Kondana Caves are a group of 16 ancient Buddhist caves located in the small village of Kondana, about 33 km north of Lonavala and 16 km northwest of Karla Caves in Maharashtra, India. These caves were excavated in the first century BC and showcase the exquisite craftsmanship of the early Buddhist architecture. The caves are surrounded by lush green forests and waterfalls, making them a perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs. Visit during Mumbai to Karjat One day Trip By cab
Location of Kondana Caves
Kondana Caves are situated at the base of the Rajmachi hill fort, which is a popular trekking spot in the region. The caves are accessible by a 4 km trek from Kondhane village, which is about 14 km from Karjat railway station on the Central Railway line. The trek is easy and scenic, passing through rice fields, streams and rocky patches. The caves are also reachable by road from Lonavala or Karjat, but the road is narrow and bumpy.
Timing / Entry Fees Kondana Caves
The caves are open to visitors from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. There is no entry fee for visiting the caves, but visitors are expected to maintain cleanliness and respect the sanctity of the place. Photography is allowed inside the caves, but flash photography is prohibited.
How to Reach Kondana Caves
The nearest railway station to reach Kondana Caves is Karjat, which is well connected to Mumbai and Pune by local and express trains. From Karjat, one can hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to reach Kondhane village, which is the base point for the trek to the caves. Alternatively, one can drive to Kondhane village from Lonavala or Karjat via NH 48 and SH 79.
Things to Do / Must See Kondana Caves
The main attraction of Kondana Caves is the Chaitya cave, which is the largest and most impressive among the 16 caves. The Chaitya cave has a spacious hall with 30 pillars that surround a circular stupa at the end. The stupa has a tall capital with two tiers of relic caskets carved with the Buddhist rail pattern. The ceiling of the cave has a semi-circular arch that resembles a wooden structure. The facade of the cave has two irregular pillars that once supported a wooden screen with doorways leading to the interior. The cave also has an inscription on the front that mentions the names of the donors who contributed to its construction.
The other caves in the group are mostly Viharas or monasteries that were used by the Buddhist monks for living and studying. These caves have simple cells with stone beds and pillows, as well as water cisterns and benches. Some of the caves have carvings of Buddha and Bodhisattvas on their walls and ceilings, as well as decorative motifs such as lotus flowers, animals and geometric patterns.
Apart from exploring the caves, visitors can also enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings, especially during the monsoon season when waterfalls gush down from the hills above the caves. The waterfalls create a misty atmosphere and a soothing sound that adds to the charm of the place. Visitors can also trek to Rajmachi fort, which offers panoramic views of the Sahyadri mountains and valleys.
Significance of Kondana Caves
Kondana Caves are among the earliest examples of rock-cut Buddhist architecture in India, dating back to around 200 BC. They belong to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism, which did not worship Buddha in human form but revered his symbols such as stupa, wheel and footprints. The caves reflect the simplicity and austerity of this sect, as well as their artistic skills and devotion. The caves also provide valuable insights into the history and culture of ancient Maharashtra, as they were patronized by various local rulers and merchants over centuries.
What is the best time to visit Kondana Caves?
The best time to visit Kondana Caves is during or after the monsoon season (June to September), when the weather is pleasant and the waterfalls are in full flow.
How long does it take to explore Kondana Caves?
It takes about 2-3 hours to explore all the 16 caves in detail, depending on one’s interest and pace.
Are there any facilities available near Kondana Caves?
There are no facilities such as food stalls, restrooms or shops near Kondana Caves, so visitors are advised to carry their own snacks, water bottles and essentials. There are some small eateries and shops in Kondhane village, where one can buy basic items or refreshments.
Are there any guides available at Kondana Caves?
There are no official guides available at Kondana Caves, but some local villagers may offer their services for a nominal fee. However, visitors can also explore the caves on their own, as there are signboards and information boards that explain the features and history of the caves.
Kondana Caves are a hidden gem of Buddhist heritage that offer a glimpse into the ancient civilization and culture of Maharashtra. The caves are a testament to the artistic and spiritual achievements of the early Buddhist monks, who carved out these magnificent structures from solid rock. The caves are also a delight for nature lovers, who can enjoy the scenic beauty of the forests and waterfalls that surround them. Kondana Caves are a must-visit for anyone who loves history, art and adventure.