Friday, December 28, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
As structures excavated in stone were the most durable, rock cut architecture came to the fore in
In the early period Hinayana Buddhism prevailed and in the latter, Mahayana Buddhism. In the Hinayana period, to which Karla belongs, the architectural design was wood based, being copies of wooden buildings of an earlier age. Also, as the Buddha, not wanting to be deified, had decreed that after his death, "neither the gods nor men shall see him", in this period he is represented by symbols. The lotus or the elephant, symbolizing his birth, the bodhi tree under which he attained Nirvana, the wheel of law which he set in motion, a stupa or mound symbolizing his death and a throne symbolizing that he is a prince among men.
By the seventh century AD, the Mahayana sect took over and representations of Buddha became more common. By the central doorway, you will find sculptures of the Buddha preaching while seated on a lion-supported throne, along with magnificent carvings of three elephants.
The excavations took the shape of the chaitya or prayer hall and the vihara or monastery.
The viharas were the dwelling place of the monks and usually consisted of cells cut into the walls around three sides of a hall.
The excavation at Karla, the site of the largest Chaitya caves in
The most remarkable feature of this cave are the wooden rafters that support the arched roof. They have survived all elements over a period of more than 200years!
At the entrance of this cave is the
The Ekvira temple is on the right side of the cave while on the left is a giant pillar with three lions on its top.
In the outer porch is a vestibule outlined by walls with carvings of couples and elephants.
The interior of the hall consists of a colonnade and a sun-window. The colonnade has 37 pillars, each with some fine sculpture at the top.
One group consists of two kneeling elephants each with a male and a female rider wearing ornate headdresses and jewelry. Another group has horses, originally decked with rich trappings, just as the elephants had ivory and silver tusks.
At the far end of the hall is a stupa, literally meaning funeral mound, above which is an umbrella - a symbol of royalty.
The sun window, a wonderful arrangement for the diffusion of light, deflects the rays of the sun in a manner that soft light falls on the stupa.
On the other side of the highway and railway tracks are the Bhaja caves. The 18 Bhaja caves are supposed to have been built for Buddhist nuns and are as old as Karla caves.
Cave no 12 is a chaitya hall - the finest of the cave complex. In the chaitya, there is a stupa that is 3.4 metres in diameter and has a deep socket for the shaft of an umbrella that once canopied it.
Cave no 1 is the dwelling house for the master architect, 10 are viharas and remaining 7 caves contain inscriptions about the donors.
Apart from these, there is a group of stupas at the southern end.
A few minutes' walk past the last cave is a beautiful waterfall, which, during the monsoon looks beautiful. From here, you can see the Visapur and Lohagarh forts.
One sculpture depicts the sun god "Surya" with his chariot drawn by four horses.
The other sculpture depicts Indra, sitting astride his elephant Airavata that appeared when the ocean was churned up.
Both these historic sites (Karla and Bhaja) can be covered in a day, preferably in the afternoon as they both face the West and one can enjoy the sights in the streaming rays of the setting sun.
By Road: Karla and Bhaja are 10kms from Lonavala, which is 100kms from Mumbai. Get onto the Mumbai – Pune expressway and take the 2nd exit for Lonavala. Once you get onto NH4 turn left towards Karla and soon you will encounter a tollbooth. Karla is just a couple of kms drive thereon. At Karla junction if you turn left you will head towards Karla caves or if you turn right, you will head towards Bhaje caves. Both are at a distance of about 5kms from the highway either way.
One can drive up almost to the caves and need to climb only for about 20minutes from the parking lots.
By Rail: The closest railway station is Malavali – 5kms either way (Karla or Bhaja).
Hotels: MTDC is the best bet which has a wonderful resort at Karla or there are many other private hotels to suit every budget in Lonavala.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Bhimashankar, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas is at a distance of around 200kms from Mumbai.
It is also the source of the River Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the river Krishna.
It is built in the Nagara style of architecture and dates back to the 18th century. One can also find influences from the Indo Aryan style of architecture. It is believed that the ancient shrine was erected over a Swayambhu Linga or a Self Emanated Shiva Linga. Thus the Linga is exactly in the centre of the floor of the Garbagriha or the Sanctum.
Intricate carvings adorn the pillars and the doorframes of the temple. Within the temple precincts there is also a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shani. The statue of Nandi – Lord Shiva’s vahana is installed just at the entrance of the temple as aways. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. Shivaji - the great Maratha ruler is said to have facilitated the carrying out of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.
As per the legend, once a demon called Bhima lived with his mother Karkati in the dense forests of Dakini, on the lofty ranges of the Sahaydris.
It is said that Bhima was so cruel that every one was scared of him. But what tormented Bhima was his curiosity regarding his own existence. One day, Bhima urged his mother to tell him who his father was and why he had abandoned them in the wilderness of the forest. His mother revealed that he was the son of Kumbhakarna, the younger brother of the mighty King Ravana - the King of Lanka. Bhima’s mother Kartaki also told him that Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Lord Rama annihilated Kumbhakarna. This infuriated Bhima and he vowed to avenge Lord Vishnu. Bhima performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma. The compassionate creator was pleased by the dedicated devotee and granted him immense prowess. With so much power, Bhima began to cause havoc in the three worlds. He defeated King Indra and conquered the heavens. He also defeated a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva - Kamrupeshwar and put him in the dungeons. All this angered the Gods and they along with Lord Brahma beseeched Lord Shiva to come for their rescue to which Lord Shiva agreed. Tyrant Bhima asked Kamrupeshwar to worship him instead of Lord Shiva. When Kamrupeshwar refused, Bhima raised his sword to strike the Shiva Linga. But as soon as he raised his sword, Lord Shiva appeared before him in full magnificence. Then the terrible war began. Holy sage Narad appeared and requested Lord Shiva to put an end to this war. It was then that Lord Shiva reduced the evil demon to ashes and thus concluded the saga of tyranny. All the Gods and the holy sages present there requested Lord Shiva to make this place his abode. Lord Shiva thus manifested himself in the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the sweat that poured forth from Lord Shiva’s body after the battle formed the Bhima River.
Apart from the Bhimashankar temple one can visit the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to a variety of endangered species of flora and fauna. The dominant species of flora are Mango, Hirda, Behda, various medicinal herbs, bamboo and fern. The Giant Indian Squirrel is one of the major attractions of the sanctuary. The other species found in the dense forests are Panther, Sambar, Mouse Deer, Hyena and the Wild boar
There are no hotels there. The local upadhyayas or priests make arrangements for the lodging and boarding of pilgrims at a small cost. Visitors are accommodated in either temporary hutments or in dharamshalas near the village. A new dharamshala is under construction.
The food is typically Maharashtrian available in stalls or dhaba type cafes. Basically vegetarian fare as in the temple surroundings.
One can trek to Bhimashankar too.Bhimashankar is at a height of 3250 feet. Karjat is the nearest station from which the bus for Khandas can be taken (1st bus is at 10:00 a.m.). The 11/2 hour journey (approximately 40 Km.) will take you to Khandas. The summit can be reached either by Ganesh Ghat or Shidi Ghat. The climb via Shidi Ghat is a bit tough, but very enjoyable. Going through to the dense forest will take you to the top in around 4 hrs.
Best Time to Visit - August to February
Nearest Airport Pune (130 Km) By Rail Pune (130 Km)
By Road from Pune - 85kms
By road from Mumbai there are 2 routes
1)Mumbai-Bhimashankar (via Lonavala) - 213kms
2)Mumbai-Murbad - 87kms - Bhimashankar (via Malshej) -147kmsTotal (87+147=234kms) The drive from Mumbai would take about 5 to 6 hours.