The rich history of India is visible all throughout the country and travellers visiting its various parts are left in awe by what they get to see. The many monuments, palaces, forts and the temples of yore gives an insight into India's glorious past. There are also many cave temples in India that speak volumes about the country's history.
There are many popular cave temples in India that travellers can head to and explore. These caves were either natural or built by Buddhist monks, Jain gurus and Hindu sages. They gives a vibrant insight into the history of the period when they were built in, and are also key to understanding the beliefs and traditions that existed in the past. Here is a guide to the eight ancient cave temples that travellers must visit in India.
Pataleshwar Cave Temple
The Pataleshwar Cave Temple dates back to the 8th century and is believed to be more than 1,400 years old. It falls on the Jangli Maharaj Road at Shiv Nagar, in Pune. The temple is named after and dedicated to its holy deity, Pataleshwar, ‘The God of the Underworld'. The temple resembles the Elephanta Caves and the Ellora Caves in its architectural style. The most unique feature of the temple is that it is entirely made out of a single large rock! You will also find a Shivalinga in the precincts of this temple. The temple can be visited on all days from 8:00 am to 5.30 pm.
Photo Courtesy: Ramnath Bhat
Masrur Cave Temple
The Masrur Cave Temple is a prominent tourist destination located in Masrur Town. It has 15 Shikhar temples that are situated inside caves. Among the 15 temples, Thakurdwaar Temple has Blackstone images of Hindu deities; Lord Rama, Laksmana, and Sita, while the sculpture of Lord Shiva stands in the middle. Representing Indo-Aryan style of architecture, the temple was constructed in the 10th century using a solid piece of rock. Due to its architectural style, it is said to be reminiscent of the Ajanta-Ellora Temples.
Photo Courtesy: Kartik Gupta
Amarnath Cave Temple
The Amarnath Cave Temple is dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva. Located at an altitude of 3888 mt above sea level, these caves are believed to be around 5,000 years old. The destination enshrines a natural 'Shivling', made of ice and thousands of devotees visit the site in large numbers to pay homage. Amarnath got its name from the Hindi word Amar, meaning 'immortal and Nath meaning, 'god'. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva requested him to reveal to her the secrets of immortality. In response, Lord Shiva took her to the secluded caves in the Himalayas, where nobody could eavesdrop on them and revealed the secrets of immortality. The months of July and August are considered to be ideal for visiting Amaranth. However, the place can also be visited from May to September as well. Indian Paramilitary Forces and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), keep a close watch at this site to ensure the safety of the visitors. Prior permission from authorities is required to enter the site.
Photo Courtesy: Gktambe
Gavi Gangadeshwar Cave Temple
The Gavi Gangadeshwar Cave Temple is located in South Bangalore and is also known by name Gavipuram Cave Temple. It is popular for the meticulous planning in architecture, that allows sun rays to illuminate the idol in the sanctum at a certain time each year. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple is a perfect example for the Indian rock-cut architecture. The temple was built during the 9th century out of a monolithic rock. It attracts thousands of devotees on the day of Makara Sankranti in January each year, for it is on this day that the sun rays illuminate the Shivalinga inside the sanctum for about an hour, passing amidst the horns of the Nandi sculpture that's located in front of the temple. This phenomenon indeed proves that our ancient sculptors were extremely knowledgeable in the areas of astronomy and architecture. Apart from a shrine of Lord Shiva, the temple also houses a rare idol dedicated to the God of Fire, Agni.
Photo Courtesy: Pavithrah
Udayagiri Cave Temple
The Udayagiri Cave Temples are located on a picturesque hill very close to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack district. Udayagiri has got 18 caves in total and they are kept under high protection by Archaeological Survey of India. These caves are unique masterpieces of ancient architecture, that were built by King Kharavela for residential purposes of the Jain monks. Magnificently carved and very vividly sculpted, these caves are a center of attraction for tourists. A series of Buddhist monasteries and stupas that were recently excavated are seen here. Of all the caves, Ranigumpha, Hathigumpha and Ganesagumpha are heavily sculptured and the inscriptions found here unveil several ancient historical facts belonging to the reign of Kharavela. You can find several beautiful sculptures in the other caves as well. These caves remain open for visiting from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Photo Courtesy: Achilli Family | Journeys
The Servarayan Temple is strategically positioned on top of the scenic Servarayan hills of Yercaud. The temple inside the cave is devoted to Goddess Kaveri and Lord Servarayan. Goddess Kaveri represents the river Cauvery while Lord Servarayan stands for the Servarayan Hills. Goddess Kaveri and Lord Servarayan are regarded as the protectors of the surrounding villages. The temple cave is so deep that it is believed that it touches the river Cauvery. During the month of the May, the villagers gather around the temple to celebrate the annual festival. By taking a trip to the beautiful hills, tourists can enjoy the scenic beauty of a picturesque Yercaud. The view from the hills is a sight worthy for travellers.
Photo Courtesy: Aruna
Badami Cave Temple
Travellers going through Badami must visit the cave temples made of sandstone, that are known for its intricate carvings and explains mythological and religious events and teachings. There are four temples, out of which the oldest temple is Cave Temple-1 that was built in 5th century CE. This temple has carvings of Shiva in his Ardhanareeswara and Harihara avatars, as well as his Nataraja incarnation performing the tandava dance. Lord Shiva has been presented on the right of Harihara avatar and Lord Vishnu on the left. Travellers visiting this cave temple can also see Mahishasuramardhini and Ganpati. Cave Temple 2 is devoted to Lord Vishnu, who has been depicted in his Varaha and Trivikrama incarnations here. Scenes of Puranas showing Vishnu and his Garuda avatar can be seen at the ceiling of this temple. The 100 ft deep Cave Temple 3 has images of Lord Vishnu in the forms of Trivikrama and Narasimha. Additionally, tourists can see the image of the wedding ceremony of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in frescoes. Cave Temple 4, a tribute to Jainism, has an image of Mahavira in sitting position, along with a miniature Tirthankara Parshavnatha figure crafted within the cave.
Photo Courtesy: Nilmoni Ghosh
Tiger Cave Temple
The Tiger Cave temple is dedicated to a local deity that is believed to have been worshipped here. It is situated in Mahabalipuram at a place called Saluvankuppam. The sculpture of tiger heads at the entrance of the cave constituting the complex is where the monument gets its name from. Believed to have been constructed by the Pallavas in the 8th century AD, it serves as a very popular picnic spot and tourist attraction.
Photo Courtesy: Girish Gopi