rs 10 per person by gram panchayat and ASI charged Rs 15 for caves site. One must know that caves remain opened till 5 30 pm only so one should reach accordingly. Shashank

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for comment and additional updated info!

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