Karla Caves – Buddhist Rock Cut Caves Maharashtra

Karla Caves or Karle Caves are the largest cave temples (chaitya) in India and is situated near Lonavala, in Maharashtra. These historic Buddhist caves at Karla are a complex of ancient Indian Buddhist rock-cut architecture cave shrines situated near Pune, in Maharashtra, India. These ancient cave temples were constructed over two periods from the 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD and from 5th century AD to 10th century AD. The caves have an historical background associated with Buddhism which was most popular in India and also a wealthy patronage.

Location of Karla Caves

The Buddhist Rock caves at Karla lie in the Western Ghats about 114 kilometers away from Mumbai. It is situated on the Pune - Mumbai road approximately 40 kilometers away from the city of Pune. Located in Karli near Lonavala, Maharashtra, the caves are on an ancient trade route which lies towards the eastward direction.

Picture of Karla Caves, largest Buddhist Rock Cut Caves in India

Karla Caves Architecture

Buddhist Karla Caves are one of the finest examples of ancient rock cut caves to be found in India. The magnificent hall that adorns the main cave reflects the high degree of architectural skills of the artisans who carved the caves on such a beautiful and difficult hillside.

This complex of Buddhist caves are built on a hillside and is one of the finest examples of ancient rock cut caves. Great windows light up the interiors and they have the large collection of Chaityas or halls. At the entrance is a recently built temple, accompanied by a pillar from the Buddhist period. The facade of the temple has some carved temple screens, with railing ornaments and human couples. Outer and inner screens form an antechamber to the main cave. The panels of wooden doors and windows are exquisitely decorated with intricate sculptures of couples embracing. At the central doorway there are sculptures of the Buddha preaching on a lion supported throne along with magnificent carvings of three elephants. Fifteen pillars adorned with carvings of elephants, men and women riding separate the narrow aisles from the central arch. The portico of karla caves is carved in such a way so as to give it an appearance of finished wood and has a large horse shoe arch at the centre.

The Caves

Rock cut structures are one of the most primitive forms of architecture and are found in many places in India. The first rock cut temples are a part of the Buddhist style of architecture, which originated in India after the death of Gautam Buddha – the founder of Buddhism. The large number of cave shrines abandoned at various stages of construction gives us a hint on how they were dug out. Caves were created in groups to provide accommodation to workers as there were not many resources in this very small religious community.

Picture of Chaityas or prayer halls inside Karla Caves in Lonavala, India

The Karla Cave complex has a number of Chaityas or prayer halls which have been carved in a great precision were for congregational worship which distinguishes Buddhism from Hinduism. Similarly carved viharas were dwelling places of monks which consisted of cells cut into walls around three sides of a hall. There are no images of Buddha but only symbolic descriptions. The caves had arched entrances and precisely carved interiors.

How to reach Karla Cave Temples in Pune

The nearest airport is Pune at 56 Kilometers.

By Train

The nearest rail point is Malavli Railway Station which is 2 km on Central Railway but more convenient rail point is Lonavala Railway Station which is just 10 km away.

By Bus

State transport buses ply from Mumbai to Pune, Pune to Lonavala and Lonavala to Karla. By road, Pune to Lonavala is around 64 km, and Mumbai – Lonavala is around 118 km. 

Where to Stay

The MTDC Holiday Resort provides you with charming rooms and lush greenery. Long with beautiful view they also have a water park and a children’s park. Numerous budget hotels, luxury hotels, and economy hotels are available at Lonavala.


  1. Informative post thanks may buddha bless you

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  3. Love posts of this type! Thank you
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