I have been to Nashik before, however, this is the first time that I ventured out to explore new places, like the magnanimous caves of the 1st-century Pandavleni establishment. Admittedly, one-of-the-most tiring yet, best sightseeing spots in Nashik! Although, the credit of this visit, goes to Express Inn, a luxury hotel featuring rooms and suites facing the Pandavleni Caves. I was staying in the Express Suite, which featured splendid Cave views from its floor to ceiling windows. It’s as if Mountains call you after you stare at them for a while. How can I not go, when the mountains are calling?
Stop by the Buddha Vihar, before you climb 200 steps to get to the centre of the Mountain, which is the cave area. Inside the Stupa, is a remarkable statue of Buddha in Gold, waiting to surprise you with its magnificence. Thereafter, trek it up to the Mountains, but, don’t forget to carry drinking water.
On your way up to the Pandavleni Caves, you will come across many green billboards. Rooted across the stairway, these signboards depict the history of individual caves, magnifying their purpose of existence. Also known as, the Nashik or the Buddha caves, Pandavleni, in reality, is a batch of 24 caves, which were built in the 1st-century and further renovated in the 3rd-century era.
Even though, studies have proved that new sculptures were added to the caves until the 6th century. Either way, each sculpture is unique, representing the transformation of Buddhist devotional practices. It’s fascinating to observe this early-age rock-cut architecture, which also symbolises Hinayana tradition. Which by the way, is Buddhism’s main tradition in Asia.
The caves are further classified into Viharas (monastery) and Chaityas, which are the Buddhist shrines. In Pandavleni, Cave 18 is the shrine, wherein most other caves, are the monasteries. Stopping by the green billboards is the best way to catch your breath, for the upwards journey is quite something.
Although, as soon as, you reach uphill, buy your entrance ticket and get through that sleek metallic doorway, a novel sphere will draw you into its impetuous vortex.
Styled with intricate column work, each one of the caves, marks a significant milestone, in the development of Buddhism.
Bless the Buddhist Royals and traders of 1st-century who built these caves to support Buddhist monks.
The most interesting thing about Pandavleni Caves is its name. Which is nowhere related to Pandavas from the epic Mahabharat, If that’s what you were thinking. Instead, the name takes its inspiration from the word Trirashmi, meaning sunrays or the light emerging from behind the Caves.
If you traverse through the entire range of caves, you will notice few elaborate stone-cut ladders connecting several caves. Inside, these rock-cut monasteries, are innumerable sculptures and meditation chambers.
Few caves are older than the other ones, yet, display the best sculptural detail of early times. From images of Buddha to ideologies of Bodhisattva, Pandavleni caves represent a rich iconography of Indo-Greek architecture and water management system. There’s no better way to end this trip than savouring the farm-fresh cucumbers, sold by the vendors at the base of the Mountain.