What a day it was! Along with my regular job as a Researcher and a Content Writer, I do teach History to 12th Std students at an arts academy. And today we visited Kanheri caves as a field trip. Here’s a little something about Kanheri:
Kanheri caves situated in todays Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli, Mumbai is one amongst the circuit of 7 caves in Mumbai. The 7 caves being: Elephanta (Island), Magathane, Kanheri, Mandapeshwara (all 3 in Borivli), Mahakali (Andheri), Jogeshwari (Jogeshwari) and Jivdani (Virar).
This beautiful Buddhist site has over 109 cave excavations all together. The caves are mentioned in ancient inscriptions as Krishnagiri in Sanskrit and Kanhagiri in Pakrit. Kanheri, the modern name of the caves is obviously derived from its Pakrit form. Both Krishnagiri and Kanhagiri mean black hills (Krishna/Kanhna = black, giri = hills/ mountains). The name refers to the black basalt rock of volcanic origins in which the caves are excavated.
These caves which were excavated from 1st century BCE to 11th century CE are the only Indian caves centre which was continuously inhabited by monks for over a millennium! Unlike Ajanta and Ellora, Kanheri did not have any royal patronage but we do find some inscriptions that mention Satavahana Dynasty and Traikutaka Dynasty (these mentions are found in inscriptions of a later period than that of the dynasties).
The excavation of the caves happened in at least three stages, with 70% of it happening during the rule of the Satavahanas (1 BCE – 3 CE), 20% during Traikutakas and the rest in later periods. Having being a educational, social, commercial and religious hub for at least over a millennium, Kanheri has caves belonging to all the three sects of Buddhism: Thervada or Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. The ancient trade route from Sopara to Kalyan passes through this site. It might have been a centre for Indo-Roman trade too!
Kanheri was one of the best known educational institution and monastery in Konkon. One copper plate inscription was found which refers to one of Buddha’s most known disciple, Sariputta, teaching Abhidhamma Pitaka. This copper plate inscription is one of the only three evidences of the existence of a Traikutaka Dynasty. Kanheri has many important inscriptions which give us an insight into the general life around the monastery. We also find Parsi, Japanese and Portuguese inscriptions along with those in Bramhi script.
Here are a few images:
Well..this a just a glimpse. To know more you can just google Kanheri caves or do actually Visit Them! The caves are beautiful and very informative. They are like a story book waiting to be read. Do visit them! I have a great time every-time that I go (this was 4th time).
I’m amazed I could write something so long after having such a tiring day. Shepherding 28 seventeen year olds is not a easy job! (I’m glad my entire class of 57 didn’t decide to turn up) Plus I’m just 9 years elder to them, so they do rarely feel intimidated by me (shocker!) But all in all it was fun.
I know I’m saying it again but VISIT Kanheri caves. They are awesome!
© Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
All Rights Reserved