Since we were in a Superfast Express train we got down at the Lonavala station, and then took another local train that would stop at the Malavli station. As you can see, Malavli station, hardly any souls wandering here. Its a tiny lazy village that is now booming because of the row-house trend that has picked up here. Most people that have row-houses here are either from Mumbai or Pune, the villagers live in tiny brick houses and shacks.
Some of my colleagues decided to meet at Malavli station directly, so we did some photography here as we waited for them to arrive. Once they arrived, we decided to walk towards the Bhaja Caves.
The road ahead curves towards right and goes over the Mumbai Pune Expressway bridge that you can see in the pictures below.
There were already many trekkers that were here before us and they were all moving along towards the Bhaja Caves.
Walking Away from the StationThese cars are basically tourists cars that bring you back to Malavli station after your trek is complete and you don’t want to walk all the way back. Many college students and family groups were walking around.
After doing some photography at the bridge, we moved into the village roads that snaked through the village houses where we saw villagers doing their daily chores and getting ready for the day ahead. We saw these ponies idling around, staring at us while we walked by, as if they were annoyed that we’re not taking them along for the trip.
After the ponies, we saw these not-so-well-fed buffaloes grazing around. They didn’t even bother taking a break from their grass-chomping routine and look at us, I believe they were just happy with the fresh green grass they saw below.
It was certainly a long way ahead, we walked for more than 40 minutes to get a closer view of the Bhaja Caves.
On the left side of the road were small hills, while on the right was a tiny village that certainly depended on the money tourists bring in. These villagers had small stores from where we could buy food and water.
Finally, when we walked further we came across a stream where local women were busy washing clothes. There were college students who had climbed up higher up the rocks and were having their own great time, but these women would give a damn about that, they were just focused on doing what they do best – wash clothes on these slippery rocks.
And exactly when we started feeling that we had walked for ages, we saw the below picture. The first glance of the steps that lead to Bhaja Caves above. The challenge was far from over, but at least we knew we’re there. Although, it was cloudy and bit cool, but the humidity factor was sucking the energy out of us.
After climbing the first few steps of the Bhaja Caves, I looked behind and this is what I saw (see picture below). The mountains on the far left corner is Lonavala which must be around 15 kms(9 miles), you can see the village down there and a dragonfly who couldn’t resist buzzing around and got clicked in the picture on the left.
While I am busy shooting the landscape pictures for this post, Sarah is clicking my pictures in action.
Below is the picture that I was photographing while Sarah took mine.
After climbing a good number of steps, we started to feel the exhaustion creeping in, probably because of the heavy backpacks we had, so a quick break was necessary.
I decided to keep myself determined to move up before the laziness creeps in. We were making sure that we don’t take too many halts that would slow down the trek and discourage us from moving further. Keep pushing, keep moving.
I thought a better way to keep the momentum going was to crack some jokes, to have funny small talks and do some funny poses. It kind of diverts the attention and makes better memories. Here is my Conqueror-style pose.
Finally, the moment of truth. We reached at the entrance of Bhaja Caves. This cave is supposed to be one of the important Buddhist centres of the Hinayana faith and dates back to 2nd and 3rd Century B.C. The main entrance has pillars and chaitya stupa at the end which indicates that this used to be prayer hall for Buddhists who resided here. This is a single-rock cut architecture which means there are no joints in the entire cave complex.
A closer view of the hand-chiseled wall at the Bhaja Caves.
Here’s me standing in a corridor that’s completely hand-chiseled. Behind me are three rooms, while there are three on the right side wall, the third room door is almost out of the picture, but you can still see the edge of it.
While the picture above shows room without any windows, the below picture shows room with another passage that leads to the front side of the caves from where one can get the mountain-side view.
So, we decided to venture in and step into that hole in the wall and this is what we get. Another front-side view room. The rooms have been carved in a way to ensure enough sunlight penetration in every corner of the cave.
Me and my colleagues take a pose at the corridor while Sarah is behind the camera. On the wall, do you see that rock carved net-style window? Another way for sunlight to penetrate in that tiny cell.
After exploring the lower areas of the caves, we thought its time to checkout the upper rooms.
The stairs have no railing and are made up of giant rocks smoothen out, but watch out for the risky edges. Any mishap here can lead to serious injuries.
So, we reached the upper deck. I know its sunny in the background, but do you see the landscape? Its a One-mile view from up here. I believe that stone on the right protruding from the wall could be a stand for oil lamp because it was black on the top. I am just assuming here.
After inspecting the upper rooms, we climbed down to what seems to be the main prayer hall. It has these pillars on the sides and a giant stupa at the end. Stupa is a mound-like or hemispherical that Buddhists used for meditation and prayers. As per the archaeological survey of India website, these wooden structures are 2200 years old. There are 27 octagon pillars and they taper inwards. The inward slope of pillars is required in a wooden structure to cope up with the outward thrust from the top.
The main stupa is 3.45 metres in diameter
Finally, it was time for us to leave and move on with our next expedition to the Lohagad Fort which was also the main trekking destination for us. We enjoyed our almost-an-hour halt at the Bhaja Caves, exploring the depths of it and taking pictures.
Do stay connected for my upcoming post which continues from here to Lohagad Fort.