Everyone visiting Mumbai must have heard of The Elephanta Caves, which are a popular tourist destination in Mumbai and also a World Heritage Site. But did you know that there are 5 other caves nestled inside the bustling city which many Mumbaikars are unaware of?
Right at the heart of Mumbai, lies the forested area of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Locals love to visit the park to walk, run or cycle. Nestled inside the park are the remains of ancient Buddhist caves dating from 1st century BC to 10th century AD. Some of these caves are really well- preserved but many are not easily accessible. After Elephanta, Kanheri Caves are probably the best preserved caves in Mumbai.
The name Kanheri is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Krishnagiri’, which literally means ‘Black mountain’. This is probably because the caves have been carved out of black basalt rock. The caves consist of several interesting sculptures, Brahmi inscriptions and paintings on the ceilings. The caves consist of few congregational halls, but mostly for the purpose of living and meditating.
Most people working in the Mumbai Andheri SEZ area (SEEPZ) must have heard of the Mahakali Caves Road. This road is taken to avoid the SEEPZ traffic jams. As one traverses the narrow road during rush hours, it is easy to miss the Mahakali Caves. Dating between 1st century BC and 6th century AD, there are 19 caves in total. Like the Kanheri caves, these caves are also carved out of basalt rock.
Unlike the Mahakali Caves Road, the Jogeshwari Caves Road isn’t that popular in Mumbai. Yet for people who might even have heard of the road, very few know of the Jogeshwari Caves. The caves date back to the 6th century AD and house Hindu and Buddhist cave temple sculptures. The rock-cut cave shrine was primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva. The entire cave complex is comparable in size to Ellora and Elephanta. There are several beautiful sculptures inside the vast interiors of the caves, but the years of neglect definitely taken their toll on them.
Till a few years back the caves were in a sad condition, neglected by authorities. As most of the premises are at a lower level, water and sewage filled the premises; even today during monsoons there is some water seepage and a lot of green algae has settled on the structure. However, now an ASI appointed agency takes care of the caves. There is regular cleaning of the interiors. Although there are illegal encroachments in the area, the locals still regularly pray in the various temples inside the caves. There are temples of Lord Ganesh, Hanuman, Shiva and of course Godess Jogeshwari who is worshipped as a “Kuladevi” by many in the area.
Built around the same time as the Jogeshwari caves, these caves were mostly built as dwelling places for Buddhist monks. The monks in turn hired Persians traveling through this ancient trade route to paint the interiors of the caves with the life of Lord Shiva. This is how the caves were name “Mandap-eshwar”. The caves are located on Mount Poinsur in Borivali. The name Mount Poinsur is believed to have come from Mandapeshwar.
Built around the 3rd century BC, these caves in Virar are devoid of many distinguishing carvings and architectural features. Simple in appearance, they were believes to be dwellings for Buddhist monks.
Locals believe that a deity still resides inside a hole in one of the caves and offer betel nuts to him.
Growing up in India, her travel enthusiast parents fuelled Purba’s love for discovering new destinations and cultures. Now she and her husband team up to keep their life-long exploration dreams alive. She has traveled to 14 countries across 5 continents. She and her husband share their travel stories at fourblissfulfeet.com