Mumbai is indeed a great place to explore. The heritage, the culture, the local cuisines, and the amazing people – all of these would give you a unique and mesmerizing experience. However, if you are interested in archeology, what would get you more thrilled are the things that surround Mumbai. What I meant to say is that even the outskirts of Mumbai have a lot to offer, referring to the ancient caves. And even if you’re not an archeo-lover, you can always choose to visit them to find a little bit of bliss amongst the chaos.
This blog aims to give you a deep insight into the top 5 ancient caves around Mumbai and everything about visiting them. So, let’s begin!
- Ajanta Caves
The Ajanta Caves consist of approximately 30 rock-cut caves dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of the Indian state, Maharashtra. It is known to be one of the finest examples of surviving ancient Indian art and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The Ajanta caves comprise ancient monasteries and Buddhist worship halls carved into a 75-meter wall of rock. The caves are situated in the rocky northern wall of the U-shaped gorge of river Waghur, in the Deccan Plateau. You can even hear many waterfalls from outside the caves when the river is high.
The Ajanta Caves are 350 km east-northeast of Mumbai. You can take the train from Mumbai to Kalyan Jn, switch for Jalgaon Jn, and then take the taxi to Ajanta caves. Alternatively, you can board an overnight bus from Mumbai to Jalgaon and take a taxi further to reach the caves. It would take 3-4 hours to explore the entire Caves. The entry ticket price for the Ajanta caves is INR 40 for Indians and tourists from all the SAARC and BIMSTEC countries. Otherwise, it would be INR 600 for foreigners. No entry fee would be charged for children below the age of 15 years. The opening hours are 9 am – 5 pm and the caves remain closed on Mondays. The winter months from November to March would be the best time to visit the site.
- Ellora Caves
The Ellora caves are one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world dating back to the 600 – 1000 CE period, located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. There are over 100 caves at the site all excavated from the basalt cliffs, out of which only 34 are open to the public. It comprises 12 Buddhist (caves 1-12), 17 Hindu (caves 13-29), and 5 Jain (caves 30-34) caves. They are closely built to one another which indicates the religious harmony in ancient India. The Kailasa temple (cave 16) features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, a chariot-shaped monument dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Ellora caves fall 300 miles east-northeast of Mumbai. The best way to reach Ellora would be to board an overnight bus or train from Mumbai to Aurangabad, and then board a Taxi or a sharing jeep. It would take 4-5 hours to explore the caves. The caves remain closed on Tuesdays and the best time to visit Ellora caves is November to March. The entry ticket price for the Ajanta caves is INR 40 for Indians and tourists from all the SAARC and BIMSTEC countries. Otherwise, it would be INR 600 for foreigners. No entry fee would be charged for children below the age of 15 years.
- Elephanta Caves
The Elephanta Caves, also known as the Gharapuri island are a collection of cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, located 10 Km east of Mumbai. The caves consist of five Hindu caves, a few Buddhist caves, and Stupa mounds dating to the 2nd century BCE. The carvings narrate the Hindu Mythology including the 20 ft large monolithic Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of Dance), and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga).
The need to take a ferry from the Gateway of India to reach the Elephanta Caves which charges around 150 INR for a two-way trip. It’s about an hour-long journey before you get there. It would take approximately 2 hours to explore the entire caves. The winter months from November to February are best suited to visit the site. Try avoiding the peak monsoon months as reaching there would be a problem. The site can be experienced best when visited during the morning hours. The opening timings are 9 am to 5 pm and remain closed on Mondays. The ticket price is INR 40 for Indians and INR 600 for foreign tourists. No entry fee would be charged for children below 15 years of age.
- Kanheri Caves
The Kanheri Caves are a group of Buddhist rock-cut monuments in the forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, on the former island of Salsette in the western outskirts of Mumbai, India. It comprises 109 caves that contain Buddhist sculptures and relief carvings, paintings, and inscriptions dating back to the 1st century CE. This place can give you much-needed solace.
The Kanheri caves are around 26 km to the north of Mumbai. You can take a cab from Mumbai and it would be an hour-long journey to reach there. It would roughly take 2-3 hours to explore all the caves open for the public. The best time to visit the caves is from September to March. The opening timing is 5:30 am and closing timings are 6:30 pm for the caves and 7:30 pm for the park. The caves remain closed on Mondays. The entry fee is INR 15 for Indians and INR 200 for foreign tourists.
- Karla Caves
The Karla Caves, also known as the Karli Caves are a group of ancient Buddhist rock-cut caves located in Karli near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The oldest caves are believed to date back to 160BCE giving rise to a major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. The most admired is the Grand Chaitya(cave 8) which is the “largest and the most completely preserved” Chaitya Hall of the period containing unusual quantities of fine scriptures.
The Karla caves are just 10.9 km from Lonavala, 59 km from Pune, and 107km from Mumbai. You can board a train from Mumbai to the larger Lonavala Railway station and further reach the destination by the local auto-rickshaw. You can explore the Karla caves thoroughly within 2 hours. The ticket price per head is INR 20 and INR 200 for foreign tourists. The opening hours for the caves are between 9 am – 5 pm. The caves remain open for tourists on all days of the week.
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