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Tranquil Escapes: Trekking to Maharashtra's Kondana Caves

We began our journey in the direction of the Kondana caverns, a collection of historic Buddhist rock-cut caverns close to the Kondana village in Maharashtra, India's Raigad region. These caves, which are renowned for their historical significance, elaborate carvings, and peaceful natural surroundings, are a part of the greater legacy of Buddhist monastic architecture in western India.

Kondana caves

There was no definite route to climb up but we managed to ask a localite for the starting point. Once we started we simply followed the rough walking path where there was no grass and plants but just a soil path. After a while, we also figured out there were markings on trees for making a path. We crossed paths with a few cow owners who had taken the cattle for grassing on a flat area. We continued to walk and could hear the sound of flowing water. That is when we knew we were near a river. The water was not very deep so we crossed it by walking over the rocks and reaching on the other side. Although there was no clear path to ascend, we were able to find the beginning point by asking a local.

The rough route to the caves

Once we got going, we just went down the uneven walking route made of earth rather than grass or other vegetation. We eventually discovered that trees had markings on them that could be used to create paths. A few cow owners who had transported their animals to a level area to be grassed crossed paths with us. As we strolled along, we could hear the sound of water running. We realized then that we were close to a river. We walked over the rocks and reached the other side to cross the water because it wasn't very deep. There was nothing past the end of river flow meaning that the water must be falling as a waterfall from the point.

We walked on, surrounded by thick forest, untamed ferns, and wildflowers, marveling at how beautifully plants flourish in the absence of human care. Without a doubt, nature looks for them. Rain caused the road to become muddy and damp. There were certain places where climbing was challenging, but we made it. After about an hour, we reached the summit and once more encountered a river. The stairs leading down to the caves were visible from this location. We ascended the enormous yellow rock stairs and came to a stop at the entryway, where a smaller waterfall was located directly above it. One could easily pass to the other side. We entered the open caves and read the boards having information about the caves and manuscripts found on them.

Scenes from the caves

There was a little pond in the caverns ahead of them. Inside the caves was another little but magnificent waterfall. The cascade continued into a little creek. The Kondana Caves are more than 2,000 years old, having been formed in the first century BCE. They were made in the era of the Satavahana dynasty, a well-known historical Indian kingdom that encouraged Buddhist endeavors.

Carvings in the cave

Inside the caves:

There are multiple Viharas (monastic cells) and a major Chaitya (prayer hall) within the compound. The biggest building is the Chaitya Hall, which has a sizable stupa at one end. Buddhist motifs and figures are depicted in exquisite carvings and sculptures that embellish the caverns. Buddha, Bodhisattva, and mythological guardians are among the notable carvings.

Chaitya Hall

Every Vihara is a modest, rectangular space furnished with stone platforms that are used as sleeping areas. Additionally, some viharas contain little wall-mounted niches or shelves where people can store personal items. The Chaitya Hall has great acoustics because of its stone walls and lofty ceilings. This design creates a spiritual atmosphere by enhancing the acoustic experience of prayers and chanting.

Writings on cave wall in Dhamma lippi

Few people are aware of the caves and surrounding regions because they are so remote. It was a very serene and tranquil spot to visit. No local, no guide and no one else was available to assist us. We managed to go past unfamiliar and challenging routes and successfully ascended by relying on the maps on our phones and our strength. I urge everyone to climb up at least once; this was one of my favorite treks and locations.

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