India is a country which is well known for its rich cultural heritage. The rich history of the place is seen through its ancient monuments and its beautiful temples. Speaking of the ancient architecture in India, the rock-cut temples are the oldest and the best examples for the same.
These shrines were either enlarged or entirely carved out by man, to use them as places of worship as well as monasteries by the Buddhist monks and other saints. Found in large numbers across the country, these rock-cut marvels are must visits in the country. Have a look at some of them and head to each of them as soon as possible.
1. Jogeshwari Caves, Maharashtra
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Jogeshwari Caves are believed to be 1,500 odd years old and one of the oldest caves shrines to be found in Maharashtra. The caves are said to be the brainchild of Buddhist monks as well as Hindu priests, with ornate sculptures and the size of it competes with cave shrines of Ajanta, Elephanta and Ellora which have been recognised as World Heritage Sites.
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2. Bagh Caves, Madhya Pradesh
Situated close to the town of Dhar in Madhya Pradesh, the Bagh Caves are a collection of nine rock-cut structures. The caves here are cut into a vertical sandstone rocks, which are believed to be Buddhist monasteries. The caves are said to be sculpted out in the 4th or 5th century AD, one can find quite a number of murals which are fading away with the passage of time. The murals are said to be expressed in a lively manner with a vivid imagination.
3. Pancha Rathas, Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shore Temple. The place has several temples, rathas and other structures, but the most beautiful amongst them is the Pancha Rathas, which are rock-cut temples dedicated to the Pandavas and their consort Draupadi. The five rock-cut temples are carved out from a single stone and takes the names of the Pandavas and Draupadi; each have different characteristics and vary in size, shape and architecture.
4. Pandavleni Caves, Maharashtra
Also known as Trirashmi Leni and Nashik Caves, they are a group of 24 caves which were carved out between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, with patronage to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. While most of the caves are Buddhist viharas, the cave number 18 is a stupa. The caves house idols of the Buddha, Bodhisattva and various other sculptures which represent a king, farmers, merchants, etc. and also exhibit rich illustrations which showcase a mixture of Indo-Greek architectural style.
5. Barabar Caves, Bihar
The Barabar Caves are one of the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in the country, which date back to the Maurya Empire along with some examples of Ashokan inscriptions. The caves here consists of two chambers which are carved out of granite and showcase a polished interior and create an echo effect.
The hill has four caves, namely Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visva Zopri. The first chamber in the caves was an assembly hall and the second chamber was a place of worship, which probably must have had a small stupa at one point of time, although they are now left empty.
6. Varaha Cave Temple, Tamil Nadu
The Varaha Cave Temple is part of the Mahabalipuram monuments. The structure is considered as one of the finest creations that depict the India rock-cut architecture which dates back to the 7th century. The most important sculpture here is the depiction of Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar lifting Bhoodevi from the sea.
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Cover Image: PC: Well-Bred Kannan (WBK Photography)