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Mandapeshwar Caves – A Legacy Of A Historical Past

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One must have heard about the caves of Elephanta, Ajanta, Ellora, Mahakali and Kanheri near Mumbai. But not many would have come across the caves of Mandapeshwar. Forgotten as a result of the passage of time and rapid development of the city, these caves are isolated between Dahisar and Borivali.

Mandapeshwar when translated means the hall of paintings of the lord. Built approximately around 1500 to 1600 years ago, these are the only caves which are dedicated to Lord Shiva, unlike other caves which were predominantly dedicated to Buddhism. The caves were originally located on the banks of the Dahisar river, but later the river changed its course.

mandapeshwar caves
 

PC: Kartik Chandramouli

In the 17th century these caves were burnt down by the Marathas; at present the surviving caves are preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Best Time To Visit

The caves can be visited throughout the year as the weather remains pleasant most of the time; however, the summer months may tend to get hot and humid.

More About The Place

The Mandapeshwar caves are relatively smaller and lesser known as compared to the Kanheri caves which are found in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali East. The caves at Mandapeshwar are believed to have been built approximately 1500 to 1600 years ago which is nearly around which the Jogeshwari caves were built.

mandapeshwar caves
 

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Most of the early rock cut temples and rock art in the country were created by Buddhist monks. These monks were those people who would carry the revolutionary message of Gautam Buddha and they found that the best place to spread the message of Buddha was at the nodes of the trade routes. The hills of Maharashtra were seen as the perfect place in the Western Ghats for this purpose.

The monks would dig out prayer halls in the caves while building stupas and places for sheltering themselves. The monks would meditate at these shelters and influence the passing traders and any individual who happened to pass that way.

mandapeshwar caves
 

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During their stay at the Kanheri caves, the monks found another location where they created a hall of paintings. The cave was constructed by the Buddhist monks and they later hired Persians who were travelling to paint the structure. At the order of the monks, the Persians were said to have painted the life and times of Lord Shiva.

The Silent Spectator

The caves have stood through time. When the world war was in progress, this cave was the hideout for some soldiers and a safe place to stay for the general public. When the Portuguese arrived they used it as a place to conduct their prayers. The caves have been a witness to a series of invasions in the surrounding areas by different rulers and the place was used for different purposes under each ruler.

mandapeshwar caves
 

PC: Grv rtd490

As the place went through numerous hands, the monolithic paintings bore the brunt of its residents. The Marathas were the last to invade the place after which the caves remained deserted for many years. Most of what we get to see now on the walls are broken down remains of the once glorious structure. The church and its graveyard which are situated above the cave, which are also in ruins, are said to have belonged to a church built sometime during the year 1544.

The caves house the sculptures of Nataraja, Sadhashiva and a beautiful sculpture depicting Ardhanarishwara. Apart from these, the caves also house statues of Ganesha, Brahma and Vishnu. Many works which are depicted here are taken from the Hindu mythical stories. One can find an elaborate sculpture which depicts the wedding ceremony of Lord Shiva with Parvathi at the south end of the cave.

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