Despite spending over a decade, working in Mumbai, I have only recently started exploring the city, the way I should have much earlier. Take, for instance, Mahakali road in Andheri East. I have been here before, a zillion times for the corporate meetings. But not once, did anyone mention Mahakali Caves to me. Usually, if you engage in a conversation with the cab drivers, they tell you everything you need to know about the neighbourhood. But, not a single mention of Mahakali Caves.
I stumbled upon this beauty, while randomly scouting Mumbai landmarks on the internet. I mean who could have guessed that tucked between the busiest corporate and industrial area of Mumbai, is a series of 1st-century caves, that you must not miss while you are here.
When I first got here, I was surprised to find out that they do not have an entry fee. Especially, since, Mahakali Caves is a well-maintained structure with a beautifully manicured garden. If you want to cave for adventure and physical exercise then, this might be the right place.
Although, before you begin your expedition, let me tell you that these caves are also known as the Kondivite Caves. Kondivite also Mahakali Caves, is a collection of 19 rock-cut caves, built between 1st and 6th-century BC. In all its glory, it’s a Buddhist monastery consisting of two groups of rock-cut caves. Out of nineteen, 15 caves stretch towards the South-East, while, remaining 4 towards the North-West. When you tour the South-Eastern caves, do stop by the 9th-cave, which is a chaitya, unlike the rest of the viharas. A Chaitya-Griha is a shrine which includes a “Stupa” at one end, wherein, Viharas are the Buddhist temple or the monastery.
During my visit, I found out that the North-Western side of Mahakali (Kondivite) Caves, was built later in the 4th and the 5th century. The South Eastern Caves, on the other hand, were built in the first century. However, none of these caves is as interesting as the 9th-one that showcases 7 mutilated depictions of the Buddha from Buddhist mythology. In between the leisurely walks and the rock-cut cisterns, I enjoyed observing the typical construction style of the caves. Each one skillfully carved out of solid black basalt rock that takes us back in time.
Home to Buddhist monks, this steel fenced cave complex is located on a hilltop on the Mahakali Caves Road, named after it.